Time once again for stories that either didn’t make the cut for this week’s Friday Five, or broke after I finished that weekly news post, or update stores I have linked to and/or commented upon previously..
One of the best things about waking up on this particular foggy Saturday morning is that when I woke up my computer and thought about what I wanted to check first, is that I didn’t feel the sense of dread that has descended before I look at any news site or even Twitter in the last four years. What horrible news was awaiting me this time? In a few days I’m sure this almost euphoric feeling will fade, but for now I’m going to enjoy it. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t worrisome news, but the threat level feels a bit more manageable. Speaking of which, it is time once again for a post where I share news stories that broke after I prepped this week’s Friday Five, or didn’t make the cut for said post, or provide an update to a story linked to in some previous post. Along with some commentary from me.
So, let’s go!
Texas Supreme Court: Alex Jones, InfoWars can be sued by Sandy Hook parents. Alex Jones spent months after the Sandy Hook school shooting claiming that it was a hoax, that the parents were hired actors, et cetera. He incited his fans to harass those parents to the point that the haters were staking out the graves of the murdered children so they could scream at and otherwise attack anyone who showed up at those graves to mourn, place flowers, et cetera. So many of those parents have been trying to sue Jones and his business. He has been trying and trying to get out of the suits. He’s issued half-hearted retractions, admitted under oath that he knew at the time the things he was reporting were false, and so on. But he’s still fighting and trying to get the suits tossed because, well, if they succeed he and his so-called business would be ruined. This ruling disposes of more of his bogus objections and allows the suits to move forward.
I hope they all succeed.
Moving on to another kind of hater…
Texas could charge doctors with “child abuse” if they treat a transgender child or teen – The proposed law could land a doctor in prison for treating their patient as recommended by every major medical association. How long do we have to put up with these fuckwits terrorizing other people’s kids?
All the medical associations agree that giving these treatments to trans kids improve their chances of living a long and healthy life. You can have your sincerely held beliefs if you want, but if your sincerely held beliefs are contradict scientific and medical fact, then we call those “delusions.” And you don’t have the right to force those delusions on other people.
Speaking of delusional people…
Texas lawyer fired after Capitol riot files ambitious suit: Dissolve Congress, don’t arrest him – “This is not a Sidney Powell lawsuit,” Paul Davis assures court. True! Powell didn’t argue for abolishing Congres. So this guy was part of the Murder Mob that invaded the Capitol. He’s been arrested, charged with some crimes related to that, is out on bail, and was fired by his law firm. He’s decided the way to fix this problem is to file a law suit demanding that a federal judge dissolve both houses of congress, remove Biden and Harris from office, and furthermore to remove all fifty state governors, the governor of Puerto Rico, and a few other state officials from their office; and to ban all of those above people plus Facebook CEO Jeff Zuckerberg from ever holding public office in the future; and appoint Trump as Steward of the Nation, to rule until a new form of government and voting system can be created.
Please notice that odd title he wants Trump to be given: Steward of the Nation. Where does that come from? Why it comes from the Lord of the Rings. That’s right! This fuckwit quotes from and paraphrases Tolkien as part of his legal argument. So, someone needs to explain to this guy that Frodo was not a Founding Father…
His clients are a weird hodgepodge of fake conservative groups (Blacks for Trump and Latinos for Trump), as well as a fuckwit who was out on bail after showing up armed at a polling place in a state he didn’t even live in and threatening people. While out on bail he also joined the Murder Mob, which has it’s own charges pending, but he’s likely to have his bail revoked and be thrown back in jail on the original voter intimidation charges.
Anyway, the so-called logic is that something was fundamentally wrong with all of the elections (not just the handful of states that Donald was contesting), and therefore all federal offices elected in 2020 are invalid. And his clients, he said, are deprived of their—get this—fundamental rights to have an idea of the economic future of the country so they can properly invest in their 401K funds.
There are so, so, so many things wrong with this. First, the courts have already held many, many, many times that individual citizens can’t sue on speculative issues. They have to show a real, quantifiable, and justiciable harm that they will experience just to have standing to put their argument before the court. Not being able to predict the future of the economy is a quantifiable harm, is not the product of the issue they are blaming it on, and (to get that justiciable bit) it isn’t a harm that can be resolved by anything the court orders. Let me simplify that last bit: a court can order the economy to become predictable.
