Following controversy over comments made on Thursday by the Roman Catholic Pontiff known as “Pope Francis” suggesting that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump might not be a Christian, Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of the what heralds itself as the world’s largest Christian university, again went on national television to vouch for the casino-owning, foul-mouthed candidate.
“I’ve seen his generosity to strangers, to his employees, his warm relationship with his children,” he said on CNN’s “Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield.” “I’m convinced he’s a Christian. I believe he has faith in Jesus Christ.”
“I have no doubts that he is a man of faith and he is a Christian,” Falwell also stated on Fox’s “Hannity.”
Francis had been asked by a Reuters reporter on a flight back to Rome from Mexico to comment on Trump, at which time he referenced the candidate’s immigration plans.
“[A] person who only thinks about making walls, wherever it may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” the pontiff said. “This is not the gospel.”
When asked if he would influence Roman Catholics during the election, Francis stated that he did not wish “to get into that,” but repeated his statement with the notation that he wished to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.
“I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that,” Francis said. “We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”
Trump, after learning of the pontiff’s remarks, quickly shot back, calling the suggestion that he is not a Christian “disgraceful.”
“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he said at a campaign rally. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.”
“I’m proud to be a Christian, and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now with our current president,” Trump stated.
By Thursday evening, Trump softened his outrage at the Vatican, stating that he thought Francis’ comments were inflated by the media.
“I don’t think this is a fight,” he stated. “I think he said something much softer than was originally reported by the media.”
“I don’t like fighting with the pope,” Trump outlined, calling the pontiff “a wonderful guy.” “I have a lot of respect for the pope. He has a lot of personality and I think he’s doing a very good job. He has a lot of energy.”
The Vatican also brought clarification to the controversy, with spokesman Frederico Lombardi telling Vatican radio, that the pontiff’s remarks “didn’t intend to be in any way neither a personal attack nor an indication in how to vote.”
Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, also took to national television after the controversy to again affirm Trump as a Christian just as he did last month after inviting the Republican presidential candidate to address students during convocation.
“I’ve gotten to know Mr. Trump very well over the past few years and I’ve seen his acts of generosity to strangers; I’ve seen how well he treats his employees; I’ve seen how close a relationship—how loving it is—[he has] with his children,” Falwell told Fox host Sean Hannity. “And I’ve had conversations with him just within the past few weeks about his faith, and I have no doubts he is a man of faith and he’s a Christian.”
“I think [the controversy] will hurt the pope more than it will hurt Donald Trump,” he also told CNN host Ashleigh Banfield. “I just don’t think people in this country take statements like that seriously. I don’t think they look to religious leaders to tell them who is the best Christian, and if they understand politics, then they’re not choosing a political leader based on who is the best Christian, who says all the right things, who uses evangelical lingo.”
As previously reported, during Trump’s visit to Liberty University last month, 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.
But some have expressed concern about Falwell’s actions.
“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,” wrote Michael Farris, chancellor of Patrick Henry College and founder of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, in a recent post on social media. “I am deeply saddened.”