Most longtime watchers of the religious right, including this writer, have known for some time that when push comes to shove, the religious right is morally bankrupt. Any doubt that this was the case should have been erased when many of the nation’s so-called moral guardians rallied to Donald Trump even after it was amply established that he was a horrible human being.
They were so determined to end abortion and roll back marriage equality that they were willing to support a man who found it acceptable to plaster a private cell phone number on social media, mock the disabled, and revel in degrading women, among other things. The fact that they were willing to do so says a lot about them. It says even more that said support has continued even in the face of the almost daily outrages coming from this White House.
If it was possible to sink lower than that, they may have done so when Steve Bannon addressed the Values Voters Summit after it emerged that he and Breitbart News went to staggering lengths to normalize hate and bigotry–even to the point of collaborating with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The alliance between Bannon and the religious right deepened late last week, when one of Trump’s loudest religious right cheerleaders publicly enlisted in Bannon’s “war” on Republicans who dare to oppose Trump.
In what amounted to a press release from Breitbart, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, announced that he fully supported Bannon’s effort to weed out and defeat Republican lawmakers whom he described as “fake Republicans.” By Falwell’s reckoning, there were at least “four or five ‘Fake Republicans’ in the Senate,” and a non-inconsiderable number of them in the House.
Falwell believed that they represented a “political class” that needed to be swept out–and with them out of the way, Trump had the potential to be “the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.” In so doing, he was doubling down on his earlier declaration that Trump was evangelicals’ “dream president.”
Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle asked Falwell if he supported Bannon’s plans to find and fund primary challengers for every Republican Senator up for reelection in 2018 except Ted Cruz. Without hesitation, Falwell replied, “I love it.” He believes that this was the reason Bannon stepped down as Trump’s chief strategist, because no one else could “organize an effort” to primary the “Fake Republicans” en masse. He claimed that “Fake Republicans” have snookered their constituents into believing that “they are something they are not, and that’s the worst kind of politician.”
Earlier, Falwell scoffed at claims that the Senate Republicans have voted with Trump 95 percent of the time, because the five percent on which they didn’t vote with Trump was on “the issues that matter.” Um, Jerry? No earthly individual is right 100 percent of the time. Are you saying that Trump is like Jesus?
Falwell called for evangelicals to rally behind Bannon’s effort, and offered this advice.
“Don’t look at a candidate on whether he has the same religious background as you do. Don’t look at whether he or she fit to be the pastor of your church. Look at who’s going to vote right on the issues.”
So we shouldn’t ask whether he or she upholds basic standards of behavior? Oh, that’s right–you told your followers to ignore Trump’s outrages because he made the right clucking noises on social issues. And now you’re telling them to support an effort led by a man who, at the very least, has no qualms about crawling into bed with some of the worst people in the world.
When author Shane Claiborne saw this article, he posed a simple question to Falwell.
Can we set a date for our public debate…
about whether or not Jesus would support Trump?
— Shane Claiborne (@ShaneClaiborne) October 27, 2017
Claiborne publicly challenged Falwell to such a debate in July. Falwell has yet to answer.
Sadly, it appears that history is repeating itself. Back in 1985, Falwell’s father, Jerry Sr., was one of the loudest voices opposing sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid regime. He went as far as to call Desmond Tutu a “phony” who did not really speak for South Africa’s blacks.
But Jerry Sr. went further than that. He actually called on evangelicals to invest in companies doing business in South Africa. And yet, he claimed with a straight face that he opposed apartheid. Uh huh. So why call for Americans to prop up a criminal regime upholding a criminal system?
So just like Jerry Sr. called for evangelicals to prop up apartheid, Jerry Jr. wants his followers to go all in for a man who finds it acceptable to collaborate with racists. He has truly proven himself to be his father’s son in every way.
Earlier this year, when Jerry Jr. publicly supported Trump’s “both sides” nonsense about the Charlottesville protests, a large number of Liberty alumni started a movement to return their Liberty diplomas and publicly renounce all ties to the school. After this latest screed from Falwell, by all rights that trickle ought to become a flood.
(featured image: screenshot courtesy WDBJ)