There are so, so many other problems. They don’t present any evidence that all fifty states had something fundamentally wrong with their 2020 elections. They just assert it. If somehow such evidence existed, it wouldn’t have anything to do with two-thirds of the Senators, because only a third of the Senate is ever up for a vote at the same time. A federal district court doesn’t have the power to dissolve congress. It sure as heck doesn’t have the power to appoint anyone “Steward of the Nation.” And so on.
But you know what power federal district judges do have? They can impose sanctions (fine, recommend disbarment, and so forth) on people who file bad faith lawsuits. And there have now been enough of these nonsense suits that the courts are getting quicker to impose sanctions on the fuckwits who file these kinds of claims. I suspect this lawyer is going to find out that getting fired by his old firm is soon going to be the least of his problems.
Now, let’s move on the problems across the pond…
Rotting fish, lost business and piles of red tape. The reality of Brexit hits Britain. Yep, just as everyone predicted. Anything else I can add at this point would be just repeating myself…
Let’s end it with this fun Jimmy Kimmel animated music video – Goodbye Donald Trump:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
If you get to the polling place to vote and they say your name isn’t on the list, calmly say, “I demand my legal right to cast a provisional ballot.”
If you have already voted, check that your ballot has been received.
Remind others to vote. You can volunteer to drive someone to a polling place, but remember, you can’t talk about who you’re voting for, or try to talk others into voting for your favorite candidates at the polling place.
If every vote didn’t matter, the Republicans wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop us from voting.
In the aforementioned Weekend Update I compared some of my conversations with trump supporters as feeling as if I am banging my head against a brick will. I did not specify that most of the trump supporters in questions are family members or people I have otherwise known since I was in high school. They are people that I love. Many are people who I once admired. Which is why, no matter how many times my attempts to talk to them haven’t gotten anywhere, I can’t seem to make myself completely abandon hope of reaching them.
And since I used the word “confessions” in the title of this post, I must also admit that I know there was a time when I was the brick wall that others were banging their heads against. Since I was able to change my perspective, I keep hoping they can, too.
One of the reasons, I believe, that everyone from the pundits to mainstream journalists to ordinary non-rightwing citizens are always flabbergasted because they don’t understand the culture of what I often call christianists: people who claim to be Christian (many evangelical, but not all) who instead of embracing the peace and tolerance messages, use them as a negative weapon against groups who adhere to different political and/or moral beliefs.
The person who doesn’t understand the christianist viewpoint might advance an argument that our current policies regarding health care and employment forces thousands of people into homelessness each year, leading to unnecessary illness, suffering, and death. They would expect that argument to have some sway with the christianists, but it doesn’t. Why? Because among other things christianists believe that suffering in this lifetime is nothing compared to the fate of one’s eternal soul. If a person suffers in this world, it’s either because they are being punished by god, or because they are being tested. If a good and faithful person dies, no matter what the circumstances, they will get a reward in heaven. The other people, well, it’s their own fault for not getting right with god while they had their chance.
And such thinking seems completely irrational to people outside that subculture. Rational people when presented with an opportunity to reduce suffering and avoidable deaths would try to do something about it, right? This leads some observers to refer to this branch of christianity as a Death Cult. A better description, I think, would be an After Death Cult. Because an eternity of rewards in heaven is the goal, while toil, tribulation, torment, and death are all small prices to pay in comparison.
That isn’t the only difficulty in reasoning with them. That other bit is implied in that part about how troubles in life are punishments from god. Once you accept that notion, it’s small logical hop to rationalizing that if you are the one causing trauma, you’re just doing god’s will. Which is how you justify calling yourself a servant of the Prince of Peace while you are stockpiling assault rifles and fantasizing about the day you get to kill all the unbelievers you want. And that how you get books/movies such as the Left Behind series (which is essentially snuff porn) being bestsellers to the evangelical and related groups.
I mentioned my own experience being on the other side of this mental divide. There was a period in my pre-teens/early teens where I became obsessed with the Biblical book of Revelations and its description of how the world would end. I found books and articles on it. I re-read Revelations itself making extensive notes and charts—connecting news stories and such that I found to specific parts. If the Left Behind books had existed at the time, I would have been all over them. One day, my paternal grandfather stopped me while I was in the middle of explaining some parallel I saw between some news article and some item in Revelations. Grandpa said, “That book isn’t in the Bible to give us a mystery to solve. Jesus himself told us that no one would know it was happening before it does. I believe it’s in there to motivate us to love our neighbors, even when we don’t like them.”
I don’t remember exactly what I said in reply. I didn’t think he was completely wrong, but I thought there was some value to studying the end times.
He turned my Bible back to the gospels, specifically the sermon on the mount. “We are suppose to live our lives so that we are so full of kindness and love, that other people will want to be like us. Armageddon isn’t going to be a victory parade. All wars are tragedies.”
And that got through to me.Which brings me to another example of the cognitive dissonance between the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible, and the ways that christianists don’t follow or even sometimes understand it. When Neil Gaiman adapted the book Good Omens, originally written by he and Terry Pratchett, into a miniseries, Neil added a lot of scenes showing the relationship between the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale over the millennia. The book had made a few allusions to these encounters, and Neil realized that in a visual medium, he needed to show them. One of the scenes in that section was Aziraphale and Crowley witnessing the Crucifixion. I follow Gaiman on several social media platforms, so I saw the incredibly large number of Christians (including a lot of pastors), who absolutely loved the adaptation. And the many expressions of gratitude he got from making the Crucifixion scene so respectful.
It got a completely different reaction from the christianists I know. They considered it, especially that scene, blasphemy. Why? Because of those three lines of dialogue in that meme: “What was it he said that got them so upset?” “’Be kind to each other.’” “Oh, yeah. That’ll do it.” Boiling it down to that absolutely incensed some people!
Which is really peculiar since these are the same people who say that every single word of the Bible is literally true. Because that part I mentioned above, the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the centerpiece of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible. It is the longest single bit of his teachings we get. It takes all the ideas he had told before and extends them. And what does he preach that day? That people should be kind to each other, even to those who don’t deserve it. Nay! Even more to those that don’t deserve it than to those that do. That’s all of his teachings in a nutshell.
It’s not blasphemy at all, it’s a distillation of the rest of the story.
And the fact that they don’t understand that is really all you need to know about why they twist the teachings of love and peace and tolerance into cudgels to rationalize cruelty and injustice in society.
Continuing to embrace the fact that most traffic coming to my blog right now is driven by a scandal in the news, let’s get some new headlines out of the way first:
I’m not going to sum up the scandal yet again (if you really need to know, I quoted a great sum-up by one of thew writers at the Wonkette a couple days ago.)
Among the stories linked above, there is an official statement from the some leaders of Liberty University which claims that until last week there was absolutely no way to know that the former president of the University (and son of the scam evangelist who founded it as part of his multi-decade pro-racial segregation campaign) had been doing anything possible illegal or questionable with university funds, et cetera.
This is a blatant lie. If nothing else, because both major news organizations and dozens of bloggers like myself have been reporting on this issue for nearly three years. And one of the stories all of us covered in the last year was as a result of dozens of current and former employees of the university going to various Christian news sites to report the shenanigans. One former board member was widely quoted as saying they were no longer running a religious university, because Falwell Jr had turned it into a hedge fund that used student fees to finance his personal real estate deals.
And after that story broke, Falwell, Jr called the FBI to try to get the Feds to arrest all those employees… not for spreading false information, but for violating their non-disclosure agreements by revealing information they were supposed to keep secret.
Side note: I still have no idea why he thought calling the FBI of all people was the thing to do, but there you have it.
In other words, he essentially admitted that at least some of the allegations were turn.
That bit alone was months ago, not last week.
And again, the other news stories were published in the last few years. And at least when the mainstream news organizations were first publishing the stories, various board members and other officials of the university were contacted for comment.
Cynical people will say that “Of course they knew! But they are in on the deals, too!”
Most of the evidence is that, know, Falwell wasn’t spreading any of the money to anyone but his own family and apparently the young men who were schtupping Mrs Falwell.
No, it’s more complicated than that. And it is related to the structural forces in evangelical institutions (and probably other religious institutions, but let’s stick to what I know of personally) which enable abusers and turn the victims of abusers into villains.
First, most evangelicals believe that god is in control of the world. Which contradicts their equally sincerely held belief that satan causes all sorts of bad things to happen in the world, but such contradictions don’t bother them. Anyway, because god controls the world, then any person who is in charge of anything has been placed there by god. And god had to have a reason, even when it seems the person is completely unfit for the position. Therefore, if you question the actions of the leader, you are saying that god made a mistake putting him there. So the first line of defense when any wrongdoing of a leader is brought to light is to remind you that god works in mysterious ways, and eventually it will all turn out to be part of god’s plan.
