For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of them is forgotten. (Eccl. 9:5)
It’s a good thing, too.
Jerry Falwell, Sr., founder of the Moral Majority, is not alive to see his son kiss the ring of thrice married, unrepentant adulterer, casino-owner, potty-mouthed Donald Trump. But would the elder Falwell approve?
First, would Falwell, Sr. have had Trump speak at Liberty University? Probably, yes.
Hosting such speakers falls squarely within the vision of the university’s late founder, Rev. Jerry Falwell, who also founded the Moral Majority. The now-defunct activist organization, long held as central to the rise of the so-called “religious right” was, in fact, a broad coalition of religious, not strictly evangelical, conservatives.
Second, would the Liberty University founder endorse Trump? Maybe, but probably not.
Falwell later told The Washington Post, “I’m a fundamentalist, but I believe in a pluralistic America. This country belongs to the Hebrew Americans, theMormonAmericans, black Americans, white Americans.” Falwell’s political ecumenicism reached even further than these, at least in a tongue-in-cheek way: in mobilizing religious conservatives to elect Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Falwell said they’d support Reagan “Even if he has the devil running with him, and we’ll pray he outlives him.”
But in the 1980’s, Reagan was the best thing we had in the conservative political sphere. This cycle, we have other conservatives whose faith and history are fairly well established. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are all solid Christians with none of Trump’s baggage. They would all be fine candidates for the Moral Majority to endorse.
It’s likely the Moral Majority would withhold its endorsement until much later in the primaries, if any endorsement would come before the nomination itself, given the field of acceptable candidates. I don’t think Falwell, Sr. would have come out against Trump, but I also don’t feel he would have endorsed the billionaire.
Falwell, Jr., however, is not playing well among his own crowd. After Trump spoke, some of the students’ comments were quite pointed. (“So Trump can curse in Convo and it’s okay? Jerry is down with that?”; “Mr. Trump, I’m afraid you need to put a quarter in the swear jar.”; “Jerry Sr. is turning over in his grave at Trump’s language.”)
But it’s more than Trump’s language that’s foul. Falwell, Jr’s, endorsement of Trump would almost certainly cause concern for the Moral Majority, were it around to comment. This is one time when silence from the grave is a good thing.
Liberty University alumni, however, have not remained silent.
“I really think it is about as tangible as an example that we can witness of in the world of losing your soul,” Dean Inserra, pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Florida, who graduated from Liberty University in 2003, told The Christian Post following the endorsement.
“Honestly, I don’t think I have been extreme in that. As an [alumnus], I am grateful for my four years at Liberty and had a great experience there, but I am actually pretty embarrassed right now about it,” Inserra added. “I think Evangelicals at times, can be a cheap political date. I think that this is an example of that.”
That may have been what Jerry Falwell, Sr. would tell his son were he alive to dispense fatherly advice: “Son, you’re being a cheap date.”