President Donald trumped poses through Liberty college president, Jerry Falwell Jr., facility right, in former of a choir throughout of start ceremonies at the school. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Officials in ~ Liberty University often boast about the school’s standing as the largest Christian university in America.Liberty chairman Jerry Falwell Jr., who refers to his school as the“Fox News the academia,” has actually alsocomparedit to distinguished Catholic universities favor Notre Dame. Chairman Donald Trump—whose management Falwell has actually repeatedly lauded—echoed this aspirational spiritual sentiment once he ceded the conservative evangelical Christian school’s commencement resolve in May, explicate the student body as “champions because that Christ.”

But this scan rhetoric belies a slow-brewing dispute encircling the Lynchburg, Virginia-based university. As Falwell’s public support for Trump continues to be unwavering in the challenge of the administration’s near-constant scandals, his college is finding chin beset through criticism from a seemingly i can not qualify source: other Christians.

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A farming movement the believers—many of castle avowed evangelicals—are speak out against Liberty University and also the public theology the its president, demanding Falwell and his supporters not just abandon their assistance for trump but also recant a history of inflammation statements they watch as anti-Christian.

President Donald Trump in ~ Liberty University. (CREDIT: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump in ~ Liberty University. (CREDIT: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Kicking a fellow evangelical off campus

The most dramatic chapter in the spiritual dispute came last week, once the institution forcibly removed evangelical Christian author and also speaker Jonathan Martin from campus simply days ~ he dubbed for a calm protest the the college, explicate itas “ground zero for the counterfeit belief that is sweeping many evangelical churches ideal now.”According to Martin,he to be visiting the school at the request of a tape performing there when he was suddenly apprehended through police and also escorted off the property.


Martin reiterated his forceful criticism of Falwell come a few days later. He said he first became influenced to protest Liberty as soon as Falwellreportedly called a Breitbart reporter he wanted evangelicals to assist unseat “fake Republicans,” but included that his frustration v the university president has actually been imminent for some time.

He pointed come a 2015 incidentshortly ~ the tragic ISIS-linked strikes in san Bernardino, California. Falwell responded to news the the shooting throughout an assembly by gesturing come a gun he claimed to have actually holstered, suggesting students should carry firearms therefore “we might end those Muslims prior to they walk in.”

I think it’s vital site strategically: floor zero for the counterfeit belief that is sweeping countless evangelical churches best now.

— Jonathan young name (
theboyonthebike) October 27, 2017

Martin says the remark flies in the face of classic Christian teaching, which calls on pendant to “turn the other cheek” once subjected to violence.


Jerry Falwell Jr., president and also chancellor that Liberty University, in 2013. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Norm Shafer).

“The language the Christianity cobbled together with nationalism and this new civil religion—ultimately to me it’s a new religion,” young name said. “It so small resembles …I don’t even think it’s a fake variation of Christianity in ~ this point.”

Falwell, for his part, protected the actions of campus police a few days after Martin’s expulsion, adding to the drama by announcing brand-new safety regulations for the school—such together as inquiry students come walk with magnetometers for huge gatherings.

“The language the Christianity cobbled in addition to nationalism and also this brand-new civil religion—ultimately come me it’s a brand-new religion.”

“Martindid no threaten violence and we perform not believe he is a violent male but, if Liberty began enabling uninvited external groups come protest on campus with open up invitations on society media, the following group might be a violent lot of anarchists,” Falwellsaid in a prolonged statement released by the faith News Service.

Rev. William Barber. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Rev. Wilhelm Barber. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

A contact for public theological debate

Martin is fixed the very first to faith leader to rail versus Falwell and Liberty. As soon as the university president endorsed trump in 2016, one of the school’s board members promptly resigned in protest. Conservative writers such together Erick Erickson and also others subsequently dubbed for Falwell to action down, and also some Liberty students launched an virtual petitioncriticizing your president’s support for Trump. A few alumni have begun returning your diplomas in disgust.


Christian voices the dissent have actually only get an impression louder in recent months. During a sizable, faith-led protest against racism in trumped in Washington D.C., in August, Rev. Jamal Bryant ofEmpowerment temple AME decried “evangelicals to distort and bastardize the Bible” by supporting Trump, adding, “We repent on instead of of the likes of Paula White, and Perry Stone, and also Jerry Falwell, and the plank of Liberty University—they do not reflect the human body of Christ at large.”

is contradictory to the gospel. And Falwell and others understand that they really can’t was standing the critique,”

While over there haven’t been any an ext protests ~ above campus simply yet, the latest group to difficulty Liberty publicly was not, in fact, “a group of anarchists” but another group the Christians. Critical Friday, six significant progressive-leaning pastors published an open letter criticizing Falwell and his institution, accusing that of contributing come a “conflation” of the “Lord’s Gospel” and “the religious beliefs of white supremacy.”

“As fellow ministers that the gospel that Jesus Christ, we disagree with your celebration event of Donald Trump as a ‘dream President’ because that evangelicals,” the letter read, referencingFalwell’s prayer for the Trump. It continued: “But our disagreement is not about personality; rather, we see the stark divergence in our discernment about politics together a reflection of an essential differences in exactly how we know the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indigenous Isaiah 58 to Luke 4 and Matthew 25, the God that is revealed in Jesus Christ speaks prophetically against false religion that props up injustice.”

Diana Ofosu /

Signers had prominent evangelical pastor and activist Rev. William Barber; Christian activist and also author Shane Claiborne; Kairos Centerco-director Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis; and also Minister and School because that Conversion manager Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, among others.

In enhancement to your condemnation of Falwell’s theology, the group challenged him to a windy theological debate.

“We space willing to pay our own method to concerned Liberty University and engage in the controversy which you have actually said is welcome,” the letter read. “We only ask that us be allowed to support agree on a moderator and collection of concerns beforehand.”

Demanding a debate is a bold relocate for leaders of the loose coalition the is sometimes dubbed the spiritual Left (a term many of castle reject), particularly since spiritual Right leaders have actually tended to neglect or i disbanded progressive confidence leaders in the past. Claiborne and others called castle haven’t received a solution from Liberty college yet, and also the college did not reply come requests for discuss this story. likewise reached out to media outlets the signers floated as feasible moderators because that the theoretical event; PBS’s Tavis Smiley and also MSNBC’s happiness Reid did not reply by press time, and also CNN’s faith editor Daniel Burke pointed come his outlet’s speakers request form.

is contrary to the gospel. And Falwell and also others understand that they yes, really can’t stand the critique,” Barber said MSNBC’s pleasure Reid end the weekend. “What they’re fear of, Joy, is there’s therefore much versus them—first of all, the Bible.”

“As one evangelical ns don’t believe that Jerry Falwell represents many of us, however he speaks together if the does.”

Regardless of even if it is a public dispute ever materializes, signers of the letter speak they are unlikely to continue to be silent.

“I think a lot of us room deeply concerned,” Claiborne, who has actually been invited to speak in ~ Liberty in the past, said “It’s less about politics and much more about the truth of Christian witness…We are absolutely troubled by exactly how a Christian can support together anti-Christian policies.”

Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove agreed, speak he finds Falwell’s theology attack to his faith.

“As one evangelical i don’t believe that Jerry Falwell represents many of us, however he speaks as if he does,” that told “We feel choose the Trump management has definitely exacerbated this id that these older white preachers who are too much on many political issues, and who pander to white dominance if they don’t official endorse it, seem come be speak on behalf christianity or evangelical christianity. And that, to me, as a preacher, is simply an violation to the blog post that I’m called to claim.”

Liberty college students sing and pray before a decided by Republican vice Presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at Liberty college in Lynchburg, Va., Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Liberty college students sing and also pray prior to a speech by Republican evil Presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at Liberty university in Lynchburg, Va., Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A higher value on outside voices

Falwell has characterized the groundswell of activism against the school as the job-related of external agitators, implying lock don’t represent the views of numerous on campus.

“We know that the is upsetting come leftist leaning and progressive Christian to view so numerous evangelicals supporting Donald Trump, however many in ~ Liberty college are among the forgotten men and women in this country who voted for adjust in 2016,” Falwell said.

Liberty college student Dustin Wahl—who helped organize the petition the contrary Trump—told there is some truth to this. He claimed “only a few” college student were mindful of the Red Letter believer letter, adding “we’re no as much of a political/activist campus as countless would assume.”

“When he offers his platform to praise and defend Trump, Falwell makes it seem as though Liberty together an college agrees through him. In reality, most Liberty college student have really different priorities than your president.”

But Wahl detailed that discontent ~ above campus is beginning to swell. “There is absolutely a growing number of students who oppose Falwell’s alignment through Trump and also a shrinking number of students that adamantly assistance it,” the said. An ext than noþeles else, that argued, most students are simply interested in “living in accordance with God’s word” in means that make politics “secondary.”

“When he supplies his communication to praise and also defend Trump, Falwell renders it seem as though Liberty together an institution agrees v him,” the said. “In reality, most Liberty college student have very different priorities than your president.”

Liberty faculty and staff have additionally been reticent come speak out versus Falwell, with countless refusing to go on record when contacted by reporters such as the Atlantic’s Jonathan Merritt. But their silence may not signal commitment with their superior: Liberty university does not sell professors tenure, i m sorry would approve them liberty to speak their mind, and some apparently told Merritt there has been a recent “clampdown” ~ above campus totally free speech.

Indeed, approximately 15 students said they were watched by police together they prayed the work after martin was gotten rid of from campus—an occasion Martin was scheduled to attend. And when a student penned an anti-Trump op-ed in the campus newspaper last year, Falwell allegedly killed the story prior to publication (it was released on the everyday Beast instead).

Such tactics place a higher value on outside voices like Martin, who deserve to freely slam the institution without dangerous his job. He states his detainment shines a light on Falwell’s leadership style.

“It underscores why I want to engage with Liberty to start with—the an extremely authoritarian method that Falwell runs it,” he said.

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Martin, Claiborne, and others to be tight-lipped around the following phase of their push versus Liberty. Regardless of the required expulsion, Martin said he isn’t ruling out various other demonstrations—they simply likely won’t be on the campus. He claimed he, other confidence leaders (including signers the the Red Letter Christian letter), and also a couple of prominent Christian recording artists are currently thinking of an imaginative new means to sell a prayerful witness against the school.

“This is not about the right or the left,” the said. “So numerous things about the trump phenomenon are totally off the grid.”