Second, there is a section of the New Testament which is sometimes referred to as the Ministry of Correction, which details a process by which the faithful are to approach another member of the congregation/et cetera, when that person appears to have gone astray. And the first step in this process is to keep the problem private, do not share any concerns or issues with anyone outside the community. You are supposed to talk to the person directly, admit that you know that everyone including yourself sins from time to time, explain why you think what they are doing is wrong, invite them to pray with you about it, and trust in god to open their eyes.
You are only supposed to go to another person (and it is supposed to be someone who knows the person who you think has done something wrong, is a member of the same faith community, and preferably has some connection to the incident) if this conversation doesn’t lead to change and if, after you have spent time praying about it, you still think what they did was wrong. And you only take it to the entire church if none of that leads to changes and if the second person you brought into it agrees.
This process is easily subverted by a leader who doesn’t care whether what he is doing is right with god. He can pretend to take your concerns seriously, and then while you’re praying privately about it, start a whisper campaign undermining your credibility. That whole thing about everyone sin from time to time is practically inviting someone to claim some good ol’ what-about-ism—the leader may have made an unwise financial decision, but what about that time you did thus-and-so, hmmm? The Ministry of Correction is completely ineffective if any member of the leadership are acting in bad faith.
So even when you don’t have a legal non-disclosure agreement hanging over your head, if you grew up in these kind of churches, and you sincerely think that what the person is doing is wrong, your first instinct isn’t to save documents and emails and when you have enough to establish a case that the president of the university is diverting school funds to finance is luxurious millionaire lifestyle, turn said evidence over to the Department of Revenue or another agency that can investigate it, instead you go tell the grifter that you think he might be sinning and you ask him politely to think about not doing it any more.
This also how pastors who sexually abuse parishioners manage to abuse people again and again without consequence. The pastor or an ally goes to many members of the congregation, each time pretending that this person is the only one he’s talking to, and talk about their concerns about young Billy who seems to be light in the loafers, or whatever. Which is also how you end up with high ranking officials of a church telling reporters with a straight face that 11-year-old altar boys lead priests into sin, so it’s really the priest who is a victim, not the child.
I know that may seem like a big leap, but it is the same system. The default reaction from those around Falwell would have been to first assume that whatever the accusation is, it can’t be true, because god wouldn’t have allowed him to become president if he were that kind of man. And if any portion are true, it may not be quite what it seems because go works in mysterious ways. And if more of it turns out to be true, well, obviously the problem isn’t Falwell, but people around him who led him astray.
So Mrs Falwell is castigated as having a sexual addiction (and she joins in on the self-castigation!). The former pool boy, and various students who have begun to come forward are all characterized as tools of temptation that trapped poor, innocent Falwell (who was only trying to help them) into an impossible situation, and so forth.
Because the respected leaders can’t possibly be in the wrong, otherwise god wouldn’t have let them become leaders. It must be nice to be the benefactor of such blatant circular reasoning.
Note: Part of this post’s title comes from the hymn, “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” by Charles Wesley, #416 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.
Dirty Deeds Coming Home to Roost, or, What’s Happening with those Evangelical Pool Boy Chasing Devils?
I’ve decided to just embrace that fact that because I have blogged a lot about the bigotry and hypocrisy of so-called Christians in general, and one anti-gay grifter in particular, that it is okay to just embrace the fact that as long as this story is in the news, people are going to be clicking on a lot of those old posts.
I laughed out loud when I saw this headline, because (particularly if you read in aloud with a lot of dread in your voice) it sums up how I’ve been feeling: And Now For Your Daily Update On Jerry Falwell’s Dick. This article was from earlier in the week, but I love his summary of the scandal:
Sometimes when a man and a woman love each other, and the man is the president of an evangelical Christian clown college and is friends with the pussy-grabbing authoritarian president of America, they get married and then they meet a 20-year-old pool boy named “Giancarlo” and they are like “Oh hey, Giancarlo, is that the Holy Bible in your pocket, or is it your boner?” and he is like “Oh it’s just my boner” and they are like “Good, we really aren’t into that Holy Bible shit when we aren’t profiting financially from it” and the pool boy is like “cool” and they are like “cool” and so they start having a sexual affair with the pool boy for years and years, where the lady does nakeds with the pool boy while the clown college Christian leader husband plays shadows puppets with his weener and watches in the corner, and they end up giving the pool boy SWEET business deals that kinda sorta look like payoffs, and fly him all over the country in their jet, and maybe there’s a similar arrangement with the hot jacked personal trainer, but we’re not sure yet, but anyway then everybody finds out and the man has to quit being a clown college Christian leader, WOMP WOMP.
