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ICYMI: Rubio Speaks at Liberty University’s Convocation Ceremony
Senator Rubio delivered remarks at Liberty University’s convocation, one of the largest gatherings of Christian students in the world, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Watch the video here or read a transcript below.
“I’m excited to be here on a college campus. A lot of people talk about the crisis in academia, and a lot of people would say, the crisis in academia is that it’s full of a bunch of left-wing liberal professors. But that’s kind of always been true. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. That’s what academia attracts.
“Others will say, the problem with college campuses is that you graduate from there, and then you can’t find a job, and you owe a bunch of money. And that’s most certainly true, too. They’re not teaching people, in many cases, skills that are applicable in the real world.
“But my biggest problem with academia in America today is not that they’re teaching the wrong courses, or that they’re being taught by the wrong people, or that your professor who gets to grade your papers is some anti-American Marxist. These are not things I’m in favor of, but they’re certainly not our biggest problem. I think the biggest problem we have in academia today is that it is no longer a place where we teach truth.
“Knowledge and truth are not always the same thing. It strikes me that your generation, by every measure, is the most educated generation of people in the history of the world. Yet education and truth have been divorced.
“There is such a thing as truth. This morning, as it has every day in the history of this planet, the sun rose in the east, and it will set in the west. You can decide that you want to change the name of east to west and west to east. But it’s still the east, and the sunset is still on the west. It is truth.
“And there are fundamental truths upon which our lives, if they are to be productive, and our nations and our societies, if they are to be strong, have to be built. But we live in a time that tells us that there is no such thing as truth. That you live your own truth, or that truth is relative.
“It is impossible to speak to you today and not address what’s happened over the last four or five days. Halfway around the world is a week that revealed that there are still truths in the world, and sometimes they are uncomfortable ones. As hard as it is for some to accept, there is such a thing as evil. An evil that springs from hate.
“The first crime committed, as recorded in the Bible, was out of hatred and envy. One brother murdered the other. Evil is real, and it exists. That is a truth. It is not relative. When you break into a small village, and you rape teenage girls, and you slaughter and decapitate babies, and you take as hostages and prisoners the elderly, that is evil.
“There is no justification for it. There is no explanation for it. There is no other side to it. It is pure, unadulterated evil, and anyone who refuses to condemn it doesn’t know truth. It’s troubling to see some of these statements out there that come from some of our college campuses, not because the statements themselves are offensive. They were, but because it reveals a deeper rot, and it is a war on truth.
“Here’s another fundamental truth. Evil must be confronted. Evil cannot be ignored. An evil that goes unconfronted and ignored will be triumphant. It will spread. It will lead to new evils. That is a fundamental truth, and one that we have to accept and teach and be proud to say. Because it is true.
“But evil does not just have to be confronted, it has to be defeated. Now in that realm, we are called to ask, how do we determine what’s evil? How do we decide what is good? How do we arrive at truth? And it is there where I believe that our faith is a treasure that informs and guides our life.
“Secretary Pompeo, a moment ago, talked about an interview he gave, where he was asked, how do you reconcile your faith in Jesus Christ with your service in government? I think at the core of that question is, how can we trust that you’re not going to do what Jesus taught versus what is good for the country?
“I think that’s a curious question. I don’t mean to besmirch any other faith, but to say that the faith that I know, our Christian faith, is a faith that teaches, at its core, that you have to love your enemy. That you have to love your neighbor as yourself. As an extension of that love, it calls for action. Clothe the naked, care for the widow and the orphan. Look out for those less fortunate than yourself.
“I ask myself, if you look at a faith whose fundamental teachings are based on that, not only should you not be concerned that our leaders share that faith, you should hope that we have more people of that faith in the service of our country and our society. This is a nation that needs more people that care about others, that will love their neighbor, that will care for the orphan and the widow and the less fortunate. Why would we want less people like that in our government? Why would we want less people like that in our world?
