The Richmond, Virginia Robert E. Lee Statue is Coming Down

Richmond+robert+e+lee+statue

Here is the Associated Press:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to announce plans Thursday to remove one of the country’s most iconic monuments to the Confederacy, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee along Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.

The move would be an extraordinary victory for civil rights activists, whose calls for the removal of that monument and others in this former capital of the Confederacy have been resisted for years.

“That is a symbol for so many people, black and otherwise, of a time gone by of hate and oppression and being made to feel less than,” said Del. Jay Jones, a black lawmaker from Norfolk. He said he was “overcome” by emotion when he learned the statue was to come down.

Read the rest here.

African-American Alumni of Liberty University: “Because of your callous rhetoric, we can no longer in good faith encourage students to attend our alma mater or accept athletic scholarships”

Last week Jerry Falwell Jr. designed his own blackface COVID-19 mask. Read about it here. One African-American professor has resigned.

Here was his tweet:

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Falwell defended himself and refused to apologize. Last night he tweeted:

People have asked why I won’t apologize for reminding people of @vagovernor racist past in a recent tweet. It’s because that same Gov just ended tuition assistance grants for the 27% of @LibertyU online students who are African-American! Put your $ where your mouth is Gov. Sad.

And now, 35 African-American pastors, ministry leaders, and former athletes who graduated from Liberty University (I’ve linked to as many as possible below) have rebuked Falwell Jr. for his racism. Liberty University students, alumni, staff, and parents are encouraged to endorse the letter by adding their signatures.

Here is the letter:

Dear President Jerry Falwell Jr, 

We are all African-American Evangelical pastors, ministry leaders, and former athletes who are alumni of Liberty University, and we are grateful for our college experiences. These experiences have shaped us in deep and profound ways and have equipped us to engage our local context with the Gospel of Jesus, both thoughtfully and unashamedly. The school’s mission is to educate and train champions for Christ to impact the culture, and we believe the objective has been achieved for many years. While we rejoice in God’s grace in advancing this mission, we, however,  have been disappointed and deeply grieved by your incendiary rhetoric over the past several years. 

The latest example is your May 27 tweet of a face mask with an image of two people, one in a KKK robe and hood and one appearing in blackface. While your tweet may have been in-jest about Virginia’s Governor, it made light of our nation’s painful history of slavery and racism. It is what we’re called to reject as followers of Christ – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place…” (Ephesians 5:4, ESV). The reckless nature of this tweet is a microcosm of the past several years of divisive rhetoric that does not display the kind of Christian witness that the Gospel demands of us, nor does it represent the Christlike leadership that Liberty University deserves. It has brought further disgrace to Jesus Christ and Liberty University.

For several years, you have said and defended inappropriate statements that represent Liberty and our faith very poorly. You have belittled staff, students and parents, you have defended inappropriate behaviors of politicians, encouraged violence, and disrespected people of other faiths. We were all taught at Liberty about the sanctity of life (Jeremiah 1:5) and the dignity of every human – made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and yet, you have repeatedly violated and misrepresented core Christian principles (Romans 12:9-21) through brash tweets and statements that harm our Christian witness. 

While students, professors, and alumni have urged you to alter your rhetoric and repent, sadly nothing has changed. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Liberty University is a family-owned organization and you are the sole authority. The Board of Trustees has no power to influence your behavior or hold you accountable. So, the objective of this letter is to appeal to you and your spiritual conviction. 

We are writing to urge you to stop this infantile behavior and lead our alma mater with dignity as your father did. Jerry Falwell Sr was more focused on preparing the next generation to courageously engage the culture as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). He wasn’t perfect, but he was humble enough to confess ungracious and unbiblical comments, and apologize when he was wrong. The KKK robe and hood and blackface face mask tweet may seem funny to you, but this tweet is the action of a political commentator or activist and is not fitting nor acceptable for the leader of one of the largest Evangelical Christian schools in the world. A review of your social media and statements during your presidency would lead many to believe that you care much more about politics than Jesus Christ, Evangelism, and the discipleship of students. It has become obvious to many that your heart is in politics more than Christian academia or ministry, so we would encourage you to leave the position of school president and pursue politics full-time. 

Your statements hurt the ability of Liberty alumni to obtain jobs and have a voice in the culture. Having the school’s name on a resume can be a liability to many of our graduates. As much as you say that your statements and activism do not reflect the mission, values, faculty, staff, students and alumni of the Liberty University as a whole, this is a misguided position because everything you do and say is a reflection of Liberty University, whether you want it to be or not. You are the president of a Christian university with a platform of great influence and you have the unique responsibility to steward that role in a way that honors God first and foremost. 

Lastly, we leave you with this. Because of your callous rhetoric, we can no longer in good faith encourage students to attend our alma mater or accept athletic scholarships. There are many Christians of color who worship in our churches and communities; we will not recommend their attendance at L.U. as long as you continue the unChristlike rhetoric. We will no longer donate funds to the university. We will also actively encourage Christian leaders to decline the invitation to speak at Liberty if you continue to insist on making unChristlike and inappropriate statements that are misrepresentative of Biblical Christianity. 

In closing, we ask you to withdraw your racist tweet immediately and make a public apology. If you decide to stay at Liberty, this coalition stands ready to meet with you in order to provide counsel on ways for L.U. to best move forward in these racially-charged and divisive times. Liberty University deeply impacted us as students and we hope that you can return to a focus of training “young champions for Christ” with Biblical conviction and Christlike character and humility. Our ultimate goal is for Jesus to be glorified in all that we say and do. We pray that is your desire as well.

The letter is signed by:

Dr. Chris Williamson (Strong Tower Bible Church, TN), Class of ‘90 & ‘92

Pastor Eric Carroll (The Ascension Church RVA, VA), Class of ‘91

Eric Green (former NFL player, Liberty University Hall of Fame), Class of ’90

Pastor Eric Saunders (McLean Bible Church, VA), Class of ‘07

Walt Aikens (NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’14

Latasha Morrison (Founder, Be The Bridge), Class of ‘13

Minister Myles “Mac” Lawhorn (Epiphany Fellowship Church, PA), Class of ‘00

Obehi Idiake (Christian speaker, podcaster), Class of ‘14

Minister Maina Mwaura (author, speaker), Class of ‘97

Pastor Marcell Howard (Woodhaven Bible Church, MI) Class of ‘03 & ‘10

Lezlyn Parker (author, speaker), Class of ‘89

Richard Shelton (former NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’89

Khambrel “Kham” Rembert (Christian musician), Class of ‘17

Pastor Gavin Davis (McLean Bible Church, VA), Class of ‘06

Dorena McFarland Williamson (author, speaker), Class of ’91

Rev. Dr. Johnny Parker (author, speaker), graduate student ‘05

Dr. Joy Hervey (author, speaker), Class of ‘18

Johnny T. White (H.S. Coach, football student-athlete),Class of ‘93

Shomari Dixon (ministry leader), Class of ‘19

Wayne Haddix (former NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’88

Rev. Brian D. Woolfolk (First Mt. Zion Baptist Church, VA), Class of ‘92

Minister Tiffany Croom, Class of ‘13

Patrick Nelson (former NFL player), Class of ‘92

Shelton Lewis, (football student-athlete) Class of ’93

Carroll L. Ward (football student-athlete), Class of 90

Pastor James Hobson Jr.(Hill City Community Church, VA), Class of ‘11 & ‘17

Curtis Artis (Christian nonprofit leader), Class of ‘91

Keith Vinson (football student-athlete), Class of ’91

LaTasha Washington (Christian counselor), Class of ‘16

Allan Louder (Basketball Student-Athlete), Class of ’91

Dr. Andre Sims (Christ the King Bible Fellowship, WA), Class of ’88 & ’91

Pastor Jua Robinson (Charles River Baptist Church, MA), Class of ’04 & ’05

Joshua McMillion (Christian musician), Class of ‘17

Pastor Marion Mason (former LU Assistant Track Coach), Class of ‘06

Corey Rice (football student-athlete), Class of ‘93

 

YOU CAN SIGN IT HERE

Here is the Associated Press story.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Just Designed His Own Blackface COVID-19 Mask; Faculty Member Resigns Immediately

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When I started this blog 12 years ago, I never imagined that one day I would be writing about the intersection of white evangelicalism, Donald Trump, a major pandemic, and blackface.

Earlier today, I published a piece at Religion News Service on court evangelical Eric Metaxas’s use of blackface. Now Jerry Falwell Jr, the president of Liberty University and the guy who recently appointed Metaxas as a fellow at his Christian Right “think tank” the Falkirk Center, is tweeting about blackface.

Yesterday, Falwell Jr. tweeted:

I was adamantly opposed to the mandate from @GovernorVA requiring citizens to wear face masks until I decided to design my own. If I am ordered to wear a mask, I will reluctantly comply, but only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!#VEXIT#EndLockdownNow pic.twitter.com/twu7r4rWhd

— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) May 27, 2020

Here is Zack Linly at The Root:

First of all: Can we just acknowledge that the conservative resistance to wearing face masks makes no sense? This isn’t like the push to reopen the economy because, for all of that campaign’s faults, it’s at least about getting people back to work. The anti-face mask thing, on the other hand, just seems like arbitrary defiance for the sake of defiance. It’s just odd that all of these Republican officials, including y’all’s president, seem so hellbent on dying on that particular hill. (Editor’s note: Perhaps literally. COVID-19 is not a game.)

Falwell—the man who once had arrest warrants issued for journalists because they were covering his widely criticized decision to reopen Liberty U’s campus despite the dangers of the COVID-19 outbreak—took things a step further by randomly invoking racism to make his point.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Northam caught black people’s collective side-eye last year when a photo from Eastern Virginia Medical School’s 1984 yearbook was unearthed, showing him in blackface next to someone in KKK attire. Northam initially apologized for the photo then later denied it was him in the photo at all. This was certainly a drag-worthy offense, but Falwell is still way out of his lane here.

