I begin the weekly Bitch-Slap with Jerry Falwell Jr., who has periodically appeared in the news since the 2016 Presidential campaign because of his unwavering support of President Orange Face. It seems he’s emerged in the media as “the guy” that speaks for evangelical voters who overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016. He is not a pastor though like his father, Jerry Falwell Sr. He’s an attorney. He graduated from the University of Virginia law school and worked in the private sector before becoming an attorney for Liberty University. In 2007 after the death of his father, he became the University President. He’s one of the highest paid college administrators with a salary of $920,00 and his overall net worth is around $10 million.
There are 3 reasons Jerry Falwell Jr. needs a Bitch-Slap by Debra Cole
- That stuff he said about the poor.
He told the Washington Post in reference to his support for Trump, which he claims is because of his business acumen. (went bankrupt 4 times) He said, “Why have Americans been able to do more to help people in need around the world than any other country in history? It’s because of free enterprise, freedom, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth. A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.”
With his social standing, along with the words in the book of Matthew, it’s disappointing to say the least, for him to use his platform to throw shade at poor people. Twitter has already burned him up with clap-backs of a scriptural nature. I won’t provide variations on that theme. I want to focus on the word charity, the way we currently define it, not how it’s used in the King James Bible. Given his personal wealth and growing up as a preacher’s kid, it’s safe to assume (I have no proof) that Jerry Falwell Jr. writes a few checks to charities and ministries that genuinely help out the down trodden. He’s right in the sense that Americans give away a lot of money. And wealthy people are technically able to do more ‘volume,’ whether it’s donations, investments or social connections. The problem with a ‘charitable’ attitude, and he’s not the only one with it, is that being charitable and excessively praising acts of charity, can lend itself to the notion that it’s good enough. It allows the givers and the audiences that clap for them, to believe that a system of low wages, dysfunctional healthcare, low investment in schools are problems somehow unrelated to them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Giving money is wonderful. But charity doesn’t replace a financial and moral commitment to equity. For example, Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to Newark, NJ for an educational experiment that he knew nothing about in a community that’s never been his. It resulted in a lot of frustration and money not well spent. A better choice for all school systems, would be to tax the wealthy, allow educators to weigh in on solutions; properly fund education; pay teachers a living salary; and address poverty. To give to cancer research, a charter school, or summer camp for a disadvantaged child are all great things. But it does not absolve the donor class for allowing extreme inequality to grow. It’s also lazy. If you’re doing well, simply writing a check is easy. There is no personal sacrifice. There is no courage. There is no change.
His remark, “a poor person never gave anyone a job” is also wrong as well as supremely offensive. You can’t be a manager without employees much like a teacher can’t teach without students. In fact, the United States wouldn’t be a nation at all without the labor of slaves, indentured servants, debtors running away from creditors, and politically powerless females known as wives. Leaders, business owners, shareholders, on down to human resource specialists are nobody without consumers and workers. And entrepreneurs exist in all classes. But again, the lack of investment in the public and the rising cost of college, healthcare, and housing, all of it keeps low-income entrepreneurs in the loop of stagnation no matter how much talent they possess. Furthermore, poor people provide plenty of jobs for Pay-Day lenders, check cashing outlets, and anyone in the business of predatory sales. The day-to-day stress of trying to survive in a country with a government that doesn’t listen to them, allows for the bullies of the world to take advantage and indeed carve out for themselves very nice jobs. The ugly truth is that upward mobility no longer exists in the United States. Jerry Falwell Jr. knows this to be true and is quite happy with the current system remaining in place.
- He enthusiastically defended Trump after the Access Hollywood tape emerged.
Offering no proof, Jerry Falwell Jr. fed into the paranoid seats of the political stadium when the tape hit the news in October of 2016. “I think this whole videotape thing was planned, I think it was timed, I think it might have even been a conspiracy among the establishment Republicans who’ve known about it for weeks and who tried to time it to do the maximum damage to Donald Trump,” Falwell told reporter Rita Cosby on her podcast in October 2016.
On that same podcast, he also said, “There was nothing defensible.” “It was completely out of order, it’s not something I’m going to defend . . . it was reprehensible. We’re all sinners, every one of us.” “We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t.” “We’re never going to have a perfect candidate unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot.” “I’ve got a wife and a daughter, and nobody wants to hear their women talked about in that manner.”
To sum it up, he pulled a “I’ve been hearing things”to make Trump out to be a victim. And then threw in a cheap line of, “we’re all sinners,”a convenient excuse used to defend conservative politicians and yet it’s never reserved for Democrats. And then there was the classic GOP move when he said, “nobody wants to hear their women talked about in that manner,”Ok so “their women,” is an interesting choice of words, with the implication that women are the property of someone. And that as long as the women harmed are not related to him, it doesn’t matter because “women” are just political pawns for horse trading and not individual citizens deserving dignity and respect.
Jerry Falwell Jr. defended a sexual assaulter. It’s not just disgraceful. It’s a bad example for Liberty University and Christian churches everywhere that already have a history of stifling and minimizing complaints of abuse and harassment from female parishioners. Whether the abuse is from a church member, pastor, father, husband, or brother, it shouldn’t be tolerated. But Jerry Falwell Jr. gave the nod that abuse can be excused and explained away in some cases. His words hurt vulnerable abuse victims, children and youth who are sitting in pews, silently living with the trauma of abuse. Furthermore, Evangelicals already lean toward authoritarianism with such a heavy emphasis on obedience, deference to elders, and reverence for “authority figures.” It’s a mindset that is problematic in a democracy because self-rule requires citizens to put in the work. We have to listen, discern and not simply take on the opinions of people in positions of authority. Jerry Jr. knows this world inside out. He knows the power he holds and the exploitation is reprehensible.