“But our faith also informs us on how to confront evil. On the one hand, our faith does not divorce us from reality. It does not ask us to live in an imaginary world. It asks us to not be of the world, but to live in the world. We are not called to isolate ourselves from the problems of others, nor does the faith ask us to build fortresses in our life that protects us from what’s going on around us. In fact, in free societies such as ours, we’re almost compelled to participate in civic and community life and live out our faith in that process. But what happens when it confronts in the case of confronting evil and that reality sets in?
“Evil has to be defeated. It has to be confronted by human means. This evil that we see emerge, an evil built on the hatred of a people, has to be defeated. But the fundamental question becomes, how do you defeat evil without becoming evil itself? I’m not talking about the tactics, to be blunt. These are armed groups of terrorists and degenerate killers who need to be defeated by military means. It’s an uncomfortable truth. It’s an unpleasant truth, but it is truth. The challenge becomes, how do you do that without your motivation for defeating that evil being hatred?
“They have to be defeated, not because you hate them, but because of the danger they pose to others. Because of our belief in human dignity and the value of everyone’s life. Because they are a threat to peace, they are a threat to security, they are a threat to others around them.
“That’s the toughest part about confronting evil. That’s the toughest part about confronting those who oppose you. You have to do so, but you have to do so in a way that’s motivated not by hatred, but by love. These groups have to be defeated, not because we hate them, but because we love those whom they seek to harm. Not because we want revenge, but because human life is worthy of protection, and they are a threat to the dignity of human life….
“It’s an uncomfortable situation that many of us confront now. It is hard to see the images of people cheering in the streets as they defile the dead bodies of the victims. It is hard to see people in our own country, as I saw images yesterday and videos yesterday, of protesters who supported these groups, mocking pro-Israel demonstrators and mocking the victims of these atrocities. Our natural response is hatred.
“I say natural response, because we are fallen creatures. We must understand that when sin entered the world, it fundamentally transformed us. And it is what we struggle with every single day. It’s why everything that is bad feels so good, and everything that is good is so hard. It is why death entered the world. It is why suffering happens. It is why all these things are happening. And part of that fallen condition is that our natural reaction to hatred is hatred, to be angry at the people who did it, and to decide that we’ve got to do something about all of them, every one of them.
“That’s when evil’s at its most dangerous. Evil is at its most dangerous when evil tempts you into evil, versus when you confront evil through truth. I could extend that further into my political career. I believe that our faith should inform what we do in every aspect of our life. In fact, the gospel teaches that we are all ambassadors of our faith and of Christ. No matter what your role is, wherever you go, you should be a light to the world through your example…. [But] our faith is not a political system.
“By that, I do not mean to discourage any of you from voting…. I don’t mean to discourage you from voting or participating or caring about politics. What I do ask, what we must remind ourselves of every day, is that Christianity is not a political movement.
“[Christianity] participates in our political life, and it must, to protect our freedoms, to worship, to stand for truth. The truth that an unborn human being is a human being. The truth that every single human being that has ever been born in the history of the world was the product of a biological male and a biological female. That’s the truth. The truth that the family is the most important institution in society, and no matter how big your economy or how strong your military or how great your republic might be, no nation and no society can flourish without strong families building strong communities. These are all fundamental truths, and our voice needs to be heard in the public square, no less than others who believe other things.
“But Christianity is not a political party. And what I mean by that is that it must transcend politics. It can influence it, but it must transcend it.
“Now, some may be tempted to think, [the politicization of Christianity] is a new phenomenon, this only really happens in America. I’ve heard some political scientists say it started in the late 70s, early 80s, when Reagan got all the evangelicals involved in politics. Up until then, this didn’t exist. They must not have read the gospel.
“You see, there were followers of Christ that were desperate for him to be a politician. Some theological theologians out there argue that Judas Iscariot was a member of a political movement, and that maybe one of the things that tempted him into doing what he did was the belief that Jesus was the Messiah, and if we could just get him arrested by the authorities, he would have no choice but to call down the angels and overthrow the Romans and establish the kingdom. One of the biggest challenges and struggles that Jesus faced in his ministry was trying to explain to people that his kingdom was not of this earth….
“He was fully God, but he was also fully man. One of the most moving lines in the whole Bible is ‘Jesus wept,’ because he was human…. There was a friend, someone clearly very close to him, whom he loved, and he knew that he was about to bring him back, but he wept at his death. He wept at the suffering of others whom he loved, because they were going through this. He wept because he was human, and he lived as a human. And he felt every emotion, every temptation, every challenge. You don’t [often] think about it this way, but Jesus probably had the flu. I don’t think he got Covid, but I think he got the flu. He died a human death, a brutal one….
“But his kingdom was not of this earth. That doesn’t mean that your faith should not inform you. It should. But at the end of the day, it’s about more than just what’s happening around us in our society.
“Perhaps the best example of that is the early Christians, during the first 200, 300 years of the church, where Christians were not just persecuted, but brutally crushed…. They were a puzzle to the pagans in Rome and other parts. They couldn’t figure out Christianity. Their world view was the world view of strength and power and might. And their argument must have been…, why would you be followers of a guy who was arrested, humiliated, crucified? To them, that was a defeat. Why would you be the follower of that?
“We’re the followers of triumphant kings that invade a land and enslave their people. That’s real strength. The real power is being so strong that you take people on, and you crush them, and you do whatever you want, and no one can tell you what to do. That’s real strength. You guys follow some guy who only lived to be 33 years old, didn’t have any money, didn’t own anything, and they grabbed him, they put him on a cross, they humiliated him, stripped him of his clothes, and killed them. And you follow that?
“What they really didn’t understand is, we burn these people, we feed them to lions in the Colosseum, we persecute them, we attack them, we give them no space, and you know what these people do in response? They just seem happier. Somehow, they are always joyful, even as they march to their death, not begging for their lives. When given the opportunity to recant and walk away from their faith, given an escape route, they don’t take it. They don’t take it. They continue in their faith. They’re joyful.
“What I don’t understand about these so-called Christians is, they see people out there that are suffering. Don’t they know that beggars and people who can’t walk and the handicapped, that that is either God’s punishment, or those people aren’t worth anything? Why do they keep taking care of those people? They were puzzled by it. They didn’t understand it. They almost felt threatened by it.
“But then something changed. Because ultimately, Christianity overthrew this Roman empire without a single soldier, without a single battle, without a single war. It overthrew the Roman Empire because ultimately, what happened among people after a while is, they saw the joy that those people had in the face of brutality and suffering, and they decided, I want that, because we’ve tried everything else.
“We’ve tried the banquets with all the food you can eat, and drank all the wine. We’ve tried wild orgies. We’ve tried praying to 18 different gods. We’ve tried everything. And none of this gives us the joy that these people have in the face of brutality and suffering. I don’t know what they have, but whatever they have, I want it.
“That is ultimately how Christianity triumphed, and how it overthrew the empire. But it didn’t become a government as a result. What it is, at the end of the day, is a path to truth. And it is a path to truth that challenges the world.
“Everything the world teaches us, every message the world infuses upon us, is almost always in direct contradiction of the faith. What they define as strength, our faith teaches is really weakness. In fact, our faith extols weakness. Where they define the goal of life as comfort, our faith teaches us that our way is the way of the cross.
“Not that we welcome suffering, not that we seek it, but we expect it. We expect to be persecuted. If your founder was crucified and rejected, and he was God, why should we expect something better and different? Does that mean we want it, celebrate it, look forward to it? No. All of us can identify with Jesus when he prayed, ‘if this cup may pass.’ Because at the end of the day, if there’s any way to avoid suffering, I would like to. But ultimately, he made that sacrifice, knowing what it entailed.
