Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. has asked the FBI to investigate a possible criminal conspiracy at the university to discredit him and other members of his administration.
I will go on record as predicting that he will come through this without any meaningful or lasting harm; that he will remain at the helm of Liberty and continue building a remarkable legacy of faith and freedom, one capable of standing up against the prevailing winds of mainstream culture.
Yet this issue has forced me, all over again, to wrestle through a church issue that every Christian must eventually confront.
How should we respond when our brothers and sisters are behaving badly?
For those of us who are Christian, our calling in life transcends our secular obligations. The secular world asks us to conform to a set of rules that are designed to preserve order and civil society. Regardless of any faith or ideology, a sort of mechanical obedience is required and indeed enforced by the rule of law.
Things are not so simple on the Christian side.
Here, the calling is greater and more comprehensive: we are bound by the example that Christ both lived and taught — a bar so high in fact, that only the divine can achieve it. And still we are called to it anyways, a standard much higher than it is for simple, good citizenship. From Protestants to Catholics and Orthodox, we all share the belief that to approach our daily lives rightly means we to ask ourselves: what would Jesus do?
And perhaps nothing is as difficult, or painful, than to watch as the professing faithful behave incongruently with the teachings of Jesus.
Full disclaimer: Jerry Falwell, Jr., has become a personal friend of mine over the past couple of years, and in May I received an honorary doctorate from Liberty at their commencement ceremony. I have the utmost respect for the educational approach and values that emanate from the university’s leadership, and which translate throughout the university.
As someone who travels around the country speaking at universities — large and small, private and public, secular and Christian — I can tell you firsthand that Liberty’s values are values that stand in stark contrast to what the rest of the world is doing.
Clearly not everyone shares my sentiments.
In his interview with The Hill, Fallwell said that documents had been taken from the university for the purpose of causing him and others personal embarrassment. “Our attorneys have determined that this small group of former board members and employees, they’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provided them to reporters.”
The interview was granted after Politico had published the original story with the headline that should have come complete with a bias alert: “Someone’s gotta tell the freakin’ truth.”
In that piece, a string of accusations were leveled, all attacking Falwell’s integrity. Even the thoroughly discredited perjurer Michael Cohen was cited as saying he “fixed things” for Falwell.
Well, there you have it. If Michael Cohen says he’s bad, he must be, right?
Let me state in the strongest possible terms, without equivocation or qualification, that Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a man of strong and honest character. He is as creative in his role as president as he is generous in his role as a Christian. He is always a leader — whether carrying out Christ’s Great Commission, or helping to keep Franklin’s Republic.
In the Politico article, there is nothing specific about any particular transaction, nor is there even much general context. There are just the same kinds of empty accusations that come from any bitter ex-employee or even any disgruntled secular citizen. In the aftermath of false and sensational accusations made by Jussie Smollet, or aimed at the students of Covington High School, or repeatedly targeting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it’s high time we view these types of accusations with the high degree of scrutiny and speculation they deserve.
Why do these people resent Jerry Falwell Jr.? Perhaps because of some personal animus, but largely because he’s an outspoken supporter of President Trump. To some people, to support Trump is a bridge too far.
While I am certain they will deny it (in fact, even the Politico article’s author claimed those interviewed were Trump supporters), it is almost certain that politics and President Trump are at the root of their actions. President Trump likely offends their elite sensibilities, and Fllwell’s unabashed support for Trump, based on his record of support for Christian causes, offends them.
I applaud Falwell for not hiding behind a PR firm and trying to do damage control. He faced the reporter head-on and answered the questions asked of him. He will not kowtow to the prevailing media narrative — that to support Trump is evil and an abdication of Christianity’s moral imperative. In fact, Falwell has stated that he believes the exact opposite is true, and that it is his Christian — and American — right to persevere in that conviction despite the predictable pushback.
In bringing in the FBI, Falwell is making a strong, declarative statement that other people in similar positions of power should also make: that he will not be bullied or shamed into hiding.
For many reporters in today’s America, having an opportunity to attack a public supporter of President Trump is of far greater value than real journalism. It is also clickbait that will make many an editor extremely happy. This incident is just the latest example.
Jerry Falwell, Jr. will prevail — for his is a greater calling. As we Christians know from Matthew 5:44, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jerry Falwell Jr. will certainly pray, but he will also defend the house and the legacy of his father, and of his heavenly Father.
Charlie Kirk is the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, the nation’s largest and fastest growing conservative youth organization with a presence on over 1,400 college and high school campuses; he is also host of “The Charlie Kirk Show.”