Dear Mr. Provost,
Before anything else is typed in this blog post today, I want to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, for your service to our great nation in the United States Army. Your service as a platoon sergeant puts you very high in my book. As a Veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, you served our country admirably. And I genuinely thank you for your service, and I’m grateful that my son has heroes in the uniforms of our branches of the military, like yourself.
I’ve never met you, and truth be told, I was only introduced to you via your article on Townhall today. That says nothing about your notoriety as a writer, and it says more about my need to expose myself to more voices.
You posted an article today on a matter I actually have been tweeting about in the past few days, and that is the removal of Jonathan Martin from Liberty University’s campus.
I have to say I was a bit surprised to read in your LinkedIn profile that you are a former employee of Liberty University, out of respect for your readers, that full disclosure might have been a good nugget of knowledge to drop in. You did mention attending Liberty, but it seems your connections are a little deeper. You’ve done some admirable work at Liberty in regards to voter registration which is pivotal to our democracy. So, thank you for that work as well.
I’ll be candid, I do not agree with a lot of your sentiments in your article today, but I thought instead of doing what I disagree with on social media and bashing your work, why not start a dialogue? Why not share my opinion? Respectfully of course. The beauty of our great country, which you have some bravely defended, is that we can peacefully disagree.
You began your article by calling Jonathan Martin, “Never Trumper Jonathan Martin,” and I think that is accurate in ideology, but sets the tone from the very first sentence of disregard to another viewpoint. Jonathan Martin is not a supporter of Mr. Trump. Neither are a lot of other believers. You don’t know me Mr. Provost, but I actually voted for Donald Trump. It’s something I still struggle with today, and not something that I did easily last November. You seemed pretty quick in your opening paragraph asserting that Mr. Martin was there with the intent to “pick a fight.” Now, let’s be honest, I don’t know Mr. Martin’s full intentions or his heart completely. But then again, neither do you, Mr. Provost. What I do know is that per Mr. Martin he was invited there as a guest of the popular American folk music duo, Johnnyswim. This claim was also verified by the duo, Abner Ramirez and his wife Amanda Sudano on their social media accounts.
I did not attend Liberty University. Well, actually I take that back, I did start their online master’s program a few years back, but withdrew fairly early on. I did, however, go to high school with quite a few folks who attended Liberty. And the pastor of the church I grew up in back in Arkansas, has been a longstanding supporter of the institution. I did, however, attend another Christian institution for my undergrad degree, Ouachita Baptist University. My university was frequently the location of many prayers meetings, like Mr. Martin spoke of holding. And peaceful protests as well.
You also asserted that Mr. Martin wanted to make a name for himself. Ironically, Mr. Martin’s name appears on the cover of three books. It also appears on his undergrad degree, his masters from seminary and his masters in theology from Duke. Mr. Martin’s book, How to Survive a Shipwreck, has endorsements from bestselling author Rachel Held Evans; Sarah Bessey, Steven Furtick, Michael Gungor, Lynne Hybels, Dr. Greg Boyd, Nicole Nordeman, Brian Zahnd, Jarrod McKenna, William Matthews, Dr. Chris Green, and Dr. John Sowers. Shauna Niequist wrote the forward to his book. Mr. Martin hosts “Jonocast” where he hosts guests, and they chat about all kinds of things from God, to life, to theology to pop culture. The truth is, when I learned of Mr. Martin yesterday, I checked out his Twitter. Clearly, it is the reference guide for our culture (insert sarcasm), and he has 27.4K followers.
Jonathan Martin’s name is already known, Mr. Provost.
You went on to claim that Mr. Martin is “deceived by” the leftists. I’ve been a bit confused by that narrative lately. I too have been accused of being led astray by the “leftists” because of my disdain for some of the things President Trump has said and done. That seems so odd to me. I worked for George W. Bush’s campaign, John McCain’s campaign, and Mike Huckabee’s gubernatorial office. I’d definitely not consider myself “deceived by” any leftists. I would say however that I’ve grown disenchanted with my Party being hijacked by phony conservatives, pushing nationalists’ agenda like Steve Bannon. Someone who I’d like to point out is apparently still welcome at Liberty University.
Another thing I took issue with is this “paints himself a victim” terminology. We use that a lot in our culture today, and nothing good comes of it. Defendants use it a lot to push their client’s innocence in the court of law. Telling one’s story is not “painting yourself as a victim,” whoring your story out, yes that is, but simply stating the facts and calling others to action and bringing awareness is not sir.
My dislike for a lot of what President Trump has tweeted and said publically has led many to also accuse me of being “happier” with “Crooked Hillary Clinton.” And no sir, that is not the case. I’m from Arkansas; my parents worked for the Clintons, I have absolutely no desire to elect Hillary Clinton the President of the United States, and that is why I did not vote for her.
I know some really great people who have graduated from Liberty. Some of them are amazing pastors at thriving churches. I don’t know that I would concur with Mr. Martin that Liberty has become one of the most hostile places for the Gospel in all of America. But I will say, it has quickly become a campus that does empower the Republican Party’s agenda, specifically the agenda of President Trump, and alienates the liberals, or “leftists” as you call them.
