The Falwells Hurt Christians At Secular Universities Most
On Monday, Reuters ran a lengthy article that can be best summed up by the prologue, “Giancarlo Granda says his sexual relationship with the Falwells began when he was 20. He says he had sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell Jr, head of Liberty University and a staunch supporter of President Trump, looked on.” Granda was the Falwell’s pool boy and later, their business partner.
The revelation led Liberty to say Falwell resigned, but likely because Falwell can’t take a hint, he has disputed this and also disputed Granda’s version of events. It is the latest Scandal to hit Falwell, who recently took an indefinite leave of absence after posting a photo of himself to Instagram with a woman who is not his wife with both of them having their pants unzipped, exposing their underwear.
If Falwell was a student at his university, he would have been expelled, if he won’t resign, he should be fired. Liberty and the cause of Christian education need to move on.
Liberty will be fine, despite the strict code of ethics for students, everybody there is there because they want to be and his exit could be a marketing and public perception boon, showing that they actually mean what they say. But, the Falwells conduct will make it harder for Christians at liberal, secular universities to engage with their campus’ population.
If secular college students are honest, it’s not President Trump and evangelical support of him that turns them off from Christian outreach, because Trump is a temporary politician who will one day, not be president. Ask them to pretend Trump is not president and they generally have two complaints or reasons as to why they are not a Christian.
One is generally the belief that being a Christian is boring. A particular flavor of this sentiment is that Christians are fuddy-duddies when it comes to things like sex. They’ve clearly never been a large lecture hall of young Christians talking about it, because some of those talks can be, to steal a phrase, “sex positive,” but to the unaware Liberty’s code of conduct is seen to reaffirm the belief and since they never take the time to explore the argument’s logic they come to the second belief, which is that Christians just enjoy telling people what to do. From sex, to abortion, to gay rights, it appears that being a Christian is just one long list of don’ts and with added hate.
And the Jerry and Becki Falwells of the world confirm that suspicion. Pastors, thinkers, and your friend can explain the reason as to why Christians believe what we believe, but then someone who is a proud culture war warrior and engages in the same sin (it is not “kink-shaming” to say that what Granda alleges constitutes sin) they either condemn or want to outlaw, while proclaiming the election is a part of said culture war, then it does look like the urge to control.
And this is where the support for Trump comes in. If the Falwells had simply said they recognize Trump for who he is, which is a thrice married womanizer who only started showing an interest in pro-life politics because he wanted to be president, but acknowledged that while half of politics is principle, the other half is practical and as a matter of practicality, Trump is still better than the party that says anything less than taxpayer funded abortion on demand is the definition of sexism, but God-fearing Christians can disagree, then that’s one thing.
Instead they hitched themselves to Trump (Becki is an advisor for the Women for Trump group and Jerry has obviously been quite vocal in his support) and tied Christianity and Liberty University to electoral politics, which is theologically bankrupt and impractical. The Falwell’s escapades are, well, Trumpian and whether university students have gone nuts with Trump Derangement Syndrome is beside the point. The point of Christian education is not to own the libs. Christian education needs to be able to reach non-Trump voters without sacrificing doctrine, but the Falwells sacrificed doctrine themselves and for what? Sexual adventurism? Political power?
Discounting Christian thinking based on hypocrisy may be intellectually dubious, but human beings are emotional creatures. Christians on secular campuses make connects with unbelievers mostly on emotional grounds, but the Falwells just made their job more difficult as they reinforced those emotional objections that Christian educators need to break down.