Best-Selling Author Urges Graduates to Stand Up for Beliefs

Speaking for the first time at a university commencement ceremony, best-selling author and radio commentator Eric Metaxas on Saturday called on nearly 500 Palm Beach Atlantic University graduates to be courageous in standing up against a “secular orthodoxy.”

“If you’re graduating today, you’re entering a world dramatically different than the world I entered 29 years ago,” said Metaxas, a graduate of Yale University whose varied career has included writing for the Veggie Tales series in addition to being the commentator of the radio show Breakpoint and author of the best-seller “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.”

Author and radio personality Eric Metaxas speaks at Palm Beach Atlantic University's Spring 2013 Commencement.
Author and radio personality Eric Metaxas speaks at PBA's commencement. Nearly 500 graduates and some 3,000 guests attended at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

“In our age a secular orthodoxy has arisen, and every person of faith is called to battle against these false ideas,” Metaxas said. “But we’re called to fight utterly differently than the world fights. We’re called to speak the truth in love. We love our enemies … we lead with love. It looks very different when you lead with love. And we’re obliged always to speak the truth in love.”

Metaxas said that in today’s culture, it has become controversial to speak the truth about a biblical view of sexuality or marriage.

“God created us male and female in his image. Those things matter to God, and they need to matter to us,” he said.

With regard to marriage, “it is a picture of the union of the God of heaven with his bride. That’s what marriage is. That’s what it means to be a man and a woman coming together,” he said.

Metaxas, whose newest book is "Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness," said that the legal redefinition of marriage is really an issue of religious freedom.

“Will faithful Christians, and serious Jews and Muslims, be able to practice their faith out in the world where it doesn’t become privatized and shoved into buildings to be practiced for a few hours a week, and then when you come out, the secular orthodoxy of the state has you? That’s not freedom of religion. America will die if we don’t have true freedom of religion.”

He said in order to fight this battle with the love of Jesus, believers need to know who Jesus is, know him personally, know his love for them and most of all know that he is real.

“If you know that these things are true and know that God is real, it changes how you walk through this life,” he said.

Also during the ceremony, two of this semester’s Outstanding Graduates offered reflections on their time at PBA.

Amberly Harman, the Outstanding Graduate of the School of Communication and Media and a graduate of the Supper Honors Program, said she entered PBA as a “confident, albeit awkward girl” who soon realized her path might be headed in a different direction than she anticipated, she said.

She said she gained her footing through the encouragement of classmates as well as faculty. “These are professors who change students,” she said.

Deidre Ann Burrs, the Outstanding Graduate of the MacArthur School of Leadership, was a teacher in her native Jamaica. After she moved to the United States, she decided to follow the advice of friends and family and pursue a degree in organizational management.

She said she hopes other adult students will similarly follow their dreams. “My story today can accurately be titled ‘Never Give Up,’” Burrs said.

University President William M.B. Fleming Jr. opened the ceremony by dedicating it in honor of the late Christian Sampson, a cafeteria worker who aspired to ministry and who was beloved by students, faculty and staff.

During the event, a special recognition was given to School of Nursing graduate Vanessa Garza, who will be commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army, where she will serve in a medical unit.

Also, the graduate counseling psychology program at PBA celebrated a milestone – more than 1,000 degrees awarded, Provost Dr. Joseph A. Kloba said.

During the program, Dr. Dale Locke, a 1984 PBA graduate who serves as pastor of Community of Hope church, offered the invocation, and West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio gave a greeting. The Rev. Jimmy Fogleman, a 1988 graduate of PBA who now is campus pastor at Family Church in Abacoa, gave the benediction.

Among the special guests in attendance were PBA Founding President Dr. Jess Moody and his family. Dr. Moody’s grandson, Sean, received an M.B.A. from the Rinker School of Business.

After the ceremony, Dr. Moody said he considered Metaxas’ speech to be the best commencement address he had ever heard. “I was astonished," he said. "It was a great speech.”