ACU In The News
ACU student-athletes took up a challenge from their athletic conference and packed and donated the most Operation Christmas Child boxes of any university in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to people around the world, started the Operation Christmas Child initiative in 1993. By inviting churches, schools, businesses and individuals to participate, they have collected and delivered more than 115 million shoeboxes to children in need. The boxes are filled with age-specific special gifts, school supplies and hygiene items and sent to more than 100 countries, where pastors and community leaders share the Gospel.
Arizona Christian University students have participated in the past, but this year chose to take on a few extra challenges. The student body held a competition between graduating classes, with seniors beating the other three classes and freshman coming in a close second. A few ACU staff members and alumni participated as well, and together with the student participation contributed more than 300 boxes to Operation Christmas Child.
The athletic department took on the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) competition between all nine member schools in the conference. Student-athletes from nine ACU teams came together to win the challenge by providing 180 boxes, almost double the amount of the next-closest competitor and making up 30 percent of the GSAC total of 598 boxes. The Firestorm athletic teams also competed against each other and the baseball team’s winning contribution alone would have won the GSAC competition for ACU.
“I’m really proud of our student body for getting involved, especially because at the end of the semester everyone is super busy preparing for finals,” said senior Behavioral Health major, Amber Rayls, who oversaw the project. “Students typically don’t have a lot of financial resources, but our students took the time and money to pack a lot of boxes.”
Athletic Director and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jeff Rutter Nears 100 Wins, Grows NAIA Athletic and Academic Powerhouse
In the peaceful suburbs of north Phoenix, a southern California transplant has quietly been building a national powerhouse college basketball program at the NAIA level at Arizona Christian University.
Jeff Rutter, a long-time assistant coach at Azusa Pacific and star player for Concordia University in Irvine, CA, made the move to Phoenix less than 5 years ago with his wife Kristen and never looked back. Taking over a new NAIA program in the desert at former Southwestern College, he has kept ACU in the top 25 in the nation for five consecutive years while also serving as athletic director for a growing University.
“To be honest, I had no idea how good Jeff Rutter was going to be,” said Len Munsil, who after becoming President of then-Southwestern College in the fall of 2010 immediately set about building an elite Christian liberal arts university, for which athletics would be an important element. “I knew I liked him, I knew he understood and believed in the vision of what ACU could be, but I had no idea how good he would be at recruiting and coaching basketball, let alone how well he would build our athletic program. He has been a key part of ACU’s resurgence and growth.”
This week Rutter is likely to surpass 100 career coaching wins, less than midway through his fifth season. Arizona has seven 4-year college basketball programs, and Rutter’s winning percentage of .726 (98-37) ranks him just a shade behind the University of Arizona’s Sean Miller (.743) and well ahead of Arizona’s five other college basketball coaches. [See chart below.]
Arizona Christian University plays at the NAIA level, which is unfamiliar to all but the most die-hard college basketball fans, so there is little understanding of the high level of competition involved. In his second year at ACU, in the fall of 2013, Coach Rutter took the Firestorm up the mountain to Flagstaff and defeated NCAA D1 Northern Arizona University 92-85. Just a few weeks later, that same NAU squad (minus DeWayne Russell, who quit the Lumberjacks after the loss to ACU) defeated Dan Majerle’s Grand Canyon University 63-61.
“It was hard to get NCAA Division 1 schools to play us for a little while after that,” Rutter said with a smile.
Last year, Arizona Christian University led a strong BYU squad early in the 2nd half in Provo, UT before the Cougars pulled away for an exhibition win. Next year, ACU will begin what it hopes will be an annual exhibition contest in Tempe against the Sun Devils of Arizona State University.
“With two new NAIA programs starting in Arizona last season (Mesa Benedictine and Embry-Riddle University-Prescott) – and with the great NAIA tradition in the past at Grand Canyon – I’m hoping we will see a resurgence of interest and excitement in small college basketball,” Rutter said. “It’s great entertainment, great atmosphere, and highly talented athletes, many of whom go on to play professionally.”
Grand Canyon University won two NAIA national championships, the last under former NBA star and Coach Paul Westphal. Ironically, Westphal began his coaching career at what is now Arizona Christian University, and is now permanently involved in ACU athletics as the face of ACU’s Booster Club – the Westphal Athletic Fund. In the last few years, Westphal has made the trip to Kansas City to watch the ACU Firestorm compete in the national tournament that his Grand Canyon squad won in 1988.