On its face (pun intended), Falwell’s tweet just makes it seem like he’s planning to wear a mask with a Klan member and a white guy in blackface on it. It just looks like him being racist as hell, which is probably why he needed to clarify things in a separate tweet.

“Just so folks outside Virginia unfamiliar with the pic on the mask understand: it is from the personal page of the medical school yearbook of @GovernorVA,” he tweeted. “Just a way to shine a spotlight on the fact that Democrats are and always have been the real racists in this country.”

Read the entire piece here. You can read a local news report here.

Yes, this is another example of the fact that not all Christian colleges are the same.

And now at least one African-American Liberty University professor has resigned.

Christopher House is a tenured communications professor at Ithaca College and the pastor of Christian Community Church in Ithaca, New York. He also teaches in Liberty University’s online program.

Here is his letter of resignation, published on his Facebook page:

I’m a Black tenured associate professor at Ithaca College and a pastor. My research expertise and scholarship in rhetoric, race and religion and also rhetorical theology have opened up other opportunities for me to speak/teach at other institutions where critical conversations about race, racism and white supremacy are needed the most.

In late 2018, I was presented with a unique opportunity to do so at the graduate level as an instructor for an Intercultural Communication class at Liberty University online.

A bit uneasy, yet feeling compelled to do so, I agreed to bring my expertise to bear in an online environment in fall 2019.

I did so not that I align myself politically with this institution or its leadership (because I don’t), but because I know that there are individuals who attend Liberty who need to hear diverse voices like mine and the message I carry. I was surprised to find graduate students open to new ideas and ways of understanding about such critical issues.

However, yesterday after a friend (who is a LU alumnus) forwarded me photos of two racists tweets from LU President Jerry Falwell, I resigned immediately!!!!!

My moral compass and integrity would not allow me have any further relationship with that institution for any reason!

I was brought into LU to generate the kind of dialogue that challenges the ideas, narratives and ideologies that underlie the very images Falwell intentionally used to make a political statement to the Governor of Virginia. Falwell did so at the expense of Black people and Black pain. This is abhorrent, evil and sickening! This does not reflect the God of the Bible!

I have come to meet some really bright students at Liberty (and who are there for many different reasons) who have to endure this type of environment. My heart goes out to them.

This is another reminder to me that some folks really don’t want to change. And although I was able to impact a few, the price to continue to do so is too high! My resignation letter is below!

Yet another chapter in the history of the world’s second largest Christian university.

Yet another chapter in the story of white conservative American evangelicalism in the age of Trump.

Liberty University Will Go Completely Online

Liberty U

It looks like Jerry Falwell Jr. has finally surrendered. Here is the press release:

Lynchburg, VA (March 16, 2020)  Liberty University announced that in light of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s emergency ban on public gatherings of 100 people, it will transition most of its residential classes to an online digital format starting Monday, March  23.

University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., said, “We originally believed it was safest to return our students following their spring break instead of having them return following greater exposure opportunities from leaving them in different parts of the country for longer periods.  But, the Governor’s recent decision to limit certain gatherings has left us no practical choice because we have so many classes of more than 100 students.  We want to provide for the continuity of our students’ education while doing what makes sense to help slow the spread of the coronavirus to our university family and local community.”

If residential students choose to return to Lynchburg, most will be able to resume their classes in the online format or they can choose to remain where they are and complete their classes online.  Most classes will be able to finish out the spring term in an online format.  Certain programs, such as aviation, osteopathic medicine and nursing, and certain types of performance classes, like labs, will not be able to be offered online, however.  Students in those programs and classes will only be able to take them in person but no classes will involve gatherings of more than 100 people. 

Students negatively impacted by these new policies or the spread of the coronavirus can seek incompletes as academic accommodations and may use the university’s standard processes to seek other accommodations based on pregnancy, other medical conditions and disabilities.

“Many of our international students are simply unable to return to their home countries and other students don’t have a place to go, so we must keep our campus residence halls and dining services staffed anyway,” Falwell said, “although we will be modifying the way meals are picked up and consumed.”

Because of the limited number of students on campus, meetings of student clubs and intramural contests are cancelled.  Practices for NCAA and club sports teams will be decided sport-by-sport.  

Liberty University is a national leader in online learning, having paved the way since the mid-1970’s.  Liberty offers state-of-the-art digital resources that allow students to connect with their classmates, as well as access the best in academic resources, including a vast digital library.

The transition of residential courses to online format will be staggered and will begin Monday, March 23, the day after spring break.  Students will be getting communications from deans and professors over the next week with details about their classes, including any clinical, experiential, performance-based, or studio learning that may require alternative arrangements.  Students should closely monitor their Liberty email and Blackboard for these important messages.   

