One word came to mind when I heard over the weekend that Donald J. Trump would deliver a commencement speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.: ironic.
There was so much to confound us about the 2016 presidential election that I am hesitant to rank the most puzzling element that arose from it.
I’ll place one development near the top: the support Trump earned from the evangelical community. The president’s Liberty University speech is a continuation of that relationship.
One line has gotten the most attention. It’s when the president said Americans “don’t worship government, they worship God.” Gee, do you think?
Why the ironic view of this venue?
Liberty U. was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, a highly political preacher. Falwell was a sworn enemy of former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. He once produced a hideous video that purported that the Clintons were complicit in the death of their dear friend Vincent Foster, who committed suicide not long after Bill Clinton became president. That’s not a Godly thing to do, you know?
Liberty is a religious-based university of some renown. Its curriculum espouses conservative values. Biblical studies are required for graduation. All of that is common at faith-based institutions.
Why, though, the embrace of Donald Trump? I’ve never perceived Trump’s life to be necessarily informed by a devotion to the holy word, to the Gospels, to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary, my perception of Trump — and I believe the perception of millions of other Americans — is that he has placed great value on material wealth, on personal enrichment, on self-aggrandizement; he’s also boasted publicly about his boorish behavior and he has routinely denigrated women.
Does Scripture lift all of that up, to be something to which we should aspire? It’s not in the Bible I have read for my entire life.
So there he was, telling the students at Liberty U. about the virtues of swimming against the tide, telling them to be unafraid of criticism. They cheered, clapped and hollered.
Liberty U. is now run by Falwell’s son, Jerry Jr., who recently referred to Trump as evangelicals’ “dream president.” The younger Falwell must have turned his TV off during the campaign when word leaked out about Trump’s admitting that he has grabbed women by their genital area, that he has forced himself on them because he’s a “celebrity” and a “star.”
Jerry Jr. also must have turned away at the news of Trump’s two divorces and his acknowledged marital infidelity as it regarded his first two wives.
This clown is a dream come true?
Go figure, folks.