“I love small college basketball,” Westphal said. “Coaching at Southwestern Conservative Baptist Bible College – now ACU – was one of the greatest experiences of my life. That led me to Grand Canyon and then on to the NBA. I’m thrilled to watch what Jeff Rutter has done at ACU and am looking forward to seeing a number of games this year.”
Rutter took over a program that was just 27-54 in its first three years in the NAIA, having made the jump from the tiny National Christian College Athletic Association. In his first year, he won 20 games and took ACU to the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) championship game, where it lost in overtime on national television. His next three teams won 23, 25, and 23 games and all advanced to the national tourney in Kansas City, two of them advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
As Athletic Director, Rutter has presided over ACU’s growth to 17 NAIA teams, while maintaining ACU’s historic Christian commitment among its athletes and providing academic support such that ACU student-athletes rank in the top 5 percent average GPA in the nation.
The GSAC, featuring ACU and 8 colleges from California including national No. 1 Biola University, is widely considered the strongest NAIA basketball conference, with 5 of its 9 members currently receiving votes in the national poll.
ACU has begun this season 7-1, and is currently ranked No. 25 in the nation. This year’s Firestorm feature Arizona high school talent like junior Andy Sessions (Mountain View HS), sophomore Carter Wilson (Queen Creek HS), and freshmen Lawrence Combs (Mountain Pointe HS) and Jake Reuter (Seton Catholic HS), along with NCAA D1 transfers Patson Siame, a 6-11 forward from Florida Gulf Coast University, and 6-foot point guard Shy McClelland, from Mesa Community College and the University of South Dakota. ACU also features first-team GSAC performer last season and leading scorer Chris Sterling, a 6-5 forward from Bakersfield who is averaging nearly 18 points per game in his ACU career.
ACU has three games in four days this week – two tournament games at Chandler-Gilbert Community College (8 p.m. Dec. 19 vs. Southwestern Christian (KS), and 5 p.m. Dec. 21 vs. Montana Tech) and a home game at 3 p.m. Dec. 22 against the University of Calgary.
“I’m thankful for what God has done at ACU and excited to see how our program will continue to develop along with the University,” Rutter said. “ACU is a unique place, where the Christian educational mission comes first.”
“But we play some pretty good basketball too!”
|Sean Miller||13th||Xavier/U of A||NCAA D1||318-110||.743|
|Jeff Rutter||5th||Arizona Christian Univ.||NAIA D1||98-37||.726|
|Bobby Hurley||4th||Buffalo/ASU||NCAA D1||63-42||.600|
|Dan Majerle||4th||Grand Canyon Univ.||NCAA D1||65-62||.512|
|Steve Schafer||2nd||Mesa Benedictine||NAIA D2||20-22||.476|
|Jack Murphy||4th||NAU||NCAA D1||52-62||.456|
|Eric Fundalewicz||2nd||Embry-Riddle Prescott||NAIA D2||6-27||.182|
I’m in the classroom every day with college students, most of whom will be voting for president for the first time in less than a week. As a political science professor, I am curious to hear what the next generation is thinking about the current state of American politics.
What I hear consistently is what they don’t like about politics. They point first to the most obvious—the lack of character and integrity in the candidates and more generally in elected officials. They harbor an abiding distrust of politicians, who they see as fundamentally dishonest, willing to say anything to get elected. Like many Americans, they believe politicians are inherently self-interested, more concerned about their own power than the common good or the needs of the average voter. They are disgusted with the corruption they see in American politics. They want authenticity in their candidates. But more troubling, they are deeply suspicious of American institutions. They don’t trust the government at any level. They generally believe the economic system is “rigged” against them. And they are particularly disillusioned with the news media. As they prepare to vote, they are desperate to know where they can go for accurate information to inform their decision. They instinctively recoil at the “spin” of the news media, and distrust any political news, no matter the source.
These concerns expressed by the next generation are spot on, mirroring those of the American electorate at large. Polls show that trust in government and other institutions is at an historic low. An extensive Pew Research Center poll from 1958 to 2015 shows trust in government in a free fall—with today’s levels even lower than in the years immediately following Watergate. A recent Gallup poll reported that only 19% of those polled (less than 1 in 5) trust the government to “do the right thing most of the time.” Conversely, a full 80+ percent are convinced the government will do the wrong thing most of the time. Only eight percent of those adults polled expressed trust in either television news or the media.
The next generation senses that when it comes to American politics, something is seriously wrong in the republic. So, how might our founders diagnose what we are seeing in American politics today?
