An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Dear Mr. Falwell,
I watched with interest your glowing introduction of Donald Trump on Monday, particularly given your admission that Mr. Trump “reminds (you) of (your) father”, because “he says what he thinks no matter what anybody cares.” I can identify, to a point: my father taught me by example to stand for truth regardless of the opinions of others (that said, were anyone to compare my dear father to Trump, I’d be tempted to deliver a punch to the mouth). Because of this, I was interested to see how you, in a position of leading thousands of young evangelical students, would speak of this man.
Mr. Falwell, you failed those students, and that very badly.
We live, as you should know, in an age of tremendous ignorance of the Bible, and you are entrusted with leading a school whose mission should be to equip young people to handle the Word responsibly. You chose, however, to both misuse and ignore Scripture in appalling ways during your introduction. You said, “Matthew 7:16 tells us that ‘by their fruits, you shall know them.’ Donald Trump’s life has borne fruit…that has provided jobs to multitudes of people, in addition to the many he has helped with his generosity.” I would hope that by now, some theological faculty have had the courage to gently admonish you for such terrible misuse of Jesus’ words as to equate providing employment to people with the type of fruit that distinguishes true followers of Christ. You then chose to regale the student body with stories of Mr. Trump’s benevolence, which of course is admirable to a point, but which also doesn’t seem to impress Jesus all that much, at least if His words in Mark 12:41-44 are seriously considered. And are you not aware, Mr. Falwell, of how easily people will misconstrue your characterization of Donald Trump, whom you said “leads a life of loving and helping others, as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment”, as denying the need of the regeneration found in Christ?
In your fourteen-and-a-half minute “non-endorsement” paean to the greatness to Mr. Trump, you likened him to “a breath of fresh air” who “speaks the plain common-sense truth that so many are longing to hear.” Does it bother you, Mr. Falwell, that Mr. Trump has time-and-again demonstrated a reckless disregard for that “truth” that people long for? How about his utter disdain for moral behavior, his crudeness, his ill-treatment of women, his coarseness of speech? Are you at all concerned that he has not only changed political parties back-and-forth over the years, but has for most of his life supported political positions against which your father fought? He may not be “politically-correct”, and I suppose we can be thankful for that, but can we label him a “constitutional conservative” in any meaningful sense of the term? Donald Trump wrote The Art of the Deal; is there any possibility that this foray into the presidential campaign–which you describe as one requiring great sacrifice, and in which he has “even more to lose” than other candidates–is simply to him one more “deal” he can orchestrate for his own enrichment? Is there any bit of concern on your part that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Trump is a con man who is playing people such as yourself like a fiddle?
Finally, Mr. Falwell, you lamented those educational institutions which “compromise their purposes”. I share that lament. Your father’s term for the work of Liberty was to train “Young Champions for Christ”, terminology which was never my cup of tea, but I understood (and supported) what he meant by it. Mr. Trump’s observation, upon leaving Liberty’s campus Monday, was, “such nice religious people. I love it.” He meant that as a compliment.
I fear you don’t even understand what an insult it is.
Rev. Byron D. Harvey
M. Religious Education, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Class of ’85