As mentioned before, I went to a Christian college for my undergrad degree, a school that has produced Conservative figures like Mike and Sarah Huckabee. I was a leading member of the College Republicans on our campus. I was the President of Students for George W. Bush. I’m sure you catch my drift. I’m not a member of the “leftist emotionalism” theology that you convicted Mr. Martin of adhering to. My college was incredibly diverse. For every Republican leaning voter, there were ten more Democrats in waiting. We didn’t agree on a lot of the issues, but we still formed lifelong friendships and had vigorous, exciting, respectful debates in all of our political science classes. Heck, most of our professors were “leftists.”
You asked where Mr. Martin was when “Crooked Hillary’s campaign mocked Catholics?” Where were you all when Mr. Trump mocked the disabled reporter? That’s not what my Bible teaches me to do. Where were you when Mr. Trump spoke of inappropriately grabbing a woman? You asked Mr. Martin where he was when a lot of stuff happened within the Democratic Party, at their convention, and during the Presidential campaign as if that is the totality of the party and their movement. The same line of questioning could be rendered to you Mr. Provost against President Trump. You see “Crooked Hillary” as you call her is not the entire Democratic Party. And as a member of the Republican Party, and former employee of the Republican National Committee, Mr. Trump is not our entire party either, thankfully! And most certainly, Steven Bannon is not either.
I think I was most disappointed to read your last question to Mr. Martin. “Why aren’t you protesting leftism’s hatred for Christianity in our nation and leftism’s increasing intolerance towards Christianity’s parent, Judaism?” Mr. Provost, I can name a handful of close, personal friends who are a part of that “leftism” you speak of. One is a minister in Houston. One partners with countless churches to empty our foster care system into adoptions by church members. One runs a business that helps fund necessary items for Domestic Shelters. I could keep going, but you catch my drift, I should hope.
I’d like to counter your accusation that Mr. Martin’s “zeal” is “reminiscent of leftist emotionalism” with the notion that perhaps your defense of your former place of employment is a part of the “Trump emotionalism.” I’m not accusing you of that; I don’t see why we have to do that in our society. We are educated adults here. Dialogue is important to our democracy.
You spoke of President Reagan in his speech back in 1983 to be “wary of those in the church who, in the temptation of pride, tried to place themselves above it all, would not have to take a position on the hard issues of the day, and believed differences in world view were simply misunderstandings.” You also went on to mention the late Dr. Falwell who warned against being led astray by “emotionalism and lacking in sound doctrine.” You asserted that “the emergent leaders” are being “seeker friendly” to the younger generation. You also accused Mr. Martin of having “shaky theology.” I’m assuming it’s the same line of thinking that got Jen Hatmaker removed from Lifeway stores.
I was really disheartened to read that. I fail to see how Mr. Martin’s “theology” could be considered “shaky” with two masters in it. Lord knows he’s done the studying and paper writing on it. I’m fairly sure from an educational standpoint he knows exactly what he believes, and why. I guess I walked away from your article feeling more like your disagreement with Mr. Martin had less to do with his theology and more to do with his political preferences. You mentioned that those at Liberty will hear from speakers in a Christian environment “with the understanding that they will have to form their own opinions in a world that is hostile to the loving, saving grace of Jesus Christ.” If I understand your article correctly your son is attending Liberty currently. What happens if your son decides to vote for a Democrat one day? Will he too be living “deceived” by the leftists? Or just forming that opinion you said he would have the ability to form there at Liberty?
You claim that President Trump has been “the friendliest to Christians in recent time.” I assume your point is to say that President Obama was not, surely you are not asserting that President Trump is friendlier to Christians than President Bush was.
You said, “Martin could have been more useful.” You went on to say, “Martin, however, makes the perfect, the enemy of the good, when it fits his agenda. In doing so his actions, or lack thereof, show Martin’s intolerant beliefs.” I was a bit surprised to see you invoke the word intolerant. Mr. Martin has shown opposition to Jerry Falwell Jr. Banning him from the campus is not an intolerant act to you? I assume allowing Anthony Scaramucci to speak at Liberty is to say you “tolerate” his verbiage. I’d be shocked to find his use of vulgarity and cursing acceptable at Liberty. Please tell me he isn’t more welcome than Jonathan Martin just because he voted for Donald Trump.
You concluded by referencing the words of John R. Rice, “the folly of a short-sighted fool.” I was sad to see this as well. One Christian, calling another Christian a fool…because of differing opinions on political leaders and institutional leaders. That’s the last thing an unsaved world needs to see.
I’d beg to differ that more people are not accepting Christ because of our internal differences inside the realm of believers than because of our political affiliations.
You said it was “a shame. He had so much potential.” I think your article is a shame, Mr. Provost, you too have a great deal of potential. Please do better than this.
Sincerely, a one-semester drop out of Liberty…more importantly, a fellow believer and republican (in that order)
To view Larry Provost’s article, click here.
PSA: I am just learning about Mr. Provost and Mr. Martin. As more information becomes available about the two, my opinions could be altered. But the premise remains the same; differences in politics has no place in the Church.
Photo credit: Liberty University Facebook Page