What is Jerry Falwell Jr. Doing?

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. during a campaign event in Sioux City Iowa

Jerry Falwell Jr. is still riding the Trump Train.  This time he has turned to the op-ed pages of The Washington Post to make his case for the GOP nominee.  The talking points are the same. Falwell Jr. chides Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party for their missteps, but he does not make a positive case for his candidate apart from the dubious historical analogy that Trump is the next Winston Churchill.  He warns that if we don’t vote for Trump we will all suffer “dire consequences.”

I am not sure what Falwell Jr. thinks he is doing.  Does he think that his endorsement of Donald Trump is going to help make Liberty University the world-class evangelical institution that he and his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., envisioned?  I know, I know, he claims that his endorsement of Trump is personal and he is not  making it on behalf of Liberty University.  That’s all well and good on paper, but I doubt most Americans grasp the subtle distinction.  In the past six months I have talked with three parents who said that their kids chose another school partially based on Falwell Jr.’s support of Trump.  Two of them were the parents of high school seniors and the other one was the parent of a student who is transferring to another college this Fall.  Three parents hardly make a movement. Perhaps these three parents are not representative of most Liberty parents.  Or perhaps they are more representative of the kinds of evangelicals with whom I engage in political conversation.  But all three of them were troubled by Falwell’s endorsement and the politicization of evangelical faith taking place on the Liberty campus.

It is easy to criticize the president of the largest Christian university in the country for throwing his support behind a serial liar, a nativist, a race-baiter, and an adulterer.  But let’s consider the fact that Falwell Jr. is also the president of a Christian university. Universities are places of learning.  They are places where students try to see the world from the point of view of others and engage unfamiliar viewpoints with graciousness and respect.  They are places where students learn to think and make arguments based upon credible evidence.  They are places where students learn to listen before casting moral judgement, where they learn to exercise restraint in their speech, and where they learn that the answers to some of society’s most pressing questions are often complex and thus require nuanced thinking.  Donald Trump’s presidential campaign represents none of these things.  Yet he has won the endorsement of a president of a university!

Frankly, I wonder just what kind of authority Jerry Falwell Jr. actually has to shape the opinion of evangelical voters.  Most of the Liberty students I have met, talked with, or engaged via social media (and I confess that I have not spoken to many, maybe about a dozen or so) do not support Donald Trump (or at least did not support him during the GOP primaries).  In the Virginia primary Trump finished fourth  in Liberty’s precinct. Liberty’s student body president and vice president supported Marco Rubio.

I am guessing that many Liberty students and employees who backed another candidate in the primaries have now turned to Trump because of his promise to deliver the Supreme Court.  But I doubt that they made this decision because of Falwell Jr.’s endorsement.

So again I ask, who is listening to Jerry Falwell Jr.?  Are there people who take his political opinions seriously?  It seems as if his endorsement of Trump is doing more harm than good to Liberty University.

16 thoughts on “What is Jerry Falwell Jr. Doing?

  1. As one fellow put it, if all values are relative, then cannibalism is just a matter of taste.

    And IDIC didn’t make it through the first season. Kirk destroyed the disgusting and inhuman culture on Eminiar VII that systematically murdered its own people in the name of its self-preservation, and well done.

    IDIC is merely an infinity of bad possibilities. There is only one natural law, for the good is not plural.

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  2. Seriously… you are dissing IDIC? Finally, sir, have you no shame? I understand that you fear our changing culture. So will you adapt or perish? It appears you are looking for an excuse to perish rather than leading the examined life. Despite your desire to do the opposite, may you Live Long and Prosper ; )

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  3. If you have nothing constructive to add to this discussion, why do you bother posting? Those that expect others to listen to them while refusing to listen to others is wasting everyone’s time. I get it, you are a poor, oppressed Christian just waiting for the black helicopters to come take you away after they burn down your church and rip your Bible out of your hands (I’m sure they will throw it into the flames of the burning church). Best case scenario, you’ll be taken to a FEMA Reeducation camp where you be forced to renounce your Christian beliefs or be executed as an enemy of the state. I know this is a popular fantasy on alt-right websites but it is the projection of the fear that once white Christians become a minority, you’ll be treated in the same cruel and pernicious manner in which you have treated minorities throughout the history of this country. Having respect for our secular Constitution means we are all citizens with equal rights under the law. Sure, you have lost your position of privilege but that i a positive step in the evolution of our society where every American is free to pursue their personal liberty without violating the civil liberty of their fellow Americans. Either adapt to the changing times or be left in the backwash of history. Christianity has changed its doctrine over the centuries as humanity has progressed out of the Dark Ages. We no longer burn witches, enslave human beings, or consider women and children property of their husbands/fathers. There were many Christians of that era who felt that their values were being trampled by the advancements made by our society (The Civil War was extremely traumatic) but they evolved to cope with their new reality. Those that refused to change slowly but surely were relegated to the ash heap of history.

