The Hypocritical Politics of Evangelical Leaders

Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia

Evangelical leaders never cease to amaze me because their behavior is antithetical to everything that Jesus represented. In recent years we have seen top evangelicals like Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and others commit the cardinal sin of adultery. Most of them live an ostentatious life (owning jets, expensive cars, and living in luxury homes). Some like Pat Robertson have said things that contradict the religious teachings of the bible.

Another problem that some of evangelical leaders have that is inconsistent with the behavior of Jesus, is that they seem to ingratiate themselves with secular leaders like presidents. Take for example Pat Robertson who said,

You don’t blow up an international alliance over one person.

The renowned televangelist was referring to the barbaric murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In essence what he was doing was supporting the Trump administration position that puts economic benefits above the murder of an individual that was allegedly sanctioned by the Saudi government.

Recently, another renowned evangelical leader, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr. made a controversial comment related to Trump. During an interview with Washington Post journalist, Joe Helm, he was asked this question,

You’ve been criticized by some other evangelical leaders about your support for the president. They say you need to demand higher moral and ethical standards. You disagree with them on that?

This was Falwell’s response,

It may be immoral for them not to support him because he’s got African American employment to record highs, Hispanic employment to record highs. They need to look at what the president did for the poor. A lot of the people who criticized me, because they had a hard time stomaching supporting someone who owned casinos and strip clubs or whatever, a lot them have come around and said, ‘Yeah, you were right.

So, Rev. Falwell is claiming that it is immoral not to support Trump on the basis of him having African American and Hispanic employment at record highs. Although Trump has taken credit for this, political pundits have said that Pres. Obama’s policies was responsible for this. This is more plausible because the short time Trump has been president, he has not implemented anything that would be a catalyst for creating jobs. And even if we think that Trump deserves the credit, the issue with Falwell’s assertion is that morality relates to a person’s character that reflects the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

When it comes to the question of morality, we can only judge people or hold them to the standards that are observed in their society. In American society, adultery, racism, corruption, defending murders, demonizing or disparaging people unjustly all point to immoral behavior.

Because Falwell is in the business of saving souls from their bad behavior, he would have been more justified in raising questions about Trump’s morality. He has been accused of adultery, said to be racist, being investigated in New York and by the Special Counsel for corruption, and he has a penchant for disparaging people he doesn’t like – remember how he did this with birtherism against Pres. Obama?

Trump likes to compare what he perceives as his successes to what he sees as Pres Obama’s failure. In doing so he has made it his mission to undo everything Pres. Obama has done – the Iran Nuclear Deal, NAFTA, The Paris Accord on Climate Control, and a number of regulations. One comparison that he will never make with Pres. Obama is that of their morality. There is no evidence that Pres. Obama has committed adultery, he is a racist, he is corrupt, and that he demonizes or disparages anyone – even his detractors.

Televangelical leaders like Rev. Falwell, Jr., if they are going to weigh in on political or social issues needs to be more consistent and less hypocritical. I don’t recall him or any of his colleagues talking about Pres. Obama’s being a moral man or president. And I don’t recall them saying anything positive about him, yet they jump at every opportunity they get to defend Trump. Is that consistent with the Christian religion?