On the very day that World War II finally ended, we would like to think of the trademark (okay, largely mythical) traits that are always held up as quintessentially American. Traits of indomitable character. Strength in the face of adversity. Readiness to help a neighbor raise a barn, or help after a natural disaster. And always present is the central and quite revolutionary American idea of Freedom of Religion. Which includes Freedom from Religion. Which we seem to have reason to appreciate rather often these days.
Especially when things get legal and tawdry because somebody caught in a sex scandal suddenly claims his ten-and-a-half-million-dollar early retirement bailout package -- of money raised by fleecing the flock.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., born into being Bound for Glory, followed in his father's footsteps at the helm of Liberty University in Virginia. That's the nation's largest hardcore creationist Christian college. It is even bigger than Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, the one with the enormous flying saucer Prayer Tower that its late founder once hinted he would launch himself out of -- unless he got a requisite amount of money from his flock that he manipulated with guilt over his impending suicide. Which he averted because he collected. Because Gawd is merciful and all-knowing.
Point being, these hardcore Christian fundamentalist institutions of Biblically-based "higher" education are nothing like your actual or idealized image of the collegiate experience anywhere else.
For one thing, they are appendages of empires that have very specific notions of things that would be deemed heresy against factuality by any competent high school school science class.
Don't imagine that Southern California is immune. Outside the broiling desert burg of Lancaster, West Coast Baptist College gets second-billing and a smaller font on the corner tabloid sign than Lancaster Baptist Church that owns and operates it. The college is unaccredited, meaning any class a student expensively takes there cannot be transferred toward a degree anywhere else. Of course, the campus of hard-boiled church/schools -- it includes elementary, middle, and high schools where its college students serve as unpaid classroom aides -- is quite proud of its' college's unaccredited status. They'll tell you they please God and have no need to please mammon. (We didn't misspell a wooly mammoth. Mammon is a Biblical reference to human society.)
Now that we've established it isn't just some buckle-of-the-bible-belt thing, let's get back to the ten-and-half-million-dollar, family religious dynasty guy.
Now it's an actual Falwell, Jerry the Younger, who got sucked into the world of presuming to speak for The-Omnipotence-That-Cannot-Be-Denied while denying yourself nothing as the spokesman.
In addition to running his father's college, Liberty University, Falwell the Junior has been -- almost by default -- in command of much more. It's accurate to see that as his father's cult of extremist evangelical folks who judgmentally brand everything immoral and ungodly at the drop of a hat. Though the late Falwell Senior's Moral Majority was disbanded before the IRS could catch up with it, a manifestation of its holier-than-thou ghost persists in function as part of the empire, still nailing any broadly-based, politically inclusive ideology or practitioners to its cross of narrowly defined righteousness. And that's the right word for their big picture -- empire. Because it comes with a sense of hegemony and entitlement to make everyone else conform to living their way.
Though no one has used it for years, his father's judgmental diatribes were called "Falwellian" as an analogy to the Orwellian world of "1984." Which happened to be the actual peak year of his father playing sheep-shearing Svengali for the flock of Reagan's Big Revival Tent religious nuts.
Of course, humans being human, proclaiming perfection in anything held up as "the" model wasn't a good idea.
There was Jim Bakker. There was the TBN television empire he co-founded with the Crouch's, Paul and Jan, the couple who seemed to be on-air 24/7 proclaiming God's love for pure living. Even while they were separated but not divorced, each living with a paramour in an expensive house provided by donations from their flock. There was the party-hearty, not-yet-saved, but now proclaimed pure Franklin Graham. And enough others for a switch-hitting batting order. But most of those others didn't have the Big Mojo of a Billy Graham, an Oral Roberts, or a Jerry Falwell.
Now it's an actual Falwell, Jerry the Younger, who got sucked into the world of presuming to speak for The-Omnipotence-That-Cannot-Be-Denied while denying yourself nothing as the spokesman. Pretty soon, Jer was just thinking like those others who were rolling under the wagon. The refrain seems to repeat, hosannas drowning out realization that evoking all that Power means commanding enough of it to apply to one's own sexual proclivities.
In Jer's case, it started with the arrogantly oblivious. Just a photo last month of Jer Junior, pants unbuttoned and zipper open, with his arm around a woman not his wife, whose pants were very much in the same condition. Well. Either shock and awe struck the pious, or it made enough newspapers and social media posts to diminish the cyber collection plate. Either way, Junior had to place himself on temporary leave, even while claiming it was but a joke.
