Liberty University: Jerry “Apologizes;” Former Staffer Starts LU Underground Railroad to Help Current Staff Leave

In Liberty University news, the fallout from Jerry Falwell’s racist tweet continues.

After having a come to Jesus moment with African American board members, Jerry apologized one of those apologies that says sorry if you got upset. WaPo has the story. They also report that another African American staffer –Keyvon Scott– has resigned over the matter.

In a sign that more resignations may be coming, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday that Liberty’s former Director of Diversity Retention, LeeQuan McLaurin not only resigned but has started something he calls LUnderground Railroad to help current African American staff at Liberty to leave.

LUnderground Railroad is a gofundme page designed to raise $2000 to give to 15 Liberty employees to help them leave the school. Dissent is not allowed there so they must remain silent. LeeQuan hopes these funds will help them get out of what they believe is a toxic environment.

And that may be all they have to look forward to. Nothing will change on campus if the board chair’s response is any indication. From the Chronicle:

Jerry Prevo, chairman of Liberty’s Board of Trustees, said the board met with Falwell last week to discuss his recent tweets and that the executive committee is satisfied with his response to the furor the tweets caused.

“We understand these images have been hurtful for a number of our friends to see,” Prevo said. “We also know him and know him not to be a racist. Nor do we believe that he has been running Liberty University in a way that discriminates against African Americans.”

Apparently, Mr. Prevo isn’t doing exit interviews with the people who leaving and want to leave.

The petition from African American alums now has nearly 38,000 signers and is still taking signatures here.

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The Veggie Tale Guy Checks Eric Metaxas on Bonhoeffer

This tweet from Veggie Tale creator Phil Vischer is wise and powerful.

Eric Metaxas is a shadow of his former self and his friends know it.

Metaxas answers with a simplication of history and current events and Vischer brings reality to the table.

Metaxas tries to lower the boom but Vischer again brings the facts.

Reversing Roe v. Wade will not eliminate abortion. It will remain legal in many states. Don’t use abortion politics as an excuse to avoid action on racism.

In my opinion, it is Vischer for the win in the Bonhoeffer match up.

Liberty University’s Director of Diversity Retention Resigns; Students Call for Falwell’s Ouster

Liberty University continues to be a community is disarray following Jerry Falwell’s racially insensitive COVID mask tweet (please see this post for context). An adjunct professor resigned immediately after the tweet came to light and now the school Director of Diversity Retention, Quan McLaurin has resigned. I suspect Mr. Falwell made his job very difficult.

Here is the Twitter announcement:

On another front, a small student group –Liberty Students for Change– is calling for Falwell to be fired.

That group is small; a much larger group is touting a petition on Change.org. This petition –now with over 32,000 signers– specifically targets the racist tweet and calls on Falwell to change or resign. If this doesn’t happen, the signers pledge not to recommend the school. Several key athletes are signers which could hurt Liberty’s recruiting for Division 1 sports programs. The petition can be read and signed here.

More on LU:

Liberty Student Sickened by Jerry Falwell’s Blackface/KKK Mask

Eric Metaxas Brings Back Katie “WhiteLivesMatter” Hopkins

The timing is key.

In the midst of the worst racial unrest in the United States since the late 1960s, Eric Metaxas today hosted white nationalist apologist Katie Hopkins.  Her tweet today is representative of what Metaxas is promoting on his show.

The hashtag and the article she says she stands by are horrendous. And the timing of them is an absolute slap in the face of those seeking racial reconciliation. Metaxas has made a conscious choice to work against this movement in the church by giving Hopkins a platform. The last time she was on his show, he called her his “hero.

Speaking of the article she stands by, here are some excerpts.

“No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad.

I still don’t care.

Because in the next minute you’ll show me pictures of aggressive young men at Calais, spreading like norovirus on a cruise ship. Watching them try to clamber on to British lorries and steal their way into the UK, do I feel pity? Only for the British drivers, who get hit with a fine every time one of this plague of feral humans ends up in their truck.

Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984′, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.

Once gunships have driven them back to their shores, boats need to be confiscated and burned on a huge bonfire. Drilling a few holes in the bottom of anything suspiciously resembling a boat would be a good idea, too, just for belt and braces.