    You have the right to believe as your heart desires but you have no expectation that the government will use its power and authority to enforce your supernatural worldview onto others. You can be sure that the government won’t be coming to your door to arrest you for being a Christian. Your churches won’t be shut down. Your Bibles won’t be confiscated. I just drove from Georgia up through South Carolina, North Carolina into Tennessee. You couldn’t sling a dead cat without hitting a church. There were Christian messages or icons on businesses, in people’s yards, on people’s cars, on people’s shirts, in their jewelry, in their tattoos, on the radio, in the newspapers, during baseball games, etc. You are like a fish in the ocean that doesn’t see the water you swim in. Christianity permeates our society and I have no issue with that just as long as those who are not Christian also have the liberty to pursue their freedom of conscience as a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Agnostic, atheist, Pastafarian, etc.

    Just north of Atlanta, in Newton County, there was an effort by local citizens to prevent an Islamic mosque and cemetery to be built. Local news covered the story and the interviews with the white Christian citizens there stated how they didn’t want the mosque built because they thought it would allow terrorists to infiltrate their county. They disagreed with the Islamic faith stating it promoted hate and violence. They didn’t believe that the Constitution protected Islam as a religion. While I personally disagree with the faith-based assertions made by Islam, I support their right to build a house of worship, just like I support the right of a Christian church, Jewish synagogue, Hindu temple or a Freethought center to be built. If they follow the zoning and building laws, the government has no right to discriminate against in this matter. As citizens, we must tolerate each other while understanding that tolerance doesn’t mean acceptance or approval. Your faith may claim that marriage between same-sex couples is a sin but you must tolerate the fact that GLBT Americans have the civil right to this secular government contract. You won’t be forced to attend a gay wedding or be forced into a gay marriage. That’s how our Constitutional Republic functions.
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/mayors-to-newton-county-government-stop-embarrassi/nsMf7/

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  4. Tom, you come across as someone projecting his own perspective onto those you view as your opposition. As a former Missionary Baptist raised in rural Appalachia, I find the conservative culture there to be very hostile towards our secular Constitution and rule of law. I see the constant attacks by the religious right on the recognition that Americans different from themselves have the same civil liberties under the law. I understand that straight, white Christians have long enjoyed a privileged status which they are loathe to surrender. This is why we see the support for Trump from Christians who should know better but have been told they must take back their country. The problem is the myth of Christian America is just that, a myth. As our demographics change and we become a more diverse society, conservative Christians will have to evolve their worldview or be marginalized like those conservative Christians who could never accept racial integration. The Millennials are much less religious and conservative. So our society will change no matter how desperately some on the right cling to their imagined cultural superiority. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is the philisophical path we need to embrace to be successful as a species in the future.

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  5. Paul, that meets my definition of “seethe” and illustrates my point. Your party is the home of the millions of Americans who feel as you do about them, and it’s no puzzle why they flee to the other party.

    As for the sexual revolution strongarming Christians with the power of government, it has only begun. Falwell Jr. sees the writing on the wall, which I suppose is why he went with Trump, someone whom he thought could win. I’d say he looked hard at Ted Cruz. Perhaps he saw someone too closely allied with the religious right to succeed in the battles ahead.

    Perhaps in Cruz he saw someone like his father, too easy a target for the anti-religious left. Although he was quite a decent fellow in reality, when the airtime you get to state your position is under the umbrella of PBS’s “Assault on Gay America,’

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/assault/etc/script.html

    you’ve already lost.

    As for the liberals who don’t despise evangelicals of the non-leftist stripe, I’m crestfallen at their lack of concern for the coming storm, such as married haousing for gay couples at Christian schools, because it’s coming. They have made common cause with those who reject any idea of a religious liberty that doesn’t end at the church parking lot. They are silent in the face of, as Dreher says, “the same old boilerplate ‘you don’t have a right to bigotry’ claim.”

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/religious-liberty-gay-rights/

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  6. Tom, conservative Christians are hostile to every religion and ideology that isn’t theirs. You don’t see it that way because you have the same hostilities.

    I’ve been attending conservative Christian churches and listening to Christian media for 40-plus years and the hostility is at fever pitch.

    Your example of birth control is wrong on so many levels. Nobody is forcing nuns to use or promote birth control, that’s false. But how in the world did it come to pass that Christians see birth control as evil? There is no biblical or historical principle that says birth control is evil, but it is a case where if liberals are for something, conservatives have to oppose it, no matter how ill-informed.

    I do agree that Falwell Jr. knows what’s what. The man is a supreme grifter, he knows how to raise money. Just claim persecution, no matter how wealthy and advantaged you are, people lap that up like milk.

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  7. Our Constitution is pretty clear — don’t involve the state in the affairs of the church. Maybe the obvious corollary is lost on some: Don’t involve the church in the affairs of the state

    Pastors, preachers, and sundry clergy demean the church when they drag it into the political arena.

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  8. I respect those whose reading of the Bible drives them to the left. (Or right. I respect living your religion however.)

    How I should have put it is: Hostility to Christianity resides pretty much exclusively on the left, and it is growing more bald and less polite. Just read the comments at Dr. Fea’s article here

    http://religionnews.com/2016/08/15/why-the-founding-fathers-wanted-to-keep-ministers-from-public-office/

    They seethe. You would not find the right taking nuns to court to force them into a contraceptive scheme against their conscience. Just wouldn’t happen. And you could very well see the next wave of leftist sexual revolution litigation against Liberty University itself, attempting to force its married housing to accept gay couples.

    Don’t tell me it’s not possible, because its not only possible, it’s inevitable, so says Barry Lynn himself.

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-colleges-right-to-deny-married-housing-for-gay-couples-is-on-the-edge-of-the-indefensible-barry-lynn-asserts-141265/.

    For the record, Jerry Falwell, Jr. is not a theologian, but he does have a law degree from the University of Virginia.

    The man knows what’s what. So do a lot of stupid Christians who people say won’t listen to the “facts.”

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  9. Except a lot of “the left” is motivated to “liberal” policies because of the way they read the Bible.

    Besides, are you saying that it is smart for conservative Christians to vote for Republicans because “the left” has antipathy for Christians? Sounds to me like you think spite is a moral virtue and an intelligent motivation in voting.

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  10. The Conservative Christians I know (friends & family) are supporting Trump in spite of his obvious flaws. They consume a heavy diet of right-wing media (Fox News, Limbaugh, Breitbart, etc.) and have been convinced that Hillary Clinton is the devil personified. It’s not a matter of intelligence, but rather the blinder of faith that has convinced them that Trump is worthy of their vote as good Christians. I have attempted to discuss many of their concerns about Hillary but they are unmoved by the factual evidence. Trump’s campaign has done an excellent job of pushing the right emotional buttons to manipulate those in our society that have felt uncomfortable with the changes in our culture. Conservative Christians are told they are being victimized and oppressed because they no longer get to exercise their place of privilege in our country. You have opportunists like Falwell, Jr who believe they can take advantage of this discontent to gain political power via Trump. It has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ but rather about having access to political power to advance a personal agenda.

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  11. Universities are places of learning. They are places where students try to see the world from the point of view of others and engage unfamiliar viewpoints with graciousness and respect. They are places where students learn to think and make arguments based upon credible evidence. They are places where students learn to listen before casting moral judgement, where they learn to exercise restraint in their speech

    Not lately, if you’ve been following the news.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/not-a-very-pc-thing-to-say.html

    https://theintercept.com/2016/06/23/students-in-california-might-face-criminal-investigation-for-protesting-film-on-israeli-army/

    http://www.mediaite.com/online/university-bans-conservative-pundit-ben-shapiro-from-speaking-on-campus/

    Liberty U seems the least of offenders. Falwell also invited Bernie Sanders to speak, who got a polite hearing. I agree that Falwell Jr. is not helping his cause, but hey, it’s his cause. No O’Sullivan’s Law here, where existing institutions are taken over by hostile forces. Falwell and his family built the place and seem determined–per O’Sullivan’s Law–to keep it out of the hands of liberalism.

    [“O’Sullivan’s Law states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. The law is named after British journalist John O’Sullivan.”]

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