University will not hold events with more than 100 people as long as Governor Northam’s ban is in effect.  Some will be rescheduled and others will be cancelled.  College for a Weekend on April 2-5 is cancelled but tours and smaller scale interactions will be made available.  No decision has been made yet about commencement currently scheduled for May 9.

The coronavirus outbreak worldwide has created great uncertainty.  “Please keep the elderly and the others at high risk with this virus in your prayers,” Falwell said.  “Liberty is taking into account the sometimes conflicting orders and guidance of government officials and public health experts regarding higher education and our unique population.  As this dynamic situation changes again, the university will continue to reassess.”  Updates and current information will be found on the university’s website.    

Two quick thoughts:

  1. Kudos to Jeff Brittain
  2. I am glad Falwell is submitting to Northam. For a minute there I thought he was going to appeal to the ideals of the American Revolution, pack-up the campus, and move to West Virginia in protest.

🙂

Why Did a 74-Year-Old Amateur Historian Steal a Monument Commemorating the Slave Trade in Charlottesville?

Charlottesville slave block

This is a really interesting story.  Here is a taste of Michael Miller’s piece at The Washington Post:

The humble sign in the sidewalk had often gone unnoticed, overshadowed by the giant Confederate statues towering over it in Charlottesville’s central Court Square.

But Thursday, the small plaque marking a century of slave auctions suddenly went missing, stirring consternation and controversy in a city already struggling with its history.

“It was disturbing,” said Jalane Schmidt, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. “Although this slave auction plaque was so small and set in the ground and you could walk over it, it was the only thing we had to commemorate the slaves whose lives were torn apart there.”

Schmidt, who has advocated for the removal of Charlottesville’s Confederate statues, initially worried that the plaque had been taken to protest a proposed law that would allow cities in Virginia to remove offensive monuments.

Others feared that it was simply another racist gesture at the site of the 2017 Unite the Right rally, during which a neo-Nazi killed protester Heather Heyer.

Then something odd happened. The culprit publicly confessed.

Read the rest here.

What is the Difference Between Liberty University and Messiah College?

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The covered bridge on the campus of Messiah College

Yesterday in my Created and Called for Community class at Messiah College we discussed different kinds of Christian colleges. We thought about the things a Christian college requires all faculty to affirm, the issues a Christian college “privileges” (but does not necessarily require faculty to agree with), and the issues on which a Christian college does not take an official position.  (Most of our discussion built on the work of Messiah College provost Randy Basinger).

Faculty at Messiah College must be Christians.  All faculty must affirm the Apostles Creed.  We thus have Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox faculty.  Other Christian colleges require faculty to affirm more than just the Apostles Creed.  For example, faculty at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan must affirm the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordt. Wheaton College and Gordon College do not hire Catholics.

Messiah College privileges social and religious positions that line-up with the school’s historic Anabaptist, Wesleyan, and Pietist roots.  For example, as a college with Anabaptist roots, Messiah privileges pacifism. As a school with Anabaptist and Wesleyan roots, the college privileges the ordination of women.  But a faculty member does not have to be a pacifist or believe in the ordination of women to teach at the college.  We have faculty who are advocates of a “just war” position and we have faculty from denominations (traditional Catholics and Orthodox, conservative Presbyterians, and complementarian evangelical churches) that do not ordain women.

And there are all kinds of issues on which Messiah College does not have a position.  For example, the college does not take a position on political candidates or parties.

All of this makes for a vibrant and diverse Christian intellectual community.

During our conversation in class, a few students brought up Liberty University.  What does Liberty require of faculty?  What positions and issues does Liberty privilege? What are the issues on which the university does not take a position?

For example, last month we highlighted Jerry Falwell Jr.’s leadership of VEXIT, a movement started by Virginia counties and localities who want to leave the Commonwealth and join the state of West Virginia. Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, is not happy with proposed legislation to restrict gun rights in Virginia.

VEXIT is getting a boost from Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, a think tank created to “equip courageous champions to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ, to advance his kingdom and American freedom”:

The Falkirk Center is connected to Liberty University.  In a January 20, 2020 piece at the Liberty Champion, student journalist Hattie Troutman writes: “The idea for the center was presented by [co-founder Charlie Kirk] when he pitched the idea to Falwell last year. [Executive Director Ryan] Helfenbein said Falwell received the idea well, knowing that if Liberty was to be in a partnership with the center, it must be rooted in the Gospel and represent Liberty University’s missional values.”

So there you have it.  The Falkirk Center is an extension of the mission of Liberty University.  The Falkirk Center promotes VEXIT.  It thus appears that Liberty University privileges VEXIT.

A quick read of the Falkirk Center Twitter feed suggests that the university also privileges gun rights, BREXIT, Donald Trump, free markets, and a pro-life position on abortion. If Messiah College is rooted in the historic Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan traditions, Liberty University is rooted in the (very short) history of the Christian Right.

