Jesus wept. Or maybe just rolled His eyes.
On New Year’s Day, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. defended his unwavering support of President Trump with a thoroughly confused reading of the Gospel.
Speaking to The Post, the evangelical leader claimed that it was a distortion of Christ’s teachings to suggest that because He taught love and forgiveness, “the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving.” According to Falwell’s creative theology, Christ “went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom,” and loving your neighbor as yourself only applies to the latter.
The man whose institutional mission includes being “a voice for the voiceless” then meditated on the uselessness of the poor — “A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.” He then suggested that it might be immoral for Christians not to support Trump.
Even the Son of God might have raised an eyebrow at that.
Why? Because even the most apathetic Sunday school attendee could probably dredge up this snippet of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The golden rule is applicable now, not just after death.
And when it comes to the poor, there’s that memorable story in which Jesus declared that a poor widow’s two mites were worth more than all the gifts of the rich. One might even recall that Christ himself was born in a stable and went on to become an itinerant teacher — a lesson we collectively reviewed a little more than a week ago.
Falwell’s flawed exegesis is comically absurd, but its implications are profoundly unfunny. While the Liberty University president purports to be an evangelical leader, his statements are in total contradiction to Christian truth. This isn’t just benign confusion: This is heresy.
And, like many heretics, Falwell and his fellow evangelical Trump apologists are on their way to founding a new religion, one in direct conflict with the old. This new religion doesn’t have much to do with Christ at all. Instead, it centers Trump as savior above any other god.
A disconcerting number of self-professed Christians have transitioned from the traditionally “evangelical” ambitions of spreading the gospel and forming a personal relationship with Jesus to spreading the gospel of wealth creation and fighting the “radical left.” National identity is what ties this body of believers together, and “the wall” has become its icon of hope, pushing the cross to the side.
By now, we’re all familiar with the statistic that 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016, and we know that conservative evangelicals remain the bedrock of his now-crumbling support. Writers from this order have cooked up an entire “Spiritual Biography” of Trump, and every new failing is transmogrified into cause for celebration.
Falwell’s conversion to the religion of Trump isn’t new, nor is this new faith’s continued growth. But its ramifications are becoming more apparent over time.
We’ve already seen Trump grow more obstinate in an attempt to keep faith with his new believers. In the past two weeks alone, two children have died as a result of border control brinkmanship, and the government shutdown is persisting at the expense of many in need. It’s all too easy to imagine Trump’s supporters providing enough of a cause to run the entire country aground and then to justify the collapse as necessary.
Of course, not all American Christians have signed on. Many have repudiated this new theology and are even rejecting the label of evangelical to further distance themselves from its new associations with the president. They’ve taken the advice of the Apostle Paul, who advised early Christians to admonish heretics at least twice, but then after that “have nothing to do with them.”
Yet this approach makes it even clearer that the alternative dogma has solidified and that its adherents are fully convinced. Near the end of his interview, Falwell was asked if there was anything that Trump could do to endanger his support from evangelical leaders. His confident answer? “No.”
That’s what you call faith. But it’s definitely not Christian.