- He eagerly defended President Trump’s infamous “Both Sides” comments after Charlottesville.
It wasn’t long after the President’s disastrous “Both sides” remarks after the violence in Charlottesville where a peaceful protester, Heather Heyer, was murdered, that Jerry Jr. stepped in to lend a hand to Trump. He tweeted on August 16, 2018.
He also went on Fox News and said, “He has inside information that I don’t have,” “I don’t know if there were historical purists there who were trying to preserve some statues.” Falwell continued the gaslighting when he said, “President Donald Trump does not have a racist bone in his body. I know him well,” “He loves all people. ( Ya’ll remember DJT-“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. And some I assume are good people.”)
Falwell continued the nonsense. “He’s worked so hard to help minorities in the inner cities. … He’s doing all the right things to help the people that are in need, the minorities.” Falwell then called the Charlottesville clashes “pure evil versus good” and said, “there’s no good white supremacist.” “I understand how some people could misunderstand his words,” Falwell said of Trump. “Yes, he could be more polished and politically correct, but that’s the reason I supported him, because he’s not.”
Historical Purist? Really? WTF is that exactly? I got to hand to Jerry Jr. for showing the world what evangelical B.S. really looks like. According to his take, “some” of the pale skinned young men on TV with weapons and torches shouting, “Jews will not replace us,” might have been students expressing concern about the preservation of historical artifacts. As if any of those spoiled brat Don Draper wannabes are going to work for the Smithsonian. Give me a break!
However, Jerry Jr. did condemn white supremacy. I’m glad he did that but it is confusing. He said, “there’s no good white supremacist.” It’s an interesting statement coming from a man with a comfortable personal fortune, a hefty fortune in fact compared to 90% of Americans. And that fortune is largely the result of being the son of Jerry Falwell Sr, one of the most influential religious leaders, public moralizers, or whatever you want to call him, of the late 20thcentury. On his radio show, the Old Time Gospel Hour, in the 1960s, Jerry Falwell Sr. featured segregationists like Lester Maddox and George Wallace and openly criticized Martin Luther King Jr. by questioning his “sincerity.” (I also think Falwell Sr. was jealous of MLK and wanted a movement of his own) He was vocal in his opposition to the ruling of Brown v. Board, when he said in 1958, “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never had been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”
Like many conservatives talking on television, it seems Jerry Jr. doesn’t fully understand what it means to be a white supremacist. In his mind, an act of violence must occur for something to be labeled racist or an act on behalf of white supremacy such as the man who ran over Heather Heyer on the streets of Charlottesville. For Jerry Jr. that guy is a bona fide white supremacist. But what about Jerry Falwell Sr.? What was he? Does a person need to be violent to be white supremacist? What about violent language? What about propping up white supremacists? Jerry Falwell Sr. hosted segregationists on his radio show and helped build an entire political movement based on collective resentment of losing tax exempt status after the court case Green v. Connally. In that case, private universities, like Bob Jones University, lost tax-exempt status if the school racially discriminated against students. Yes, that is right. It is a myth that the Moral Majority was formed because religious people were enraged about legal access to abortion. Not so, the partnership of evangelicals and conservatism is and has always been about money and resentment of the enforcement of civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s.
Writer Randall Balmer talked about the religious right using abortion as a strategy in his book, “Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America.” He said Paul Weyrich and others openly admitted to him that abortion was never the primary reason for their unity. But they felt abortion would move people to action and help their movement grow. In fact, when Roe v. Wadehappened in 1973, most religious leaders had a non-committal response if there was any response. It was considered a Catholic issue at the time. W.A. Criswell, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, said, “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” the redoubtable fundamentalist declared, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”
Abortion was just a way to manipulate and goad evangelicals into electing Ronald Reagan, because President Carter supported the IRS move and civil rights. Carter was open about his own personal feelings of opposition to abortion. His approach was to enact programs to help prevent abortion. He made efforts to make adoption easier and helped establish W.I.C. The Moral Majority’s lack of support on these measures further proves the point that they didn’t care about the unborn. It was at least 6 years after Roe v. Wadebefore Falwell and others began to publicly complain. They were mad about civil rights and Carter was going to pay for the betrayal since he was a born-again Baptist who should have looked out for their interests.
After President Trump leaves office, I predict that the word evangelical will become a term that Christians currently in evangelical faith traditions will abandon. Like most things associated with President Mock-the-Disabled, they too will go down like Trump Steaks and Trump Vodka, not as a religion, but as a political force. In addition, younger evangelical Christians are more accepting of LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and they don’t automatically go along with “Life Begins at Conception” dogma from the Pussy Patrol faction.
I don’t know if Jerry Falwell Jr. will pay a personal price for supporting Trump. Liberty University is doing well and it seems that most students like him as their president even though some have expressed disapproval that he spends so much time devoted to politics at the expense of spirituality. More than likely he’ll go on doing what he’s doing, which is living off his dad’s legacy and trying to be relevant. I’m not suggesting Jerry Falwell Jr. doesn’t work hard. I’m sure he does fine and he has the proper pedigree for his current position. However, Falwell Sr. started Thomas Road Baptist Church with 35 members. The church now has over 20,000 and that has very little, if anything, to do with Jerry Falwell Jr. or his brother who is the current pastor. In February 2016, then presidential candidate and now spineless GOP enabler, Senator Marco Rubio said, “Trump would be selling watches without dad’s inheritance.” What would Jerry Falwell Jr. be without Sr.? Another unremarkable lawyer?