At Messiah College, we also have “centers” that support beliefs that the college privileges:

  • We have a center for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan studies that promotes issues related to peace, reconciliation, heart-felt conversion, and personal and social holiness.”
  • We have a Center for Public Humanities with a mission to promote the study of the humanities and “partner with our broader community in meaningful inquiry, conversation, and action.”
  • We have a center devoted to the work and legacy of former U.S. Commissioner of Education and Messiah graduate Ernest L. Boyer.  The Boyer Center “advances educational renewal for the common good.”
  • We have a center called The Collaboratory for Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research.  This center has a mission to “foster justice, empower the poor, promote peace and care for the earth through applications of our academic and professional disciplines.”

Because Messiah College is a Christian college informed by the history and theology of the Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan movements, the college supports centers that reflect the things the college privileges.  Liberty University also has a center that supports the things Liberty University privileges.

Not all Christian colleges are the same.  High school students and their parents should be aware of this.

The Created and Called for Community course continues next week with some additional exploration of Messiah College’s Christian identity.  Follow along here.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine Defends the 1619 Project

1619

Some of you may remember Trump lawyer Robert Ray‘s gratuitous swipe at The New York Times 1619 Project during last night’s senate impeachment trial.

Today we learned that Virginia Senator Tim Kaine did not like it.  In fact, he confronted Ray about it after the trial closed for the day.  Here is a taste of a piece at USA Today:

[Ray] criticized a passage from the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry report, which argued the 1868 impeachment of President Andrew Johnson was not motivated by his violation of the Tenure of Office Act, “but on his illegitimate use of power to undermine Reconstruction and subordinate Africa-Americans following the Civil War.”

Ray said the argument was an “ahistorical sleight of hand worthy only of The New York Times recent 1619 series,” referring to an interactive project on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves in what would become the United States

Ray’s comments about the slavery project caused Kaine to throw his hands up in the air in a giant shrug before leaning back in his chair and shaking his head as he looked up at the ceiling. 

Kaine said that as a Democratic senator from Virginia, where that first landing occurred in 1619, and the co-sponsor of a bill commemorating the anniversary, he found it both “puzzling” and “offensive.” 

“I actually went over to Robert Ray after and I said, ‘Hey, I didn’t get that. Why were you doing that?'” Kaine said. 

Ray responded that the project was “too politically correct,” according to Kaine. 

“What does that have to do with the articles of impeachment?” he asked. “I was stunned by it.” 

Read the entire piece here.

Why Does Jerry Falwell Jr. REALLY Support VEXIT?

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Get up to speed here.

Here is Matt Ford at The New Republic:

In a statement posted on Twitter, Falwell gave the most comprehensive reason for the proposal. He largely blames Virginia Democrats and their policy choices. “Democrat leaders in Richmond, through their elitism and radicalism, have left a nearly unrecognizable state in their wake,” he explained. “Despite a spate of scandals over the past two years, the Democrats control every statewide elected office throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as both chambers of the State Legislature—and they are using their power to strip away the God-given rights held by every person in the state, despite their due protections under the U.S. Constitution.”

What he elides is that Virginia Democrats didn’t seize control of the state government by magic but because a majority of voters in the state wanted it that way. For Falwell, democracy is part of the problem. Virginia’s changing electorate has transformed it from a reddish-purple state into a solid blue one over the past two decades. Now he sees radical solutions as the only viable path forward. “The threat from the radical left is real, and it’s spreading across the country and tearing our national family apart at the seams, but we have a rare opportunity to make history in our time by pushing back against tyranny in Washington and in Richmond,” he warned.

Unfortunately for Falwell, that “tyranny” also makes his proposal virtually impossible. The Constitution forbids the creation of new states or the transfer of one state’s land to another without each state’s consent, as well as the approval of Congress. Since Democrats currently control the House and the entire Virginia state government, that consent is unlikely to be forthcoming any time soon.

But Falwell’s concerns aren’t limited to tyranny and democracy. He also placed Liberty University’s revenue streams among the top reasons for what he calls “Vexit.” In last month’s budget proposal, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a list of changes he would seek to Virginia’s in-state tuition program. “For those at private institutions, we’re raising the annual amount of our Tuition Assistance Grants to $4,000 per student,” he told state lawmakers in December. “We will focus those grants on students attending brick-and-mortar classes.”

The brick-and-mortar provision would directly affect Liberty’s most lucrative source of funding. Last week, the university complained that Northam’s proposed changes would bar those grants from being used to pay for online college courses. Liberty said in a statement that the measures would affect more than 2,000 of its online students each year. Falwell and other university officials insisted they would be able to cover the grants gap through private funds, claiming that they were worried about smaller private schools in the state that might not be able to do the same.

Read the entire piece here.

Is Jerry Falwell Jr. Leading a Secession Movement?

West Virginia

Last week we published a post on Jerry Falwell Jr.’s response to legislation proposed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the state General Assembly that would place restrictions on the purchase and use of firearms in the commonwealth.  In that post I referenced a Falwell Jr. appearance on the Todd Starnes radio show in which the president of Liberty University referenced an upcoming act of “civil disobedience” that he was not yet ready to talk about.  I think Falwell was referring to his press conference today with West Virginia governor Jim Justice.

