On Aug. 25, 2020, the Christian community was startled by the unsettling sexual and financial allegations against Liberty University’s former president, Jerry Falwell, Jr. The Associated Press announced on Aug. 31 that Liberty University would launch an investigation into “all facets,” that preceded Falwell’s tenure as president before his resignation.
Over the past three weeks, the Christian community is gathering itself from the sexual allegations, financial issues and resignation. Falwell is an influential member of the Evangelical Christian community, notably for his verbal support for President Donald Trump and for being the son of the late evangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr. The Falwell name and respected institution have a significant place in Christian circles for their prestigiousness and strong faith.
Will Kelly, a sophomore political science and marketing major, emphasized, “I was honestly shocked, like, you know, good men can fall but because it was the Falwell name.” He added, “Also because it is terrible reflection on the Christian witness, especially with the amount they are in the public eye.”
Prisca Luciani De Pass, a sophomore criminal justice strategic major with a minor in history at Liberty University, said, “As a Christian and as a Liberty student, it was a little bit of a disappointing experience.”
This scandal brings in questions of morality, Christian doctrine and trust of authority when discussing the topic.
Samuel Gurel, a junior political science major, said, “This is just adding more fuel to the fire of leaders in conservative positions being indicted with behaviors that are, like, vehemently not what their behavior should be according to what they espouse and what they believe.” He continued that the removal may excite people for political reasons; however, Gurel views this resignation as turning away non-believers from the faith because of the adherent contradiction to Christian values practiced by Falwell.
The unethical and un-Christian behavior of Falwell ripples across the Christian community since an important figure was exposed in a salacious scandal, which poorly reflects on Liberty University and on Christians.
According to The Washington Post, Falwell’s contract guarantees he will receive a severance package of $10.5 million. He will accumulate $2.5 million total in two years and then receive $8 million as a part of his retirement fund. This figure was not contended by the board of trustees of Liberty University.
When informed about this payment, De Pass displayed shock and said, “I believe that asking him to take that leave of absence … in that case [the board] did right. I don’t necessarily agree to give him that payment and not necessary for him.” She stated that this information was not communicated to the student body at Liberty.
“I do feel that there needs to be accountability for figure heads at Christian institutions,” Kelly sternly stated. He continued, “When you leave in a state like that, I don’t think you should be getting payouts like that.”
The Christian community is placed in an awkward position of either ignoring or denouncing Jerry Falwell Jr. since he was a relevant figure in some Christian communities. Looking forward, the resolutions are to pray for Liberty University to grow from this crisis, pray for Falwell. to repent his sins and pray for the integrity of Christian leaders to imitate quality character and denounce such actions.
“I definitely think we should hold him accountable … Especially in our campus, it should be in truth and grace in honor of God, not to condemn him, but to show grace,” De Pass said. She added, “This has been such a reformation for Liberty University to recognize the mistakes that we made and see it in grace and truth.”
Gurel furthered this statement that, as Christians, “we still have to offer grace and mercy,” like Jesus to imitate His holy character.
The sins that befall an individual can ripple across a community, thus exposing the folly of humanity and pronouncing its imperfections. If it is an influential figure, then the ramifications could ruin his or her reputation, power and self-image in an institution. Although their actions might be deplorable to a reasonably-average person, Christians are called to acknowledge the sins of humanity and assist their redemption through the word of Christ.
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