Jerry Falwell Jr. has turned to Charisma magazine to defend himself against a recent Politico article that exposed a host of questionable practices at Liberty University. In case you have never heard of Charisma, it is the unofficial periodical of the Trump-loving Independent Network Charismatic (INC) movement. I wrote about this movement in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.
Liberty University and the Falwell family are not directly connected to the INC movement, but I imagine that there are some families in the movement who send their kids to the school. Moreover, I think it’s fair to say that Charisma is one of the only major evangelical outlets that would publish a pro-Falwell piece in the wake of the Politico article. (Christianity Today, which has been quick to cover other scandals and controversies in the evangelical world, has been silent).
Here is what we learn from Charisma‘s interview with Falwell Jr.:
- Falwell Jr. does not believe that he has created a “culture of fear” at Liberty University. “We have 9,500 employees,” he told Charisma, “and I’m sure it’s easy to find 10 or 12 who are upset because they didn’t get a promotion for something.” He claims that instead of creating a climate of fear at Liberty, he has been “too merciful” and has let “people stay much longer than I should have when they were incompetent, because I felt bad for their families.”
- Falwell claims that Liberty’s financial records are above board and the university “has nothing to hide.”
- Falwell claims that his internal critics “couldn’t handle” the fact that he pulled Liberty up “by the bootstraps” after Jerry Falwell Sr. died. “They were always looking for ways to enrich themselves, personally. And I always shut them down.”
- Falwell says that if the FBI does not prosecute the Liberty board and staff members who talked to Politico and shared e-mails with reporter Brandon Ambrosino, he will bring a civil suit. And then the article adds: “Falwell admits that this course of action may not look like turning the other cheek to some people. But he believes Jesus taught that His followers must do what’s in the best interest of the government or corporation they are part of.” Interesting. I have spent some time studying the Bible over the years and I don’t seem to remember Jesus saying anything about doing what is “in the best interest of the government or corporation they are a part of.”
- But Falwell does not stop there: “When you deal with people personally, you have an obligation to love your neighbor as yourself…So this is not personal. This is corporate…And I believe Jesus’ teachings to do what’s in the best interest of the corporation , just like Donald Trump has a job to do. It’s in the best interest of the nation. So that’s my take on it all. And I’m glad to go to war. I just actually enjoy it probably a little too much.” So let me get this straight–the command to love our neighbors does not apply to the business world. Christian ethics go out the window when you enter the boardroom. Is Falwell Jr.’s approach to “corporations” taught at the Liberty University School of Business? I wonder what former Congressman David Brat, the Dean of the School (who also has a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary), thinks about this? The Business School’s website says: “Here, you’ll be taught from a Christian perspective, building the kind of ethics, character, and integrity that makes a difference in the marketplace.” So should the Christian call to “love your neighbor as yourself” apply to the marketplace? Or should Christians think about their place in the business world as “going to war,” much in the same way that many conservative evangelicals think about their relationship to the culture?
- The Charisma piece ends with Falwell complaining about the “media backlash” that Christians who support Donald Trump are facing: “I think they can’t get to [Trump] because he’s so tough, so now they’re going after anybody who supported him. And good luck to them, because I am going to have fun with it.” Again, Falwell seems to revel in conflict, especially when it comes to his fellow Christians. Go get ’em Jerry! “Champions for Christ!” 😦
I am not convinced that Jerry Falwell Jr. is running Liberty University in a Christian manner.