And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so. (Judges 2:17)
Throughout the history of Christendom, formal institutions associated with the church have endured a rather predictable downgrade. Over time the usual rot settles in, almost always the result of corruptions from within. Worldliness, rather than the Word of God, becomes the standard. Orthodoxy wanes, the leadership becomes corrupt, and these once-fruitful branches are ready to be cut off and cast into the fire. Of course this does happen with churches and whole denominations, but the genesis of this is usually the so-called Christian academy.
So it is with Liberty University, nestled in the hills of Virginia. Having begun in 1971 as Lynchburg Bible College, this ostensibly Christian school grew into a phenomenon unto itself. Founder Jerry Falwell, Sr. had a penchant for political involvement, eventually casting his lot with the Republican Party after having been one of the key players in creating the “Christian Right.” Partisan politics would permeate everything about Falwell’s ministry including Liberty University. He wanted to play the role of kingmaker within the GOP, only to be unwittingly played by the Republicans themselves.
The University became a necessary stop for any Republican candidate wishing to get the endorsement of the Christian Right. Certainly this might sound like an ideal situation for any Christian institution wishing to influence the culture, but eventually the exact opposite begins to happen. An institution like Liberty will learn to love the attention given by politicians and other powerful men. The leadership begins to lust after it, make compromises in order to get it, and actually subverts their own original mission in the process. Being salt and light in the world is no longer the goal. Instead, they go a whoring after the false gods of this world in their various forms.
A case in point is Jerry Falwell, Jr. who took over Liberty after his father’s death in 2007. Almost from the beginning of his tenure, he made it pretty clear that continuing to play the political game would be a staple of the school’s mission and part of his own personal ambitions as well. During the days of the Tea Party movement, he maintained a cozy relationship with Mormon talk show host Glenn Beck. When Donald Trump was running for president, Falwell, Jr. rode those coattails as much as he could. He happily endorsed a man for president whose personal ethics were on par with former President Bill Clinton. I’m old enough to remember when Falwell, Sr. blasted Clinton for his sexual sins.
Yet the compromises and the whoring didn’t end there. Enter Virginia Congressman Denver Riggleman. Over the summer, this first-term member of the U.S. House sparked outrage in many quarters when he presided over a fake same-sex “wedding.” A sitting member of Congress giving an official blessing to an act of sodomy was apparently a bridge too far for many in the conservative 5th District. They rightly objected to this abomination and caused something of a stir within certain GOP county committees. Apparently there was enough of a backlash because Falwell, Jr. decided to break his silence by writing an official letter endorsing Riggleman:
This is where decades of compromise and mission creep get you. The motivations are pretty simple: a lust for power and filthy lucre. Falwell is not unique in that way, but his sordid tale reveals much. Sacrifices will be made on behalf of the one whom you worship, whoever or whatever that may be. This is what our Lord Jesus was getting at when He said that a man cannot serve two masters. This most recent episode reveals just how much Falwell and the other leaders of Liberty University are willing to go in order to keep Republicans in power. When it came down to a choice between God’s law and Riggleman, the leadership of Liberty chose the latter.
In whoring after the gods of worldly approval, wealth, and influence, these so-called Christian institutions become the canary-in-the-coalmine for the massive apostasy we are seeing before our eyes. Let the faithful among us come out from among them.