Baylor University graduates who bowed their heads at their spring commencement ceremony heard a prayer denouncing fossil fuels and a world with too many white, straight men in positions in power.
The commencement prayer by church minister Dan Freemyer -- himself a straight, white man -- drew cheers from graduating students but has predictably been criticized for its politically-charged nature.
“This is appalling,” American Conservative writer Rod Dreher responded in an online commentary. “Whoever would have imagined that ‘straight white men’ would be denounced in prayer at a Baylor University graduation ceremony?”
Baylor, a private Christian university located in Waco, is known as the largest Baptist university in the world with approximately 17,200 students on its 1,000-acre campus.
Freemyer, a Baylor graduate, is currently missional engagement pastor at Broadway Baptist Church, a “progressive” church located in Forth Worth that describes itself as a “diverse community of faith” that welcomes different backgrounds and beliefs.
In his two-minute prayer for the graduates, Freemyer asks God to give them the “moral imagination” to reject fossil fuels that are “poisoning” the planet -- a planet, he continued, with “too many straight, white men like me behind the steering wheel, while others are expected to sit quietly at the back of the bus.”
The church minister then went on to predict that God is “doing a new thing” through the Baylor graduates, presumably comparing their worldview to his description of older planet-polluting, racist, sexist Americans.
Baylor graduate Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church-Dallas, tells OneNewsNow he is not surprised Freemyer was given a spot in the graduation ceremony.
“I've seen that school over the decades, even when I was there in the 1970s, absolutely deny the inerrancy of the Bible,” says Jeffress. “And so this is really typical for a school that rejects the inspiration of Scripture and slides down the slope of liberalism into what you saw at the commencement address."
In his American Conservative commentary, Dreher posted comments from Baylor graduates, including one who said allowing Freemyer to speak was a “slap in the face” after the liberal Broadway church cut ties with the Texas Baptist General Convention over the issue of homosexuality.
A second Baylor graduate, meanwhile, wrote to Dreher that there are many orthodox Christians in Baylor’s faculty and administration who are “holding strong” despite Baylor’s challenges that include a sub-culture of drugs and alcohol, “underwhelming” chapel services, and professors who actively oppose orthodox Christianity.
“From where I sit in Waco,” the alumnus wrote, “everything is not as hopeless as it may seem to alumni who are farther away, and I know dozens of folks, both inside and outside the university, who are working every day to disciple and minister to the students at Baylor, to strengthen their faith and, as a result, to strengthen Baylor’s Christian identity.”
In yet another comment, a faculty member told Dreher that Freemyer was allowed to pray because he is the father of a graduate, and the ideas the minister espoused were not repeated by other speakers at several commencement events during the day.
The professor also informed Dreher that the Baylor Board of Regents refused to meet with an LGBT student group last week and the prayer could have been a form of protest over that decision.
"Prayer should not be weaponized in order to fight for your pet peeve, whatever it is,” Jeffress tells OneNewsNow. “And I think all Christians ought to learn from that."
Editor's Note: This story incorrectly stated that Baylor is located in Forth Worth, Texas. It is located in Waco.