The story quotes heavily from this interview: Falwell sought to cut financial ties to pool attendant before Trump’s campaign – Giancarlo Granda, who met Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife at a Miami Beach hotel, offers new details on his relationship with the couple.
Note that Granda’s account in the Politico interview appears to change the timeline of events I and others have put together. But also note that some of it contradicts that photo of Falwell introducing Granda to Donald Trump at the rally at Liberty University 10 months after when Granda claims Falwell tried to cut all ties with him. On the other hand, if what the former pool boy says there is true, it’s possible that Falwell was trying to get out of the deal without actually coughing up the promised money, and since Granda wanted the promised money, while Mrs Falwell apparently didn’t want to give up the Pool Boy… well, it sounds like it was messy for months.
And, as many people have expected, a couple more guys are coming forward with their stories: ‘She was the aggressor’: Former Liberty student alleges sexual encounter with Becki Falwell – A former student at the evangelical university opens up about a 2008 incident with the wife of the school’s president. Warning! This story has a lot of creepy details about multiple instances of Mrs Falwell coming onto (and much more) a young man (in his 20s) who at the time was a bandmate of her son. That sentence alone may have already put too many bad images in your head. Sorry…
There are a few aspects of this story that I do want to comment. The young man was a student at Liberty University at the time, and he was a member of a band that had recruited the Falwell’s oldest son, Trey (who was also a student at the university, though a few years younger than they) as their lead guitarist. One of the stories the young man talks about he and Trey hanging out at the Falwell’s home drinking whiskey and jamming, and because he’d been drinking he stayed in the guest room, where things later happened.
I want to point out, however, that this is a violation of the Liberty University Code of Conduct: “Liberty University’s code of conduct, known as the Liberty Way, prohibits the consumption of alcohol for all students living on or off campus. This policy applies not only to those under the age of 21, but also those who are 21 and older… This policy not only applies for students during school, but also while they are on breaks or trips.”
At the time of this incident, Trey Falwell was both a student at the University and underage. The other young man was 22 at the time, but was still a student at the university, yet it seems that they were partaking of whiskey at the Falwells’ home with the knowledge of at least Mrs. Falwell… who was an employee of the University at the time, as well.
I mean, we shouldn’t be surprised at the hypocrisy and double standards are in play, but… well…
The young man who has now came forward says that part of the reason he kept the story to himself for over 10 years is because his mother has always admired the late Jerry Falwell, Sr, and that the young man himself didn’t want to detract from all the supposed good that Falwell, Sr accomplished.
Falwell, Sr accomplished no good in his entire life. He was a liar, a grifter, a proven-in-court chiseler, who promoted racial and anti-gay hate for many decades. He was one of the leaders of an evangelical conference in the mid-70s that met for the express purpose of trying to figure out how to get donations flowing in again like they used to be able to by preaching against racial de-segregation and women’s rights. He was one of the people who made the cynical decision to change their doctrine regarding abortion (which before hadn’t been exactly pro-choice, but had been this complicated ‘the old Testament says clearly that unborn babies are not yet people, so this prove Catholics aren’t real Christians because they insist they are, but we’re not saying the we approve of abortion, but…’) and to make Abortion and The Gays their new focus to see if that would fire up people to send in donations. He then formed the so-called Moral Majority and dragged the Evangelicals into the Republican base and amped up the bigotry on all levels.
The gospel was a tool Falwell, Sr distorted to manipulate people into giving him money and influence. It shouldn’t surprise us that his son is a grifter and abuser, too.
Falwell, Jr has tried to wiggle out of this scandal by throwing all the blame on his wife and claiming the Pool Boy was blackmailing him. Mrs Falwell has joined in, saying it was all her fault for being weak and sinning and bringing the Pool Boy into their lives. That doesn’t really Falwell sharing nudes and such of his wife with all sorts of people who didn’t want to see them, as well as the Pool Boy, Personal Trainer, and apparently several others. It doesn’t explain grooming college students as additional sex toys. It might possibly explain some of the multi-million dollar deals, but doesn’t really explain sending the jet for the Pool Boy again and again after the deal, nor enthusiastically introducing him to Trump (which we have not just photos, but Fox News video of).
Sorry, the Falwells are both predators and jerks. A pox upon them!
And now, I’m going to let Stephen Colbert have the final word:
Stephen Colbert Unloads on Jerry Falwell’s Cuck Affair, Shares Photo of Trump Shaking Hands with Pool Boy – “Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Link To Trump Is Far More Troubling Than His Sex Scandal”:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Apparently I’m writing about Jerry Falwell, Jr some more…
Joe Jervis at JoeMyGod.Com has a really good collection of stories summing up yesterday’s churn on this issue, as Falwell said he was resigning, then retracted it while issuing a legal threat to the university trustees, and then supposedly resigned for real this time. Maybe: Jerry Falwell Jr. Re-Resigns From Liberty University.
While talking to Fox News in the middle of all that churn, at the point when he was still threatening to sue the board he said: “The board put me on leave, took away my duties as prez, and that’s not permitted by my contract. And they put me on leave because of pressure from self-righteous people.”
Pressure from self-righteous people, which he thinks is unfair. Really? This from a man who has campaigned to keep queer people from getting various civil rights. A man who has campaigned to prevent trans people from getting medical care, among other things. Has campaigned for the rights of medical personnel to refuse to treat queer people if they claim a religious objection. He has publicly condemned abortion, pre-marital sex among straight people—has even called for laws criminalizing not just gay people having sex, but also straight people having sex with people they aren’t married to be reinstated.
And he’s complaining about pressure from self-righteous people?
Wow! Talk about having your head shoved so far up your own hypocrisy you can lick your own tonsils!
I should explain the title of this post. The Pharisees were an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity. They appear in the Gospels on several occasions, usually being in opposition to Jesus. In many modern Christian circles that word Pharisee is often used to refer to any self-righteous person or hypocrite.
I already pointed out in yesterday’s post that Falwell’s claim that he wasn’t a willing participant in the sex going on between his wife and Giancarlo Granda is contradicted by Falwell’s actions during Donald Trumps visit to Liberty University in 2016. You don’t enthusiastically introduce your blackmailer to the candidate for President that you’ve just endorsed… I’m glad other people are pointing this out. I’m also glad people are pointing out that Falwell sent naughty pictures of his wife to Personal Trainer (the guy I have often called the Other Pool Boy)… and accidentally cc-ed a ton of staff members at the university. Again, not something one would do if they weren’t a willing participant in the sexual shenanigans.
I hope, I really hope, that some state tax examiners are going to look into these transfers of million-dollar-properties to the Pool Boy and the Personal Trainer. Because I can’t believe those don’t violate some laws governing how non-profits handle their assets. And if the anti-guy, anti-feminist, pro-racial segregations non-profit entity takes a big financial hit because of it, I won’t be complaining.
To begin with, I hadn’t planned to say any more about the most recent Jerry Falwell, Jr. scandal than to include the link in the last Friday Five to the story about him calling in drunk to a conservative radio show to try to explain away the scandal. I thought, of all the corrupt, greedy, grifting, manipulating things Falwell has done over the last several years, that this was fairly minor. Except nearly every day all week, whenever I logged into WordPress, I saw that a lot of people were coming in to click on a few of the previous posts where I went into details about his scandals and why they matter. This always happens when news stories about one of Falwell’s scandals are published. Half the time the way I find out about a new scandal is that I see lots of people clicking on my blog post Oh, you dirty devil—or The preacher and the pool boy… or my other post The Dark Domain, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at an agent of intolerance and his scandalous heirs, which prompts me to google news stories with Falwell’s name in the headline to find out what he’s done this time.
But I didn’t expect to read this on Saturday: Jerry Falwell Jr to take leave of absence after racy photo.
So Falwell was having a big party on his yacht. That’s right, the guy who leads a super conservative religious university and a massive evangelical ministry also owns a large yacht. And not only does he pose in a slightly racy photo—with his pants unzipped, holding a glass of what looks like maybe bourbon or wine, and his arm around a woman who is not his wife wearing unzipped daisy duke shorts and what appears to be a wig—and post said picture to his own Instagram, but also one of his son’s friends posts a video on Instagram or walking around the party where everyone is dressed kind or weird and trashy, lot of people are holding what appear to be cigarettes, lots holding drinks. Falwell, Jr appears in part of the video apparently drunkenly hanging on yet another young woman and slurring his speech.
Both posts are taken down within a day or so, and Falwell issues several explanations:
- It’s supposedly a “Trailer Park Boys” themed party, which I guess is a thing? So everyone is supposed to look kind of like characters from this comedy series, and they’re all holding candy cigarettes, not real ones. Oh, and no one was holding drinks, those glasses were just full of black water. Whatever that is.
- The unnamed woman’s pants were unzipped because she’s pregnant and couldn’t get the zipper up. By some bizarre coincidence, Falwell was wearing a very old pair of jeans that he no long fits into, and also couldn’t get his zipper up, and thought that in solidarity he should pull up his shirt and push his belly out while standing beside her for a picture.
- He’s on vacation, not at the University, so it doesn’t matter.
Liberty University, founded by Falwell’s racist, homophobic, misogynist televangelist father, is extremely conservative with an even more extremely strict set of codes of conduct for students and faculty. No smoking (tobacco, marijuana, or anything else), no drinking, no premarital sex, no being gay (you not only can get expelled for being caught having gay sex, if you admit your gay but swear you’ve never actually had sex you’re still in trouble), no interracial dating… the list goes on and on. Students can’t date without permission from the school administration, for goodness sake!
So that’s why these photos are scandalous. Now, I don’t know how they are more scandalous (from the point of view of the University’s evangelical base) than the earlier photos of Falwell, his wife, son, and daughter-in-law at a big Miami nightclub drinking comically large margaritas, but apparently they are.
Or the time he accidentally texted photos of his wife in fetish gear to the entire staff of the university… which is how the world found out about the second pool boy. See, Falwell’s explanation was that he meant to send to to this former student and now personal trainer because said trainer had helped his wife lose a lot of weight. For which (subsequent investigation found out) Falwell had repaid the trainer by forcing the university to cut the trainer a multiple million dollar real estate deal
Before I list off a bunch of other reasons that the organization should have probably canned him a while ago, I want to remind you why this matters to folks like you and me: his million+ dollars salaries come from being the head of two nonprofit organizations. A lot of the questionable real estate deals are financed by said organizations. Those organizations are exempted from lots of taxes. That means that all of the rest of us who aren’t exempt from those taxes are subsidizing these shenanigans with our tax dollars.
Then there is the fact that just before the Iowa Caucuses in 2016, Falwell surprised everyone to endorse Trump instead of Ted Cruz, who was the darling of the Evangelicals until then. And it appears Falwell did that because Trump’s fixer and former lawyer, Mike Cohen, made some blackmail photos involving Falwell’s wife and the first Pool Boy go away. Falwell’s endorsement swung the evangelical vote to Trump and (among other things) four years later we have tens of thousands of COVID-19 deaths that probably wouldn’t have happened if we had a competent president.
Any previous Falwell scandals: tried to sue reporters who wrote stories about the university refusing to refund tuition for students afraid to return to campus during a pandemic, he claimed that local politicians were begging him to force students to return to the campus (the politicians all denied it), he ordered a campus security guard to write up an arrest warrant for the reporters mentioned above and then lied on several news shows about how it was a magistrate that swore out the warrant, then local prosecutors dismissed the warrant, fired the entire Philosophy department teaching staff to make up for the cash flow drop off as students stopped enrolling during the pandemic, subjecting university staff members to frequent bragging about the size of his penis and the sexual antics he and his wife get up to, transferring millions of dollars to the pool boy (helping him buy a gay flophouse in Miami Beach) after the very young man started spending a lot of time with the Falwells—including numerous times when they sent their private jet to Miami to bring up back to stay at their mansion in Virginia…
It’s just so weird that this one stupid Instagram photo might be the thing that finally does him in.
First, big news today out of New York: New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA in suit accusing gun rights group of wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing .
The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to raid the coffers of the powerful gun rights group for personal gain, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York attorney general, draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years.
In her lawsuit, Attorney General Letitia James called for the dissolution of the NRA and the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years, saying he and others used the group’s funds to finance a luxury lifestyle.
She also asked a New York court to force LaPierre and three key deputies to repay NRA members for the ill-gotten funds and inflated salaries that her investigation found they took.
Lots of headlines are going to focus on the ‘dissolve the NRA’ part, but note that if she proves the executives in question of unlawfully pilfered the NRAs coffers for personal gain and gets any of it back, it will go to the contributors who will be free to use it to immediately form a new organization if they want.
But because I have already seen some people distort and over-react to this news story, I realized this was a good opportunity to finish and post about a related topic: How is it that people who claim to follow the Prince of Peace are so enamored with guns and unwilling to take any reasonable efforts to stop mass shootings in schools.
Before we get to the meat of the answer, one digression: the phrase “God, guns, and gays” is frequently (and falsely) attributed to various Democratic politicians as a disparaging description of the values of conservatives. Wrong. It actually came from the 1994 campaign of Republican Senator Jim Inhofe. He didn’t mean it disparagingly. It repeated the phrase again and again to enflame the fears of his Oklahoma constituents that the libruhls were going to take away their guns, outlaw their religion, and force them to live next to and work with gay people—all so they would ignore the economic and environmental polices of the Republicans that were destroying their livelihoods. And it’s the same kind of reasoning that has Trump claiming the Biden is going to “hurt the Bible.”
But back to the guns and why a certain type of Bible-thumper thirsts for weapons that can massacre dozens of people in short periods of time.
An important component of the evangelical fundamentalist self-identity is being under siege. In their worldview they are constantly under attack from the forces of evil in the form of depraved sinful people (who they generally define as anyone who doesn’t believe exactly as they do). Even they have control of an entire political party and often the entire government of their home state, they see themselves as the victims or a vast and powerful empire of evil. An empire they believe will eventually literally take over the world under the leadership of the anti-Christ. They interpret several verses of the Bible as a specific call to arms for them to resist that looming evil.
And because they insist that every word in the Bible is literally factual and also the inerrant word of god, those cherry-picked verses mean they believe it is their duty to be prepared to literally go to war.
Then there’s the eternity issue. Because they see our mundane mortal life as nothing but an entrance exam to try to qualify for an eternity in heaven, they don’t see suffering and death in this world as being anything more than a test. This gets further complicated because many of them also adhere to one of the variants of the Just World Fallacy. Because god controls the world, see, bad things happen to people either because they are being punished by god, or because they are being tested by god. I’ve written previously that one aspect of this before that often plays out as, “Bad things happen to you because you’re bad. Bad things happen to me because god is testing me.”
This contradicts their other belief that the devil is alive and well and causing a lot of evil, but that doesn’t bother them, because it just gives them another reason to rationalize their decisions about which things to take action about, and which to just let happen. “Bad things are happening to some people I care about because the forces of evil are attacking us,” or “This bad thing has happened to me and/or people I care about because other people under the influence of evil are causing it.”
Besides, all the deserving people who die are just going to heaven, so if they happen to have been hurried along because someone which a semi-automatic rifle shot up their school, it’s not really a tragedy. True, some of the teachers and kids might be godless atheists or otherwise bound for hell, and that is sad, but it’s really their own fault for not inviting Jesus into their heart before someone decided to massacre half the school.
Some of them will even come out and say it!
They ultimate truth, as far as they are concerned, is that all the right-thinking “good” people will get to spend eternity in mansions in heaven built especially for them by Christ himself. And this imperfect world is eventually going to be destroyed in that great and glorious war, which they may get to fight in, and if they have stockpiled enough weapons so that they can kill more of the unrighteous people than anyone else, maybe god will give them a special medal. Or a better mansion.
None of that is official theology of any of the denominations I’ve familiar with, and most of them won’t say all of that bluntly out loud, but it’s what many of them believe.
So to sum up, in their minds Jesus is the Prince of Peace only in the sense that there will be peace for eternity for those who are in heaven, after all the rest of humanity is purged and thrown into hell. And the sooner that war to end the world happens and they all get their to the heavenly reward, the better.
(Part of the title of this post comes from the hymn, “Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is Calling),” by William L. Thompson. It was hymn number 236 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal. The lyric occurs in verse three, “Shadows are gathering, Deathbeds are coming. Coming for you and for me.”)