They are calling it “Vexit.”

Here is WSLS News:

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said he would support efforts for Virginia counties and localities to leave the Commonwealth and join the state of West Virginia.

“We need a state government that is not elected by federal workers in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., that will protect our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and I believe West Virginia will do just that,” Falwell said.

“That’s why, while I will be campaigning for my good friends President Donald Trump and Gov. Jim Justice this election year, I’ll also be supporting any efforts to let the people decide the question of Virginia counties joining the State of West Virginia.”

West Virginia is the only state to be formed by seceding from a Confederate state.

Some Virginia border counties were given the choice to become part of the new state if their residents approved. Berkeley and Jefferson counties gave their nod, siding with the Union.

Justice said West Virginia would welcome any Virginian who joined West Virginia.

West Virginia became a state in 1863 after delegates decided to secede from Virginia and form a new state.

Watch Falwell here.  He is upset that the “liberal elites” employed by the federal government are skewing Virginia state elections.  Then he claims that the founding fathers intended federal contractors and government officials to live in the District of Columbia and not in Virginia or the neighboring states.  He wants the boundaries of the District of Columbia to extend to the entire D.C. metro area so that people living in counties close to the federal capital will not vote in Virginia.

Falwell Jr. Doubles Down on His Promise of “Civil Disobedience” in Light of Virginia Gun Legislation and Says White Supremacists in Charlottesville Were Not Real

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In Virginia, governor Ralph Northam and Democrats in the state General Assembly want to introduce legislation that would:

  • Require background checks on firearm sales and transactions.
  • Ban assault weapons.
  • Allow Virginians only one handgun purchase within a 30-day period.
  • Require lost and stolen firearms to be reported to law enforcement within 24 hours.
  • Allow law enforcement to take firearms away from a person who is exhibiting dangerous behavior or presents and immediate threat to self or others.
  • Enhance punishment for individuals allowing children under the age of 18 to have access to loaded and unsecured guns.
  • Allow local communities to enact firearms ordinances that are stricter than state law.

This sounds very reasonable to me.

Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, the second largest Christian university in the world, is not happy about this. Last week, during an appearance on the conservative Todd Starnes radio program, he said that he was going to “call for civil disobedience if the Democrats go through with this.”  He qualified those statements here.

Yesterday Falwell Jr. returned to the Todd Starnes program in support of the men and women who came to Richmond yesterday to protest the Democratic gun legislation.  Listen at the link below.  Falwell Jr. comes on at about the 20 minute mark.

https://omny.fm/shows/toddcast/jan-20-jerry-falwell-jr-liberty-university/embed

Falwell says the “North Virginia bureaucrats” trying to pass these gun laws “don’t know what they’re up against.  And I’m not talking about violence.  I’m talking about civil disobedience.  I’m talking about some things I can’t tell you about yet Todd, but I’ll let you break the story.”  I’m not sure what Falwell means here, but during the entire interview he sounded like some kind of Confederate warlord defending his land (on three different occasions during the short interview he mentioned that his family has lived in central Virginia since the time of the Revolution) from northern aggressors.

Falwell also responded to news that white supremacist groups came to Richmond to protest.  “I’ve lived in Virginia for 58 years and I’ve never met a white supremacist yet,” he said, “I just don’t buy it. I don’t buy that garbage.”  This is a striking claim in light of the fact that Falwell’s own father ran a segregated Christian academy in Lynchburg and opposed Brown v. Board of Education.  Falwell then suggested that George Soros may have sent people to Richmond “pretending to be white supremacists” in order to “start a ruckus like I suspect happened in Charlottesville.”

This is the man leading the second largest Christian university in the world.

Annette Gordon-Reed Reviews Alan Taylor’s New Book on Jefferson and Education

Taylor JeffersonWhen a Pultizer-Prize-winning American historian reviews a new book from another Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian it is worth a separate post here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. Taylor’s book is titled Thomas Jefferson’s Education.  Here is a taste of Gordon-Reed’s review at The Atlantic:

The Revolution and the creation of the United States of America broadened Jefferson’s vision in many ways, and by his mid-40s, he had taken to insisting that the job of reforming Virginia—above all, ending slavery, a system in which he participated—would fall to “the rising generation.” He and his fellows in the revolutionary generation had done their service by founding a new country. It was now up to the young people who inherited that legacy to carry the torch and continue the advancement of what he considered Enlightenment values. But Jefferson could not totally bow out of the quest to transform the place he was born and had long thought of as his “country.” After 25 years in national public service, he was at last able to return to the project in 1809, and he did so decidedly in his own way.

Improving Virginia’s system of education, Jefferson believed, was the foundation upon which progress would be built, and the foundation had to be laid properly. If publicly supported primary and secondary schooling was not possible, he would shift his focus. He filled his time in retirement writing and answering letters, and playing host to the hordes of visitors who came up the mountain to see him. But his main mission was planning for a university that would rival the great universities in the North. No longer would the sons of Virginia be limited to attending his alma mater, William & Mary, or traveling north to Harvard or Yale—choices that disconcerted him for different reasons.