Their own words give us the first clue as to what they thought it takes to make our government and its institutions function properly. George Washington in his “Farewell Address” (1796) noted: “[V]irtue … is a necessary spring of popular government.” Second President John Adams warned: “No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous.” James Madison, often referred to as the father of the Constitution, wrote as the ratification process began: “I go on to this great republican principle, that the people will have the virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without virtue is a chimerical idea.” Thomas Jefferson succinctly wrote: “Without virtue, happiness cannot be.”
As we take a serious look at the troubling state of our republic on the eve of the 2016 election, missing from our political culture is what the founders identified as “virtue”—a shared standard of social values and morals, rooted in biblical truth, to provide an informal guide for behavior of private citizens and public officials. Although we rarely hear calls for virtue in American politics—it seems an outmoded, quaint idea in our contemporary political world—our desire for politicians of character, for integrity and honesty among our elected officials, is what the founding generation understood as virtue.
Like the more familiar voices of the founding generation quoted earlier, the leading female intellectual of the Revolutionary generation Mercy Otis Warren insisted on the importance of virtue. She argued that virtue and freedom were inseparable political concepts, writing in her Revolutionary drama The Adulateur (1773) that the colonies “fought in virtue’s cause.”[i]
As a devout Christian woman, Warren saw George Washington as an example of virtue in the public square. In her 1814 History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, Warren noted that Washington’s “good genius was ever at hand to preserve his character invulnerable.” The Revolutionary War drew to a close and General Washington retired from his military commission. As Warren recorded: “Thus, the renowned Washington, without arrogating any undue power to himself, which success and popularity offered, and which might have swayed many more designing and interested men, to have gratified their own ambition at the expense of the liberties of America, finished his career of military glory, with decided magnanimity, unimpeached integrity, and the most judicious steps to promote the tranquility of his country.”[ii]
Although she is referring to Washington and an era in American politics long past, her description echoes our longings for character in our political leaders today.
Not only would the founders insist on a revival of virtue in the public square, they would also encourage mixing religion back into politics. For Warren and the founding generation, the concept of virtue combined classical republican ideals of patriotism, courage, self-sacrifice and concern for the common good (the res publica), with Puritan values of honesty, fair dealing, industriousness, temperance and prudence, and with decidedly Christian morality rooted in God’s law and the Christian religion. Citizens and elected officials were expected to act in accordance with this standard of virtue.
In our political history, religion and politics did mix until 1954. Up until that point, ministers could support or oppose political candidates from the pulpit. That changed in 1954 when Congress passed the Johnson Amendment, redefining a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity (including churches) as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”[iii]
Students are always surprised to learn that through the first 250 years of our nation’s history, from the Mayflower landing in 1620 until well after the Civil War, there developed a tradition of Election Day sermons. The community—citizens planning to vote, candidates for political office and elected officials—would gather in churches to be taught from Scripture about government and politics, and expectations for both political leaders and citizens. This Election Day tradition was widespread throughout New England, spanning 256 years in Massachusetts and 156 years in Connecticut. A collection of these sermons can be found here.
A typical Election Day sermon went something like this: It first asserted that government is an institution ordained by God (Romans 13) and founded on a covenant, or agreement, between God and the people to establish a political system that promoted His truth and the common good. Second, it encouraged the people to cast their vote in a manner consistent with biblical virtue, and admonished elected officials to act in accordance with the same.
These Election Day sermons still offer relevant insights as we approach our vote next week.
One representative example is found in the Election Day sermon by Rev. Samuel Dunbar in “Presence of God with His People, their only Safety and Happiness,” preached on May 28, 1760, in Boston.[iv]
Dunbar first offers advice to voters, directing them to pray and seek God before casting their ballot: “Would you be with God in the elections of the present day, you must, according to your best judgment, choose such as God will approve.” He further directed voters to choose “out of all the people, able men, men of sense and substance; such as fear God; men of virtue and piety; men of truth, hating coveteousness; men of fidelity, generosity, and a public spirit: for the God of Israel has said, and the rock of Israel spake; he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”
He warned them against voting without seeking and following God: “If, in the elections of this day, you have no regard to the intellectual powers, moral characters and qualifications of men: if from fear or favour, from party spirit or any sinister views, you knowingly make choice of those who want them; you will forsake God, and act without, or rather against, him … In this case, can you expect God’s gracious presence with you?”