The article was removed from publication and eventually Hopkins lost her column gig.

Maybe Metaxas will reveal this on his YouTube channel.

And apparently, she prefers segregated churches to a call for white Christians to examine their prejudice.

As American Christians are reflecting on the evils of racism and segregation in their churchs, Eric Metaxas today fawns over a woman who says “white Christians need to stand tall and proud” and “walk away” from calls to become allies of our minority brothers and sisters.

Read more about Ms. Hopkins here.

My 5,000th Post is a Lament: Trump Used Force on Peaceful Protestors to Clear Way for Bible Photo Op

This month marks 15 years of blogging and this is my 5,000th post. I always thought it might be fun and light but this one is not. It is a lament.

Yesterday evening in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump told a Rose Garden audience that he had deployed the National Guard to disperse crowds and stop violence. It wasn’t clear at that moment but his order was being carried out as he spoke. Not far away in Lafayette square near St. John’s Episcopal Church, peaceful protestors populated the area. Around 6:30pm, the Guard began actively pushing the assembly from the area with shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades. Once the area was cleared, Trump walked to the same area with an entorage of officials for a photo op holding a Bible in front of St. John’s church. In short, Donald Trump ordered force on peaceful protestors so he could get a picture using religious images.

This is a frightening new low. There wasn’t an effort to hide it. Ample eyewitness accounts and video exist. This was a power play. Apparently, Trump and his advisors believe his base — including white evangelicals — will fall in line.

Below, I have posted video and various accounts and reflections on the event.

The following is a portion of an eyewitness account of the event from Gina Gerbasi (click the link to read her entire post):

Around 6:15 or 6:30, the police started really pushing protestors off of H Street (the street between the church and Lafayette Park, and ultimately, the White House. They started using tear gas and folks were running at us for eyewashes or water or wet paper towels. At this point, Julia, one of our seminarians for next year (who is a trauma nurse) and I looked at each other in disbelief. I was coughing, her eyes were watering, and we were trying to help people as the police – in full riot gear – drove people toward us. Julia and her classmates left and I stayed with the BLM folks trying to help people. Suddenly, around 6:30, there was more tear gas, more concussion grenades, and I think I saw someone hit by a rubber bullet – he was grasping his stomach and there was a mark on his shirt. The police in their riot gear were literally walking onto the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with these metal shields, pushing people off the patio and driving them back. People were running at us as the police advanced toward us from the other side of the patio. We had to try to pick up what we could. The BLM medic folks were obviously well practiced. They picked up boxes and ran. I was so stunned I only got a few water bottles and my spray bottle of eyewash. We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear. We were pushed back 20 feet, and then eventually – with SO MANY concussion grenades – back to K street. By the time I got back to my car, around 7, I was getting texts from people saying that Trump was outside of St. John’s, Lafayette Square. I literally COULD NOT believe it. WE WERE DRIVEN OFF OF THE PATIO AT ST. JOHN’S – a place of peace and respite and medical care throughout the day – SO THAT MAN COULD HAVE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH!!! PEOPLE WERE HURT SO THAT HE COULD POSE IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH WITH A BIBLE! HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO STEP OVER THE MEDICAL SUPPLIES WE LEFT BEHIND BECAUSE WE WERE BEING TEAR GASSED!!!!

“An ally of all peaceful protestors” said Donald Trump in his speech; an ally unless those protestors get in the way of his photo op.

The caption to the next video reads: “It began with Attorney General Bill Barr standing with his hands casually in his pockets, not wearing a tie, surveying the scene at Lafayette Park across from the White House, where several thousand protesters had gathered for more demonstrations after the police killing of George Floyd.”

Here is another eyewitness account which was posted as a comment on court evangelical Johnnie Moore’s fawning description of Trump.

The bishop of the diocese of the St John Church, Miriam Budde, reacted with condemnation of Trump’s action.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) found his voice and made this statement:

Ed Stetzer had some mild rebukes for the president.

To use the Bible in a photo op, after clearing peaceful protestors from Lafayette Park with, The Hill reported, “tear gas and smoke bombs hissing” so he could walk to a church, was simultaneously unhelpful to the current situation and at odds with the message of that Bible.

Former political editor at Christian Post, Napp Nazzworth took Johnnie Moore to task:

Perhaps thinking of new Trump supporter Al Mohler, Jarran Sainsbury quipped.

So this is a lament. I recall similar worries, although in a much younger mind and body, in the 1960s. I had a youthful optimism then and while I am still hopeful that our institutions will hold, I am more realistic now. We must all rehearse our rights and remind each other about them. I hope Trump’s base will see through this and turn lament into change.

UPDATE: Trump’s court evangelicals are out in force to spin Trump’s photo op.

The Park Police initially said no one used tear gas. This report has the evidence to contradict that denial.

UPDATE (6/8/20) – Here the most complete analysis I have seen of the event from the Washington Post.

Petition from Former Athletes and Alums Calls on Falwell to Retract Blackface/KKK Mask Tweet

Today, thirty-five African-American pastors, alums, and former athletes from Liberty University started a Change.org petition calling on Jerry Falwell, Jr. to change his ways, delete his racist blackface/KKK mask tweet, and apologize (see this post describing the mask).

Apparently, anyone can sign it and it is addressed to Falwell. The petition acknowledges that the Board of Directors isn’t going to remove him. Take that in for a minute. Nearly any other college president in the land would be removed from office for the behavior cited in this letter, but these writers have already bypassed that as an objective.

The letter writers make explicit what I believed would begin happening soon:

 Lastly, we leave you with this. Because of your callous rhetoric, we can no longer in good faith encourage students to attend our alma mater or accept athletic scholarships. There are many Christians of color who worship in our churches and communities; we will not recommend their attendance at L.U. as long as you continue the unChristlike rhetoric. We will no longer donate funds to the university. We will also actively encourage Christian leaders to decline the invitation to speak at Liberty if you continue to insist on making unChristlike and inappropriate statements that are misrepresentative of Biblical Christianity.

Go read the whole thing here.

Thus far, an online professor has resigned, and a student has written an open letter of protest over Falwell’s actions.  Falwell’s response has been defiant and unapologetic.

Eric Green is a former Pittsburgh Steeler standout and Liberty U. alum who signed the petition. There are 3 other former NFL players who signed and one current player (Walt Aikens). If these NFL players don’t help Liberty recruit and in fact discourage black student-athletes from attending LU, this could present Falwell with a problem I feel sure he didn’t anticipate.

At 5:45pm, 2100 had signed. The server was down a good part of the day and the total went up 25 in the time it took me to type this. At 11pm, over 8100 have signed on.

Liberty University Student Sickened by Jerry Falwell’s Blackface/KKK Mask (UPDATED)

Two days ago I wrote about Jerry Falwell’s facemask design using a blackface and KKK photo. An online professor resigned over it. Now, a student at Liberty University has written Falwell an open letter of protest. Rather than comment extensively, I will post his tweet here:

The letter is a little hard to read for older eyes so you can see a larger version by clicking this link.

The nation is tearing itself apart and Jerry Falwell thinks it is appropriate to use painful racist images to make some lame political point. This isn’t getting much press because the riots, COVID, and Donald Trump allow no time for anything else. However, I suspect a majority of Liberty students would agree with Mr. Trostle.

UPDATE:

Falwell is doubling down with some head scratching reasoning.

I plan to check into the facts but I doubt that Gov. Northam picked out Liberty U’s African-American online students to target. In any case, Falwell sounds like a child – he won’t apologize because of something someone else did. If you take a look at the comments on the tweet, he getting — as the kids say — ratioed.

Here is a balanced article on the online funding issue from Inside Higher Education.

Liberty University Adjunct Professor Resigns Over Jerry Falwell’s Blackface & KKK Mask

In normal times, this story would rock the evangelical world. As things stand, it barely registered. However, examining the situation, it is incredible that Jerry Falwell is still president at Liberty University.

On May 27, Falwell tweeted:

In response, one of Liberty’s online professors, Christopher House, resigned. Dr. House, an African-American pastor and scholar rejected Falwell’s justification for the tweet. His full explanation is at his Facebook page.

