LYNCHBURG, Va. — Liberty University alumni and others are expressing their disappointment and “embarrassment” after the president of what heralds itself as the world’s largest Christian university formerly endorsed the thrice-married, unbridled-tongued, professing evangelical Republican candidate Donald Trump for president on Tuesday.
“I am proud to offer my endorsement of Donald J. Trump for president of the United States,” Jerry Falwell, Jr. said in a statement released by the Trump campaign. “He is a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again.”
“Great honor – Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University, one of the most respected religious leaders in our nation, has just endorsed me!” Trump soon Tweeted.
As previously reported, during Trump’s visit to the educational institution last Monday, Falwell spent ten minutes providing an introduction for the presidential nominee, painting a picture of a man whose life has been marked by good deeds.
“As our friendship has grown, so has my admiration for Mr. Trump,” Falwell stated.
He quoted Scripture in suggesting that Trump’s life comports with Christianity.
“Matthew 7:16 tells us that ‘By your fruits you shall know them.’ Donald Trump’s life has borne fruit,” Falwell said. “Fruit that has provided jobs to multitudes of people, in addition to the many he has helped with his generosity.”
“In my opinion, Mr. Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment,” he declared.
Falwell made similar comments to Fox talk show host Sean Hannity that same day.
“He may not be a theological expert and he might say two Corinthians instead of second Corinthians, but when you look at the fruits of his life and all the people he’s provided jobs, I think that’s the true test of somebody’s Christianity not whether or not they use the right theological terms,” he contended.
Following Falwell’s glowing remarks about Trump, some Christian leaders expressed sadness over his words.
“I cannot tell you how sad I am about the actions of Jerry Falwell, Jr. in his introduction of Donald Trump at Liberty University on Monday morning,” wrote Michael Farris, chancellor of Patrick Henry College and founder of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. “Not only did he compare Trump to his own father, he had the audacity to compare Trump to Jesus.”
“Giving Trump an honorary doctorate in the past was unwise, but comparing him to Jesus was as close to heresy as I ever wish to witness,” he continued. “Shame on you, Jerry Falwell, Junior for elevating success in business over the principles of right and wrong that flow from giving priority to the word of God over the priority of a balance sheet. I am deeply saddened.”
After Falwell made his official endorsement today, some likewise expressed their disappointment and embarrassment.
“I am grateful for my four years at Liberty and had a great experience there, but I am actually pretty embarrassed right now about it,” 2003 graduate Dean Inserra, who leads, City Church in Tallahassee, Florida told the Christian Post. “I think evangelicals at times, can be a cheap political date. I think that this is an example of that.”
“I don’t think a populous nationalism should be the way of a Christian. I don’t think that Christians should love America less, but people should love Jesus more,” he said. “I think Jerry Falwell, Jr. is being blinded by might and a lust that all that Trump has to offer in terms of the power to make America great again. … I believe that his father would be disappointed in that kind of soul selling for the sake of might.”
Mandi Ancalle, who works for Family Research Council, whose president, Tony Perkins, helped feed Trump with talking points for his speech at Liberty, expressed disappointment as well.
“The fact he said Donald Trump reflects the fruit of the spirit, I find that very concerning as a Christian. I wonder if that means Jerry Falwell Jr. lacks concern that Donald Trump has indicated that he is very prideful and has indicated that he doesn’t seek forgiveness in the Lord,” she told the outlet.
“He’s indicated a number of things that should make any Christian, any believer question whether Donald Trump actually understands the gospel. To have the fruits of the spirit, you have to be a believer,” Ancalle continued. “Just the statement makes me question whether Jerry Falwell Jr. is using his discernment.”