Dunbar further warned them to choose wisely: ” Should you, from a vain conceit of your own wisdom and sufficiency, forsake God, and ask neither his counsel nor blessing … you may justly fear, that God will forsake you, turn you over into the hands of your own counsels, leave you to the darkness & lusts of your own minds, mingle a perverse spirit in the midst of you, suffer parties to be formed, dissentions to prevail, and passion, self-interest, and a party spirit, rather than reason, justice, and a public spirit, to influence and govern you. In this case, your counsels will be carried headlong; and, in all probability, be extreamly prejudicial, if not fatal, to the common-wealth.”
Dunbar had similar words of warning for those seeking or holding elective office: “God will be with you, in your assemblies, whether you be with him or no: judicially, if not graciously. He will be an inspecter, an observer, a judge. However unaccountable you may be to your people, you must give account to him.”
And also a warning to judges and local justices: “… high is your office, awful is your work … If you have been with God in the judgment, and studied to do justice, to discountenance vice, and to encourage vertue, you will be acquitted in the great audit day; and Christ, the judge, will confer inexpressible honour upon you … But, if you have forsaken God, and been unjust judges, wo unto you, a more severe & tremendous sentence will be past upon you, than you ever past upon the most flagitious criminal.”
Although written more than 250 years ago, many of the lessons from these and other Election Day sermons still are relevant: God ordained government for our good. We have an obligation to be informed and engaged. We must always seek Him as we vote. We are commanded in Scripture to pray for those in authority over us, so that they will govern with virtue. Finally, especially in this election cycle, remember that God is sovereign over all things political. As people of faith, we can do much – through both prayer and engagement—to transform our political world, a part of American culture in desperate need of God’s truth. Our founders will be cheering us on …
[ii] Mercy Otis Warren, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution interspersed with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations, in Two Volumes, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1994). Available at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/815#Warren_0025-01_551http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/815#Warren_0025-01_551
[iii] IRS, “Charities, Churches, and Politics.” Available at: https://www.irs.gov/uac/charities-churches-and-politics
[iv] Samuel Dunbar, “Presence of God and His People, their only Safety and Happiness” (Boston 1760). Available at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/sandoz-political-sermons-of-the-american-founding-era-vol-1-1730-1788–5. All quotes included here are found in this source.
Arizona Christian University senior Jacob Richards was awarded the prestigious Richard and Helen DeVos Freedom Center Leadership Award at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s (ISI) Dinner for Western Civilization in New York City on Thursday evening, Oct. 27.
The annual gala, held this year at the University Club of New York, honors the accomplishments of top student leaders, pays tribute to the greats of the American conservative movement, and strives to renew a commitment to raising up a new generation of leaders grounded in the timeless truths of Western civilization.
“We are thrilled for Jacob, who is an exceptional student of character who has great thinking, writing and leadership skills,” said ACU President Len Munsil. “We’re also excited for the Arizona Christian University Political Science program, only five years old, to be recognized already for producing the next generation of national conservative leaders.”
“ACU’s Political Science program has equipped me with the knowledge and scriptural grounding necessary for a career of meaningful Christian influence,” Richards said. “Having mentors and professors who are deeply invested in my success has made all the difference in preparing me to transform culture with truth.”
ACU’s Political Science department is led by Dr. Tracy Munsil. The 2015 recipient of this award attended Baylor University, a major research institution with nearly 17,000 students.
ISI recognizes exceptional undergraduate students with the Richard and Helen DeVos Freedom Center Leadership Award. The award honors longtime trustee Rich DeVos, who cofounded Amway and owns the Orlando Magic NBA franchise, and whose philanthropy has underwritten the membership and recruiting efforts of ISI through the DeVos Freedom Center. These student award winners have inspired members of their campus communities.
Richards, a senior Political Science major, had the opportunity to attend ISI’s leadership summit in Colorado Springs, CO during the summer of 2014 and wrote about his unforgettable experience. He shared that the most memorable parts of the summit were his interactions with ISI staff, excellent speakers from around the country, and fellow students.
“After such a great experience, we hope to encourage other ACU students to take advantage of the great resources available through the Intercollegiate Studies Institute,” Richards said.
Richards went on to become the founding president of Arizona Christian University’s own ISI Goldwater Society in 2014 and was named an ISI Honors Scholar in 2015. He was a Koch Summer Policy Fellow with Independent Institute in 2015 and is currently a Ronald Reagan Policy Fellow with the Goldwater Institute. Richards is also a contributor for Outset Network and an advocate for Young Voices Advocates. ACU is proud to celebrate Richards’ many accomplishments, including this most recent award.
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