Update from original post: Given that I did not attend the convocation, I changed a couple of phrases that overstated my main point. I’ve also linked to a report (at the bottom of the post) that corresponds with Russell Moore as he elaborates more on his take of the statements made.
During their convocation on Monday, Liberty University hosted another major 2016 presidential candidate. A few months ago, the Bernie Sanders appearance created quite a stir, and they were at it again as they hosted another controversial figure: Donald Trump. Personally, I appreciate Liberty’s willingness to welcome in speakers from all across the political spectrum. The university should be a place where students experience a variety of views. While the mere presence of these candidates will get some riled up, that’s not where my primary criticism of Liberty rests with this post.
I saw on social media from some of the students I know who attend Liberty that the Donald was going to be making an appearance during their convocation today. I knew what to expect from Trump. I figured he would be full of catchphrases. I could have guessed that he would pander to the crowd. None of that surprised me.
What did surprise me, however, was the apparently effusive praise that the university president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., gave to Donald.
Falwell on Trump: “By their fruits ye shall know them. Donald’s Trump’s life has born fruit”…He cited loving, friendly, charitable Trump.
— Religion NewsService (@RNS) January 18, 2016
Given Falwell’s penchant for inanity, I perhaps shouldn’t have been so surprised, but being less than articulate about gun rights (at best) and/or unaware of how others will perceive your statements can be forgiven. Citing the Bible in support of a man whose character has, through the years, clearly been far from alignment to Christian moral principles, though, is downright unbelievable and nearly inexcusable.
Of course, I was not there in the audience. I haven’t seen footage of what appears to be Falwell’s introduction before Donald’s speech. I also hate this phenomenon I’ve seen called “discernment blogging” where theological “watchdogs” pounce on someone they don’t know and haven’t conversed with for stepping outside the bounds of orthodoxy. Yet, here I am.
It would have been one thing to recognize Donald for who he is and what he has done. Most introductions of a speaker contain such information, but to quote a passage of Scripture that many would interpret as Falwell labelling Trump a faithful Christian strains credulity.
How am I, as a Christian, supposed to interpret these statements by Falwell? Making such grandiose claims about a political candidate’s faith when that candidate has done absolutely nothing to prove himself by his fruit exhibit’s Falwell’s apparent idolatry. His statements suggest that he has made a mad dash for political power and cares nothing about Christian sincerity or integrity.
Within the hour that the Religion News Service started tweeting updates from the event, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, provided the following comment:
Evangelicals can love a golden calf, as long as Aaron promises to make Mexico pay for it.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) January 18, 2016
Moore was rather tactful and discrete with his tweet, but the biblically literate and culturally aware will notice the critique. What is happening to some of these Christian leaders who would so obviously sellout to political idols?
More of Russell Moore’s comments can be found here.
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