In Thomas Jefferson’s Education, Alan Taylor—the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia—probes that ambitious mission in clear prose and with great insight and erudition. He explains why Jefferson found those educational choices so intolerable, what he planned to do about the situation, and how his concerns and plans mapped onto a growing sectional conflict that would eventually lead to the breakup of the Union that Jefferson had helped create.

Read the entire review here.

How Jamestown Embraced Slavery

Cultivation_of_tobacco_at_Jamestown_1615

At Zocalo, Dartmouth historian Paul Musselwhite explains how it all happened.  Here is a taste of “How Jamestown Abandoned a Utopian Vision and Embraced Slavery“:

In the summer of 1619, some of England’s first American colonists were carving up land seized from the Powhatan empire along the James River in Virginia. While the first settlers had arrived back in 1607, they had only recently discovered that they could turn a profit growing tobacco. Tobacco production had increased 20-fold over the past two years, and agricultural land was suddenly at a premium.

Yet the surveyors, instead of laying out private estates for upwardly mobile colonists, were mostly tracing the bounds of thousands of acres of common land. These vast tracts of public land were intended to accommodate hundreds of new colonists and their families, who would serve as tenants, raising crops and paying rents to support infrastructure while learning agricultural skills.

This symbiotic vision of common land and public institutions was one of the most dramatic innovations in the history of English colonialism to that point. But we have lost sight of that original vision and how it was undermined.

Read the rest here.

Let’s Remember That Slavery in North America Pre-Dates 1619

Slavery in New Spain

New Spain, 1599

The “20 And odd negroes” who arrived in Virginia in 1619 were the first slaves in English North America, but slavery existed in North American well before this.  Here is Olivia Waxman at Time:

The 400th anniversary being marked this month is really the 400th anniversary of the Anglo-centric history of Africans in the U.S., says Greg Carr, the Chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. Dating the history of Africans in North America to 400 years ago “reinforces this narrative of English superiority.” But, he argues, remembering the Spanish and indigenous sides of the history is more important now than ever, as “the people [officials] are closing the border to are [descended from] people who were here when you came.”

“People don’t tend to want to think about early U.S. history as being anything but English and English-speaking,” echoes Michael Guasco, historian at Davidson College and author of Slaves and Englishmen: Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World. “There is a Hispanic heritage that predates the U.S, and there’s a tendency for people to willingly forget or omit the early history of Florida, Texas and California, particularly as the politics of today want to push back against Spanish language and immigration from Latin America.”

Read the entire piece here.

What About Powhatan and His People?

Trump at Jamestown

Jamestown is in the news lately.  This week Donald Trump visited the site of the first British settlement in America to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly.  Others are commemorating the “20 And odd negroes” who arrived on Virginia shores in August 1619.  And today the Washington Post‘s Dana Hedgpeth reminds us that we should not forget the story of Powhatan and the native American tribes he governed at the time of English settlement.  Here is a taste of her piece, which includes quotes from historians James Horn and William Kelso:

The powerful American Indian chief, known as Powhatan, had refused the English settlers’ demands to return stolen guns and swords at Jamestown, Va., so the English retaliated. They killed 15 of the Indian men, burned their houses and stole their corn. Then they kidnapped the wife of an Indian leader and her children and marched them to the English boats.

They put the children to death by throwing them overboard and “shooting out their brains in the water,” wrote George Percy, a prominent English settler in Jamestown.

And their orders for the leader’s wife: Burn her.

Percy wrote, “Having seen so much bloodshed that day now in my cold blood I desired to see no more and for to burn her I did not hold it fitting but either by shot or sword to give her a quicker dispatch.”

She was spared, but only briefly. Two Englishmen took her to the woods, Percy wrote, and “put her to the sword.”

The woman was one of 15,000 American Indians living in the Tidewater area along the shores of the York and James rivers in 1607 when the first English settlers arrived in Virginia. Her violent death is symbolic of the underlying tensions that lasted for centuries between the whites and the Indians.

On Tuesday, President Trump mentioned the Native Americans in passing at the 400th anniversary of the first representative government in Jamestown. The colonists, he said in a speech, “endured by the sweat of their labor, the aid of the Powhatan Indians, and the leadership of Captain John Smith.”

Read the entire piece here.

Drew Gilpin Faust on Growing-Up in Virginia

Faust

In a piece in the latest issue of The Atlantic, Faust, the recently retired president of Harvard and an American historian, reflects on what it was like to growing-up in the racist South.  Her piece is a wonderful example of how to blend personal memoir and American history.

Here is a taste:

I was 9 years old when the news reports about “massive resistance” and battles over segregation made me suddenly realize that it was not a matter of accident that my school was all-white. I wrote an outraged letter to President Eisenhower—outraged because this wasn’t just, but also outraged that I only now understood, that I had been somehow implicated in this without my awareness. I have wondered whether I was motivated in part by my growing recognition of my own disadvantage as a girl whose mother insisted I learn to accept that I lived in a “man’s world.” I resented that my three brothers were not expected to wear itchy organdy dresses and white gloves, or learn to curtsy, or sit decorously, or accept innumerable other constraints on their freedom. I was becoming acutely attuned to what was and wasn’t fair. And because my parents seemed to take for granted that this was both a white world and a man’s world, I took it upon myself to appeal—without telling them—to a higher power: “Please Mr. Eisenhower please try and have schools and other things accept colored people,” I wrote. “Colored people aren’t given a chance … So what if their skin is black. They still have feelings but most of all are God’s people.” And I acknowledged the accident of my own privilege: “If I painted my face black I wouldn’t be let in any public schools etc.” I seem to have figured out “etc.” before I recognized the realities of the racial arrangements that surrounded me. And, curiously, I framed what I had recognized as the contingency of race and the arbitrariness of my own entitlement by invoking blackface.

Read the entire piece here.

UVA Men’s Basketball Team Declines White House Invitation

Bennett

UVA basketball coach Tony Bennett.

The defending national champs will not be going to the White House.  Here is a taste of Mike Barber’s reporting at the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

CHARLOTTESVILLE — After winning the national championship, the Virginia basketball team won’t be following the tradition of visiting the White House.

“We have received inquiries about a visit to the White House,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said in a statement the school released Friday. “With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together. We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.”

Virginia went 35-3 this season and beat Texas Tech to win the school’s first basketball national championship earlier this month. Since then, junior guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, junior forward Mamadi Diakite and sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter all have declared for the NBA draft. In addition, sophomore reserve guard Marco Anthony has said that he has entered his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal and will be leaving the Cavaliers.

Hunter retweeted the school’s announcement, adding the words “No Thanks Trump,” followed by two laughing emojis.

Read the rest here.

I guess the UVA basketball team doesn’t like fast food.  Or maybe something else is going on.  🙂

By the way, the women’s Division 1 champs, the Baylor Lady Bears, have accepted Trump’s invitation.

Tony Bennett, Evangelicalism, and University of Virginia Basketball

Bennett

Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, was no evangelical.  But he was a champion of religious liberty and had a lot of support among Virginia evangelicals when he ran for president in 1800. So it is unclear what he would have thought about an evangelical running his school’s national championship basketball program.

UVA coach Tony Bennett has been outspoken about his evangelical faith.  His faith has been covered by the Billy Graham Evangelistic AssociationThe Daily Progress,  the Baptist Press, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Heavy.  (The Washington Post discussed how he handled racism during 2017 white nationalist invasion of Charlottesville, but says nothing about his Christian faith).

Following his team’s national championship victory on Monday night, Bennett told Jim Nantz that he had played a Christian song titled “Hills and Valleys” to get his team ready for the game.  This song must have had special meaning for Bennett.  Last March, Bennett’s UVA program was definitely in the “valley” after it became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed (UMBC). (It should be no surprise that Bennett received a text from former NFL coach and motivational speaker Tony Dungy after the loss to UMBC).

The lyrics of “Hills and Valleys” focus on God’s faithfulness during the joy and pain of life:

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowestplace
And I have held the blessings
God, you give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

I’ve watched my dreams get broken

In you I hope again!
No matter what I know
Know I’m safe inside Your hand

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

Father, you give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all you will remain
Over it all!

Father, you give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all you will remain
Over it all!

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there (to the one who set me there)
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

Frankly, it’s refreshing to see Bennett invoke a song that celebrates God’s faithfulness in the wins AND the losses.

The role that Bennett’s faith plays in his coaching is covered well in Jonathan Adams’s piece at Heavy. Here is a taste:

Virginia coach Tony Bennett is outspoken about his Christian faith and how it shapes his work with players. During the 2019 NCAA tournament, Bennett noted his faith helps him through stressful situations in games.

“You certainly feel things – things bother you, but where does peace and perspective come from? And I always tell our guys: It’s got to be something that is unconditional,” Bennett said, per Christian Headlines. “And I know I have that in the love of my family – unconditional acceptance and love. That’s huge. And I know I have that in my faith in Christ. That’s, for me, where I draw my strength from – my peace, my steadiness in the midst of things.”

Bennett committed to being a Christian while he was attending a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp when he was 14, per Decision magazine. The Virginia coach emphasizes five pillars to his players, and the tenets have become a staple of the Virginia program. Bennett drew upon Biblical principals to create the five pillars: humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness. Former Virginia player Joe Harris spoke with Decision magazine about the impact these pillars have had on his life beyond basketball.

“You can apply those pillars to the rest of your life, not just basketball,” Harris noted to Decision. “I always tell people that being at Virginia with coach Bennett helped me in a huge developmental standpoint as a basketball player, but that I developed even more as a person.”

Something tells me Jefferson would still be happy with the UVA win.