Religion and politics intersect at the point of power, and how best to keep it. Hypocrisy only seems to be the inevitable consequence. In fact, it can’t really be hypocritical if power was the basis for the equation from the very start.
Jerry Falwell Jr. might well have been telling the truth about his unzipped trousers. But this isn’t the point, is it?
The Last Temptation of Jerry, by Jeet Heer (The Nation)
A scandal at Liberty University proves that white evangelicals are starting to copy Trump.
Jerry Falwell Jr., recently deposed as president of Liberty University, is a new type of Christian sinner. The figure of a pious hypocrite is as old as religion itself, an inevitable by-product of the fact that any moral system will be upheld by flawed people. But usually godly miscreants try to keep their transgressions secret.
A prime example is Jimmy Swaggart, who was disgraced and defrocked after revelations of hiring sex workers in 1987. Furtive, sweaty, twitchy, and given to wailing, “I have sinned,” Swaggart acted like an escapee from the fictions of Fyodor Dostoevsky or Flannery O’Connor: a God-haunted and superstitious primate driven by compulsions he could neither understand nor control. As creepy as he is, Swaggart has given every evidence of a complex and tormented inner life.
Falwell Jr., by contrast, is a shallower creature who has not tried to hide his misdeeds. Rather, he has flaunted them. The latest scandal involving Falwell Jr. grew out of a photo he himself posted on Instagram, showing him with his arms around a woman who was not his wife, both parties with their pants unzipped. “Yeah, it was weird,” Falwell admitted in a radio interview. “She’s pregnant. She couldn’t get her pants zipped and I was like trying to like… I had on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a long time and couldn’t get zipped either. So, I just put my belly out like hers. She’s my wife’s assistant, she’s a sweetheart. I should have never put it up and embarrassed her. I’ve apologized to everybody. I promised my kids I will try to be a good boy from here on out.”
This explanation wasn’t sufficient, coming as it did on top of a long list of previous scandals, including still unexplained land deals he made with his pool boy and photos seemingly showing him drinking and dancing at a Florida nightclub. These photos were a problem because Liberty University holds its students and staff to strict moral standards. Students can receive demerits if they dance with a partner of the opposite sex and be expelled for drinking. Sex outside of marriage is prohibited for students.
As Politico reported last year, Falwell Jr. was notorious for flouting these rules, taking an exhibitionist’s glee in lewd conversations …