Amanda Marcotte in Salon explains why the news about Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his secret life as a South Beach hipster wanna-be and sex pervert won’t dissuade the Jesus-shouters from sending him money.
On Monday morning, Politico published a major exposé on Jerry Falwell Jr., the religious right’s most influential supporter of Donald Trump and the president of Liberty University, an evangelical institution formed by his father, Southern Baptist minister Jerry Falwell. Writer Brandon Ambrosino paints a damning picture of the younger Falwell as a man unrestrained by his own religion’s teachings on sexual morality or any other kind of Christian ethics.
The laundry list of malfeasance and inappropriate behavior is impressive, “from partying at nightclubs, to graphically discussing his sex life with employees, to electioneering” and “directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains.”
The most titillating story, previously reported by the Miami Herald, concerns the fact that Falwell and his wife, Becki, seem to have have an interesting sex life involving sharing naked photos with other men — men who, likely not coincidentally, enjoy healthy levels of financial assistance from the Falwells and Liberty University. For instance, Politico reports that Falwell sent pictures of his wife in “a French maid costume” to their personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite. They also used Liberty funds to set Crosswhite up as the owner of a lucrative gym.
There’s a lot more of this sort of thing, making it quite clear that Falwell is a first-rate hypocrite who poorly hides a love of power, luxury and sexual freedom behind a facade of Christian piety.
But it’s foolish to imagine that any of this will affect Falwell’s political power or standing with the larger white evangelical community. The pretense that the religious right was motivated by faith and morality was dropped — or should have been — when white evangelicals flocked to vote for Trump in greater numbers than they did for George W. Bush, who if he was convincing about little else, was convincingly a man of faith.
Here’s the thing: The real purpose of the Christian conservative movement is to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy, full stop. As long as Falwell Jr. keeps that up — as his father did before him — his flock will stick with him just as they’ve stuck with Trump, a thrice-married chronic adulterer who has bragged about sexual assault on tape.
So calling out the Falwells for being flaming hypocrites and wondering why the so-called Christian evangelicals don’t turn on him is a waste of energy. They’re just doing what they were hired to do, just as the late Jerry Falwell, Sr. did: maintain the white man’s death grip on power by whatever means necessary, and if it meant selling out their faith and their followers to do it, so what? They never cared about them in the first place as long as the money kept coming in.