Most of us were taught in Sunday school to admit our mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
As Christians we know that forgiveness is to be given freely. We also know that asking for forgiveness is only a part of seeking redemption. We must admit our mistakes and change our ways.
However, not all who profess to be Christian leaders want to accept responsibility for their actions.
Liberty University is one of the most influential evangelical institutions in the country. It is a private Christian university in Virginia. It was founded by Jerry Falwell, Sr. and Elmer Towns in in 1971.
When Falwell died in 2007, his son Jerry Falwell, Jr. assumed leadership at the university.
According to their website, students at Liberty can get a world-class education with a solid Christian foundation. They say the school is committed to ‘Training Champions for Christ.’
Part of their mission statement claims they encourage a commitment to Christian life, one of personal integrity, social responsibility and communication of the Christian faith.
As the leader of the university, Jerry Falwell, Jr, was the person chosen to lead by example and whose life was supposed to reflect the Christian values adopted by the school.
It appears he might have failed miserably at that task.
Falwell’s behavior at the school has been deemed scandalous by some staff and faculty over the years.
Following the 2015 mass shooting in California, Falwell encouraged students to get conceal weapons’ permits so they could “end those Muslims before they walk in.”
When President Trump’s personal attorney said he helped Falwell destroy racy personal photos, his actions were not punished.
After receiving media attention for his actions, his supporters at the school chose to ignore his behavior as a lapse in judgement and to focus on his strengths instead.
Unfortunately, with all institutions, there comes a breaking point with an employee’s behavior.
In August, Falwell posted and then deleted a photo of himself on a yacht with his arm around the waist of a young women, who was not his wife.
Both of their pants were partially unzipped. In his hand was a glass of dark colored liquid that looks like alcohol. In the caption, he called the drink, “black water.”
The staff and alumni were not impressed, and the executive committee of the school board put Falwell on an indefinite leave of absence.
He whined and moaned in interviews about the unfairness of it all, but the decision remained.
Instead of asking for forgiveness and cleaning up his act, he went on with business as usual.
Just a few weeks after the photo incident, a man who claimed to be Falwell’s pool guy came forward with allegations that he was having an affair with Falwell’s wife and that Falwell himself had participated in the liaisons.
Falwell admitted that his wife had an affair but claimed the accusations about him participating were untrue.
The school board had finally had enough and forced Falwell to resign his position as president of the University. Liberty leaders said his actions were unbecoming of a Christian leader.
Last week, Falwell filed a lawsuit against the university. He claims they “needlessly injured and damaged his reputation.” Falwell claims the school accepted false claims against him without investigating. And just in case that argument did not fly, he also says he was also a victim of anti-Trump forces who are trying to retaliate for his support of the president.
Here is a man who is supposed to be the leader of a Christian school. This is a school whose rules prohibit all romantic contact beyond handholding. All hugs are to be limited to three seconds. Students are fined for using curse words and anyone who gets caught watching an R-rated movie is fined $50 and reprimanded. Anyone who attends a dance is fined $25 and reprimanded.
He should not have to be told that his actions were unacceptable in his role as leader.
Filing a lawsuit does not put him on the road to redemption.
Falwell just became part of a growing list of Christian leaders whose moral failures have damaged the message of their organizations. He joins Jim Bakker, Josh Duggar, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart and a few more who tried to mix celebrity status and religion.
All managed to fall from grace when their crimes and scandals became public. They all had excuses, but little remorse.
The problem with most of them is that they believed their own hype and thought they were infallible. After all, they were celebrities.
As Christian leaders, there should be no conflict between how they live and the messages they teach.
Too many have tried and failed to balance their celebrity status with their religious convictions. Attempting to do so will be futile.
Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.