More is coming out about Jerry Falwell Jr. as we speak. It is so recent I am waiting until it settles down to get the facts. Here is a synopsis (and my commentary) on the “old news” of Mr Falwell.
1) Jerry Falwell Sr. is a very prominent name in evangelicalism, and in politics
2) His son Jerry Falwell Jr. now runs the school which his father founded
3) Jerry Falwell Jr. was one of the key leaders that swayed the Evangelical “voting block” (yes, they vote as a block) to vote for Trump
4) The school is the largest Christian school in America, perhaps the world. I seriously considered attending there, as their online classes are apparently cheap and very well taught.
5) The school has extremely tough moral codes, including monetary fines for drinking, and “being caught in a state of undress” with a member of the opposite sex.
6) Mr. Falwell has a very long history of both scandals, which the school has consistently ignored
6) He was finally fired after posting a photo (below) on social media of himself with his arm around a woman who was not his wife with a glass of black liquid in his hand, on his private Yacht (yes, he has a private yacht)
7) More scandals are coming out as we speak. Buckle your seatbelts. It sounds like another 1 Corinthians 5 situation.
Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know this guy. But I think that what this highlights is:
1) Evangelical institutions (seminaries, churches, radio stations, publishing houses, music & media, denominational headquarters) have a HUGE sway over the direction of evangelicalism
2) The control of these institutions is held by relatively few people
3) These people are not perfect, and sometimes they are in their position for no other reason than that they are rich, or that they inherited it
4) These people are often courted by politicians, who convince them to convert their spiritual authority into political power
5) It is hard to hold these people accountable, because any critique of them would seem to weaken “the cause” (be that the pro-life cause, or promoting Christianity).
6) The average church-going Evangelical is not aware of the “machine” of evangelicalism, nor of the people running it. Yet they are influenced by it. If Mr. Falwell has been convinced otherwise, perhaps all evangelicals would have voted for another candidate.
What this story highlights is:
- Evangelicalism is a grassroots movement of several million Christians who express their faith a certain way
- Evangelicalism is also a financial, political, and religious “machine”
There is a complex relationship between the two. Both need each other. Neither is wrong in and of itself. But, both can be sinful and need to be called to account.
It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds. We are learning a lot about the institutions that have formed us, and some of those who lead them.