Yes, the picture on the mask was taken from Gov. Northam’s medical school yearbook. It is also true that Gov. Northam is many years removed from medical school and apologized for his participation in the photo. He also faced widespread condemnation from his own party with numerous calls for his resignation. He disavowed it and is obviously ashamed of it.

Thus, Falwell’s use of the pic is opportunistic. He knows Northam doesn’t stand by the photo, and he knows numerous Democratic leaders called for Northam’s resignation. His use of that photo is now on him. He has to own it because he chose to use it. About the mask, he said he “designed my own.” He chose to use a photo of blackface and a KKK hood to make his silly political point.

So here we are. A Christian college president used some of the most painful imagery for African-American people that can be used to make his point. Apparently, it doesn’t matter who he hurts, offends, or angers, Jerry Falwell, Jr., large and in charge, must express his opposition to the inconvenience of a little mask on his face.

Falwell might protest that he is attacking the racist Northam. This is bogus. Northam disavowed it and is attempting to atone for his sins. Falwell appears to be oblivious to the pain this causes. He sins to make a point that could be made in so many other ways. In fact, his actions have now obscured the point he wanted to make.

Clearly, Dr. House experienced pain from Falwell’s choice:

There is very little that one can teach in an Intercultural class that can be taken seriously by students who seek to engage in a meaningful cross cultural, bridge building and improving race relations in the world when the President of the very same institution draws upon images of racial terror for political expedience, and without regard for people who look like me who will have to deal with the very real, social, economic and physical implications of those negative stereotypes long after his post is removed (or not as such is the case).

Symbols of racism are just that: symbols of racism. They aren’t analogies for perceived slights by white people. A mask using painful images of racism isn’t — will never be — an appropriate advertisement for your political grievances.

Good for Dr. House. I wish him well.

Bryan Loritts Joins Darrell Scott as an Alum of Diploma Mill

Evangelical preacher Bryan Loritts has joined Trump endorsing mega pastor Darrell Scott as a prominent alum of diploma mill St. Thomas Christian University. Julie Roys has the story on Lorritts; I wrote about Scott’s honorary doctorate in 2017.

Roys traveled the same road I did in 2017 and found much the same thing. The school isn’t accredited by a state or federally recognized accrediting body and isn’t licensed as a university by the state of Florida. In Florida, religious schools can become exempt from the requirement to be licensed  if they file an affidavit with the state that their degrees are only religious in nature. St. Thomas was out of compliance when I researched in 2017 and they remain out of compliance today according to Roys.

I have researched the use of honorary doctorates and the vast majority of schools discourage the use of the title “Dr.” by those who possess only an honorary degree. This is one of the credentialing issues Ravi Zacharias eventually admitted and apologized for.

This is a significant violation of trust and integrity. Loritts should quickly acknowledge this, apologize, and correct any false presentation of his credentials.

Image from Bryan Loritts Twitter page. 

Eric Metaxas Uncritically Features Anti-Vaccine Proponent

Eric Metaxas has been in the hot seat lately due to his race baiting tweet in response to Joe Biden (see this post for that story). However, there is something else that in times past would relegate Metaxas to the fringe.

On his radio show last week, he gave 36 minutes to Kent Heckenlively, the co-author with Judy Mikovits, of the conspiratorial book Plague of Corruption. Mikovits is the star of the documentary “Plandemic” that made the rounds in early May. Metaxas treated Heckenlively as a serious guest with truth to reveal. In the process, he gave the anti-vax movement a huge public relations win. Watch:

In this video, Heckenlively claims and Metaxas accepts that aborted fetal tissue is in vaccines, and harmful viruses are in vaccines. The fictitious vaccine-autism link is implied along with other wild ideas. Heckenlively is allowed to provide a full recitation of the anti-vax catalog. Metaxas is completely unprepared for these claims and can’t or doesn’t want to offer any skeptical response. For all practical purposes, Eric Metaxas produced a 36 minute commercial for the anti-vax movement.

Recently, the Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today have offered warnings about conspiracy theories in the church. With Eric Metaxas favorably featuring the anti-vax movement, there is evidence they may be too late.

 

David Barton (left), Eric Metaxas (right)