Dear Jerry Falwell Jr.,
I’m writing this letter in response to all the discussion we’ve seen this week surrounding your picture with Donald Trump—in front of the framed Playboy cover.
You’ve received some harsh criticism, and my hope is not to shame you or slam you but to share my thoughts and, hopefully, create a civil dialogue on the important issues behind them.
Also, I want to make it clear that I don’t have an agenda against you, and I consider you a fellow leader—even if we disagree on many things.
So, here goes. My biggest issues is not that fact that you, likely inadvertently, got a snapshot next to a Playboy cover. Although, it is a little ironic that your father took Hustler’s Larry Flint to court (and lost) over a caricature in one of his porn mags, and you’re standing in front of another porn mag (with a thumbs up) next to Trump.
But, like I said, that’s not the real issue to me. The problem I have is with your defense on Twitter. After receiving the criticism you wrote this on Twitter, “Honored for same hypocrites who accused Jesus of being a friend of publicans and sinners to be targeting me over a decades-old mag cover! TY.”
— J L Falwell (@JerryJrFalwell) June 21, 2016
Why is this an issue to me? Because what you’re doing next to Donald Trump in the political arena is very different from what Jesus was doing with prostitutes and all-around sinners, and the comparison comes off as self-serving, flat and way out of context.
Jesus wasn’t trying to promote a political agenda with the next mainstream leader; he was taking the love of Christ to people who were marginalized both by secular and religious culture. Bottom line, being persecuted over loving the marginalized is different from being persecuted for your political ties and endorsements.
Calling haters hypocrites and yourself the Jesus-figure serves the purpose of making you look more spiritual and feels self-serving. You’re saying, “What happened to Jesus is happening to me!” for the same or similar reasons. It just comes off smug. The fact that Jesus developed a bad reputation for hanging out with sinners was a product of his missional mindset and not a quip to throw in the face of haters. Also, the use of this biblical comparison is too loose. It’s kind of like Donald Trump saying, “I can do all things through Christ!” while building a wall to keep out immigrants. It just doesn’t fit.
Bottom line: I don’t have a problem with the fact that you’re picking a side, it’s your right as an American citizen to do so, but it’s your passionate plea for us to view Trump as a godly candidate that strikes me as such a confusing move. Tell us to vote for Trump, that’s fine, I’m sure many leaders reading this might be voting for him, but don’t spiritualize his campaign into an agenda for the church.
That’s what I don’t understand. That’s why your Twitter defense falls flat. I feel like you’re calling something bad good and encouraging us to do the same—regardless of the facts right before our eyes.
To be honest, all of your political posturing with Donald Trump makes me feel like we’re losing a good friend to the school bully and it’s hard to process.