A new long-form interview with disgraced former Liberty University president Jerry Fallwell Jr. and wife Becki detailing his fall from grace has been released by Vanity Fair, covering his side of the story of a series of scandals that forced the once formidable leader to flee the place he called home for decades.
Of note is that the article goes in-depth to the years-long adulterous relationship his wife had and how Jerry navigated it, but also picks up on this tension that has seem to always exist with Falwell and his relationship to his faith, painting the picture that he was never a true believer in the mission and morals of the conservative university he led, but rather was more interested in the business of institution building. For this reason, he had to outwardly adopt some of those trappings in order to play the game, while never holding them as earnest convictions.
Two quotes from the article outline the truth of this, allowing Falwell to be honest about where he stands and taking a posture that he’s spiritual, and a professing believer, but has no love for Christ’s church.
For the first time, Falwell opened up about his true spiritual beliefs and how they diverge from those of his infamous father, who cofounded the Moral Majority and waged a scorched-earth cultural war for four decades. When I told Falwell that many people thought he, consciously or not, wanted to destroy himself, he considered it for a moment.
“Subconsciously, yeah, I believe that’s true,” he said, nodding. “It’s almost like I didn’t have a choice.” He went on: “Because of my last name, people think I’m a religious person. But I’m not. My goal was to make them realize I was not my dad.”
Jerry said that being on the receiving end of evangelicals’ moral opprobrium has fundamentally turned him away from the movement. He believes in Christ, he said, but not the church. “Nothing in history has done more to turn people away from Christianity than organized religion,” he said. “The religious elite has got this idea that somehow their sins aren’t as bad as everyone else’s,” Jerry said.
Listening to Jerry, it made me think he convinced himself Liberty wasn’t the fundamentalist school that it is.
‘He would tell reporters that we don’t mind if gay and lesbians come here [sic]. I would tell him, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,”‘ recalled Scott Lamb, Liberty’s former senior vice president for communications.
Amid reports that he’d fallen away from the faith on account of his rejection of religion, Falwell took to Instagram and clarified: