As Throckmorton, who has lamented elsewhere that “Evangelical supporters of Trump seem to be accepting everything Trump does,” points out, this letter, a denunciation of Trump and all he stands for, “comes pretty close to a vote of non-confidence in Jerry Falwell, Jr.,” who is a prominent leader on the Religious Right.
Yes, if it is that, and the letter, which opens with a salvo against Falwell’s support of Donald Trump, represents something worse for the Republican nominee, calling him “one of the worst presidential candidates in American history.”
“In the months since Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him, Donald Trump has been inexorably associated with Liberty University. We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history.”
Liberty University is a “poster-child” of the Religious Right. You will remember Ted Cruz, who preceded Trump as messiah, began his run here. Jerry Falwell’s use of “taxpayer-funded federal aid is a critical part of Liberty University’s business model to create a ‘uniquely Republican’ education program.”
That its students are in rebellion against the University’s candidate is no small thing. I advanced the notion yesterday that Donald Trump may be destroying not just the GOP, but the Religious Right, and this latest fracture can be seen as the inevitable result of trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
While so many Evangelicals are twisting themselves into contortions to justify their continued support for Donald Trump, these students are doing the opposite, complaining that “Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.”
“Associating any politician with Christianity is damaging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Donald Trump is not just any politician. He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”
Not only is this a rejection of Trump, the first sentence is a rejection of the entire raison d’être of the Religious Right, which was to take control of the Republican Party and to put conservative Christian candidates into office. As we can see now, a half-century out from the beginning of the process, the endeavor was self-corrupting.
The letter has something to say about Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women as well, and it is something that should be heard by all on the Religious Right:
A recently uncovered tape revealed his comments bragging about sexually assaulting women. Any faculty or staff member at Liberty would be terminated for such comments, and yet when Donald Trump makes them, President Falwell rushes eagerly to his defense – taking the name “Liberty University” with him. “We’re all sinners,” Falwell told the media, as if sexual assault is a shoulder-shrugging issue rather than an atrocity which plagues college campuses across America, including our own.
Echoing the spirit if not the words of one of Trump’s own faith council pastors, that he is “lecherous and worthless,” these students speaking here point out that,
“It is not enough to criticize these kinds of comments. We must make clear to the world that while everyone is a sinner and everyone can be forgiven, a man who constantly and proudly speaks evil does not deserve our support for the nation’s highest office.”
Invoking a teaching of Jesus rather than some episode from the Old Testament is a sign that things aren’t going to go well for Donald Trump, or for Jerry Falwell, Jr. In Matthew 7:3-5, we are told by these students,
“Jesus tells a story in the Bible about a man who tries to remove a speck of dust from his brother’s eye, while he has a log stuck in his own. “You hypocrite,” Jesus says, ‘first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’”
“While our president Jerry Falwell Jr. tours the country championing the log in his eye,” the letter continues, “we want the world to know how many students oppose him. We don’t want to champion Donald Trump; we want only to be champions for Christ.”
This letter is a pointed and timely reminder that the Religious Right’s leaders have forgotten their own Jesus, preferring to appeal instead of cherry-picked passages out of the Old Testament. They might pick up their Bible and actually read it, as these students have, and learn something.
There is a lesson here for the Religious Right, if they want to save themselves before it’s too late.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.