“Few of any of us will ever face circumstances as dire as those, so what all that means is that as we participate in political life, we should do so through an authentic Christianity, one that understands that our job is to care for the less fortunate to see suffering and try to address it. It is not to usher in Utopia, though we want life to be better. Certainly in this country, we have unparalleled freedoms and liberty, even today, unlike what other societies face around the world. But even there, life is not perfect. You will always have challenges and struggles, and there will always be evil in the world. But we should confront it infused by the spirit and the teachings of our faith.
“That balance is not always easy, and you won’t always get those right. But your faith, the faith that is fed here and infused here, that you participate in all the time, that’s being taught and that you are living and demonstrating, [must be the most important thing].
“I think it’s phenomenal that you’re able to do it here on this campus…, but the ultimate mission is not for you to live that faith while you’re just here, but to live it wherever life takes you. Whether you are the CEO of a corporation or the 30-year low-level employee at some company, whether life takes you into ministry and missionary work or into the service of our government, to allow the teachings of our faith to be the anchor of our truth is something the world and our country needs more of, not less of. And it is what gives me great joy and enthusiasm to be here with you today and to be a part of this….
“I will close with this…. Recent reports and studies show that we have this alarming rise among young people in our country of suicide and depression…. I’m not telling you there aren’t problems, because there really are. There always have been. I’ve got to tell you something, and it’s as old as scripture itself, so you need to know this.
“Every generation in the history of man thinks the next generation is really messed up. Everybody here can tell you that our parents and our grandparents said, I get the world today, but these guys, they’re going to ruin everything. That’s always been true to some extent. Do we have problems? We absolutely do. But I would also tell you that from a relative point of view, if you compare life in America today to life anywhere 50 or 100 years ago, by all material measures, it is way better. Life expectancy, unfortunately, has dipped recently, because of suicides and opiate addiction, but it is still substantially higher than it was 100 years ago in the most advanced countries in the world.
“The poorest American has a higher standard of living than the king or queen of England did 120 years ago, 100 years ago. And by many measures, despite all of our challenges in education, you are the most educated generation in American history. So, by everything the world tells us that matters, this should not be a generation of people who are depressed or unhappy. It should be a generation of people that are excited.
“[But they are not.] There are a lot of reasons why they’re not. One is the unique challenges that come from the erosion of family life. But at its core, [the reason for unhappiness] is the [un-anchoring] of purpose infused by truth. This lack of hope for the future, because [people are] constantly being told the world is going to end next week or next month.
“These are things we’ll have to deal with in the public realm, because they’re a problem for our country and something that we need to address. But if there’s any person on earth that should never fall into that trap, it’s the Christian. Because the Christian knows how the story ends. Our faith tells us how this ends. It doesn’t tell us when, it doesn’t outline specifically how, but it basically tells us that when all is said and done, whether it’s now a thousand years from now or next week, Jesus will return….
“First, we will go through a great trial and tribulation, the final persecution of the church. And when all hope seems lost, Jesus will return and establish a new heaven and a new earth and restore humanity to what humanity was always supposed to be, before death and destruction and sin entered the world. We know how the movie ends.
“It’s like these horror movies. We’ve seen them 10 times, and we know how the movie ends, but we still get nervous at what’s going to happen in this scene, even though we know that person survives. How do you know? Because they’re in the sequel. We know how the movie ends.
“That doesn’t mean we’re not sad about injustice. That doesn’t mean that we’re not outraged at evil. That doesn’t mean we’re not troubled by the suffering in our lives or [in the lives of] those around us. But despair and Christianity are not compatible. Hopelessness and Christianity are not compatible. Because if we are truly infused and informed by our faith, we know how the story ends.
“And we know what truly matters. We know that we were created, not based on what we can achieve over 60 or 70 years in this life, but to live in eternity without sin, without death, without suffering, without tears. With our Creator, the way we were originally meant to be. Ours is a faith of truth and justice and love and hope. And I pray that we will have more people in government and in our society who are guided by those principles in what they do and the decisions they make and how they treat others and in how they engage in the world.
“I thank God that this university is here that allows all of you to gather together. And I am excited and anxious and looking forward to what you will contribute to our nation, our country, our communities, and our families in the years ahead.”