Who Is?
S4 E9

Who Is Jerry Falwell Jr.? Narrated By Louis Virtel

Jerry Falwell Jr. is the president of an evangelical college, a pivotal part of helping Trump secure the evangelical vote, and a Christian who seemingly threatened to shoot Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez...over cows.

Jerry Falwell Jr. was born in 1962 in Lynchburg, Virginia. His father, Jerry Falwell Sr., ostensibly instilled his wild ideas on his impressionable son from a young age. Falwell Sr. was a televangelist turned political activist, who warned that one of the Teletubbies was gay and blamed 9/11 on feminism and the LGBTQ+ community.

Jerry Sr. was an early architect of the religious right. He opened Liberty University in 1971, a hub for like-minded evangelical Christian students to engage in one-sided debates regarding Creationism and the dangers of homosexuality. To keep his university on the bigoted white path he deemed appropriate, Falwell Sr. created the Moral Majority, a political organization birthed in response to pesky human rights, like equality. He believed integrating Christian schools, like his, would undermine the country’s traditional history of racism and everything that makes America super great. The organization shuttered in the late 80s, but not before helping usher in Reagan’s presidency and laying the groundwork for a new political bloc of the religious right.

When Falwell Sr. passed away in ‘07, Jerry Jr. took over Liberty University, and expanded on his father’s Christian masterpiece. Falwell Jr. would soon become the leading, mumbling and meandering voice of the new religious right.

Under Falwell Jr., Liberty developed rapidly. The school moved into Division I sports, the highest level of the NCAA. By 2016, it had roughly 14,000 students enrolled on its campus and 113,000 students taking online courses. Which is a ton of people taking Evangelism 101, a graduation requirement. The class syllabus says the course is “an in-depth study of how to lead people to Christ.” Politico notes, “In order to pass the course, students are required to write a “witness report,” a two-page paper that documents a “face-to-face encounter” they have with one “unbeliever” to whom they evangelize.”

Falwell Jr. was the first prominent evangelical supporter of Trump. Early on he said, “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment.” And in January of 2016, he formally endorsed Trump for president.

Buzzfeed notes, “In January 2016, when Trump’s candidacy was still considered a long shot and he had almost no brand-name evangelical support, Falwell Jr.’s endorsement “marked a turning point for the entire religious right,” said Randall Balmer, a Dartmouth professor who studies the evangelical movement.”

One prominent member of the university, Mark DeMoss, a graduate of Liberty, and a member of the school’s board of trustees, seemingly felt the pressure to resign after having a different opinion than Falwell Jr. After Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump, DeMoss was quoted in the Washington Post, “Donald Trump is the only candidate who has dealt almost exclusively in the politics of personal insult...It’s not Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.” This didn’t sit well with Falwell Jr., who thought his motives were entirely political. DeMoss resigned from the school after indicating a “concern about a lack of trust.”

While others at the school seemingly can’t speak on any important issues regarding politics, Falwell Jr. has only been expanding on his admiration for Trump. He’s stood by the former steak salesman through thick and thin. When Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Falwell Jr. agreed.

By the looks of it, Falwell Jr., who “can’t imagine Trump doing anything bad for the country” will once again be leading the religious right to help secure another term for the only guy who loves fast food even more than he does.