By now you’ve thoroughly heard all the hot takes, including some grave dancing, regarding Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s very public fall from power. If you can stomach it, you can read the story Giancarlo Granda, the “pool boy” whose unexplained presence in the Falwells’ lives has haunted them for years, told Reuters. Liberty University initially announced that Falwell resigned from his position as president, but later backtracked.
Clearly, Falwell will not be returning as president of Liberty University, and I think we can make a compelling argument that he never should have had that position in the first place. One of the biggest arguments that Falwell Jr.’s defenders have made in the past is that he’s not a spiritual leader. Falwell himself has said this, that he’s a lawyer and real estate developer. He inherited his position from his father, who was indeed a pastor.
That a lawyer and real estate developer, a preacher’s kid, would get to run his father’s signature institution and develop it like an educational version of Heritage USA, is not in keeping with the mission of a Christian university. The Bible says, in red ink, that “there is nothing concealed hat will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:2-3.) Falwell’s sins could not remain hidden.
That he is a sinner is not in dispute. Without getting too into hermeneutics and expository analysis, the difference between a saint and a sinner is a conscious choice. When God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s, Cain became very angry in Genesis chapter 4.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
People have moral free agency to decide what we will do. When we fail to rule over sin, we are sinners. When we accept the redeeming grace of Christ, we are no longer sinners, but saints. However, a momentary poor choice leading to sin is different from a choice not to rule over sin at all. In other words, committing a sin doesn’t make you a sinner if you’re a confessing Christian. Similarly, calling yourself a Christian doesn’t mean you’re not a sinner, choosing to serve sin.
Jerry Falwell, Jr. chose to serve sin. He did his level best to hide it, to cover it up, and to blame it on his wife. Making his wife the main actor is despicable in its own right. Holding on to power compounds the sin and the shame heaped on to the body of Christ. Even before the latest revelations surfaced, David French wrote about how fighting for “Christendom” as a power structure doesn’t help Christianity, using Falwell as an example.
When you see a leader whose underlings paint “a sordid tale of the self-dealing, personal ambition, and extreme intolerance for dissent” at an institution, you can be sure there’s sin lurking just beneath the crust of power, money and secrecy, “that’s long been an open secret at Liberty and beyond.”
Now the ugly, gnarled roots of a powerful sinner’s life are being shouted from the rooftops. Whether you believe Giancarlo Granda’s take, making Falwell a literal cuckold, or not, the sin in the relationship is evident. The Bible calls for an answer to unrepentant sinners who cling to power: Cancel them.
Here’s what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:
3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
Paul wasn’t talking about heathens. He was talking about leaders in the church! Let’s go on to the next few verses, where he explains.
6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
As far as the faith is concerned, men like Jerry Falwell must be rejected. He must be locked out of any Christian leadership position, and not given any opportunity to “worm his way” back, until he demonstrates a real and honest change and humility. This means Falwell must never again run a Christian school, or any Christian organization with the kind of power he’s possessed for years, not in this lifetime.
Falwell must be canceled.
A little side trip: It’s amusing how the secular progressive community smuggles these concepts into their own “new” ideas. The whole concept of “cancel culture” did not originate with them, though they now wield it like a Star Wars child who stumbles upon a Jedi lightsaber, who has no knowledge of how it was constructed, or the damage it can do.
Read this piece on cancel culture by Aja Romano at Vox.com. She attributes “canceling” to a “misogynistic joke”–a line that Wesley Snipes read in the 1991 movie “New Jack City.” She traces it through hip-hop culture to 2010 and then 2014 on VH1.
But canceling seems to have gotten its first big boost into the zeitgeist from an episode of VH1’s reality show Love and Hip-Hop: New York that aired in December 2014, in which cast member Cisco Rosado tells his love interest Diamond Strawberry during a fight, “you’re canceled.”
Maybe Romano is right about the Zeitgeist part. Canceling morphed from shedding an old girlfriend to music, politics, and now, pretty much anything out of line with the progressive cause du jour. But it didn’t begin with Wesley Snipes. It began with Cain, who was canceled by God. But God, in his mercy, put a mark on Cain, so that he would not be killed.
“So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden,” the Bible says in Genesis 4:16.
Like Cain, God has put a mark on Jerry Falwell, Jr., and he must now go from the Lord’s presence and suffer the shame of his choices. Who knows the depth of the mercy of God? The Lord is perfectly able to redeem and restore Falwell, and use him, but not now and not for this purpose.
Christians are called to judge leaders in this way. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2.)
We must judge in the same way we are to be judged by others. If we choose the life of a sinner, letting sin rule, then we can expect to be judged by sinners. If we choose a life of following God, even when we sin, we can expect to receive mercy by those who have also received mercy.
If, like Falwell, we pretend to live for God, and use power to cover up sin, we can find ourselves canceled. This is the proper Christian cancel culture, and be sure there are more like Falwell who deserve to be canceled.
I’ll close with Paul’s final advice to Timothy.
4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.2 Timothy 4:1-5
Look around and judge for yourself. Falwell is like many others in a long and growing line of people devoted to bad doctrine, evil deeds, and sin. Cancel them all.