Okay, so far. Probably recoverable. Just run-of-the-mill tawdry, especially for the world of those who buy ex-NBA arenas with other people's money and build $65 million mansions for themselves while begging on TV for little old ladies to send money from their Social Security pensions, so their TV preacher can continue to speak The Word to the unclean.
Turns out the woman with Jer in the mutually unzipped pic isn't some random worshipper. She is his wife's longtime assistant. Also turns out that another character -- apparently the photographer who got the pair to pose and say cheesy -- stepped forward with his story. Ruh-roh. He asserts a biz partner relationship with Jer -- which would have been, uhh, awkward.
There's more. The Revealer must be missing his needed bartender in the COVID shutdown, because at the first opportunity he went oral diarrhea with a confessional. In fact, he couldn't stop talking. He revealed his own seven-year affair with Jer's wife, Becki. Oh, and who is the new arrival in this soap opera? Who else could it be but -- the pool boy.
That Falwell pool boy -- Giancarlo Granda -- asserts that Jer Junior not only knew about it, but "He liked to watch, from the corner of the room."
Of course you're waiting for the observation that you-can't-make-this-up. Hang on. Like the guy who sawed the boat in half, we're not done yet.
At this point you expect to hear a holier-than-thou, brimstone-flinging, counterattack-The-Deceiver, full-thumping denial from Jer. And you would be half wrong. Uhh, because you missed the news that the inevitable soundtrack has already emerged? Well, yes, it did. But there's more.
Falwell the Junior acknowledges he knew about the affair and had known "all along." He does deny that he liked to watch.
He, whose long suit is pontificating about the All-Seeing and All-Knowing maybe or maybe not liked to watch. But he really didn't see any reason why he should go anywhere else, then. Or now.
And to think, Katie Hill felt she had to resign. That, because she was a bisexual congresswoman who, she says unknowingly, had cell phone pics taken of her that were later suddenly -- and under California law, illegally -- blast-posted by right-wing radio bloviators and parroting bloggers without her consent. These weren't Falwellian zippers-down, but (consistent-with-Congressional-precedent) clothing-absent images. Ex-Congresswoman Hill contends they were leak/planted by her estranged then-husband who was part of their "thruple," and that his was an act of revenge porn. (Obviously somebody liked to watch.) Which is salacious, titillating, and -- again -- specifically illegal to exploit under California law, where it happened.
No matter that Katie had never pontificated any Superior Walk Church Lady Moral Majority stuff telling others how to live, or put batteries in the sin meter. But she, a fast-rising political star, felt it necessary to resign from Congress anyway, with no claim of a hoax. Predictably, the special election to fill her seat gave the district back to the Republicans after she won it as the first elected Democrat there in decades. After all, Republicans did spend decades railing against situational ethics and postulating absolutism as the only way to assess moral behavior. Because Character Counts. Well it did in the days of pre-Trump Republicanism's fiery finger, calling down plagues -- like AIDS -- and killer storms -- like Hurricane Katrina -- to punish the immoral. As the late Falwell the elder repeatedly invoked.
Okay, so we know different from the new paradigm of incessant, one-size-fits-all denials that characterize these Trumpestuous times. We surely know that certain other people are incapable of understanding self-inflicted embarrassment and public humiliation. Oh, and most prominently in their cases (brace yourself for this one) we have seen that a self-poured foundation on unpounded sand readily causes collapse when the unmasked choir in the loft of pontification ascends on pervasive hypocrisy. (Did you like that one?) Okay, we could have just said, repent your sins, take off your underwear and come unto me.
So Jer announced he was stepping down. The timing couldn't have been better. The Religiosos were all attending the Republican Convention, too busy genuflecting over the Orange Impiety to notice Jer was going out the door. With ten-and-half-million-dollars. At the time, we were thinking that if he hurried, he could still bag a spot at the GOPper convention as the only speaker whose last name wasn't Trump, Pence, or a celebrity talking (or yelling) head from Fox News. But we were not attuned to the whole take-the-money-and-the-pool-boy and run nature of it all.
Now we'll say it: You can't make this sh*t up.
The future of the bookstores' fiction section is in serious trouble when the virus is subdued and things reopen. When the standup comics get back into the venues, we're not sure anybody will laugh at their best stuff. Because Theatre of the Absurd is now the purview of the historian.
Correction: In paragraph six, the writer asserts that West Coast Baptist College is unaccredited. After the publishing of this article, we learned that the college received accreditation in 2019 and is a member of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS)