I just read a statement from “Liberty United Against Trump”, a group of Liberty University students that object to the connection made between their school and Donald Trump by the university president, Jerry Fallwell Junior. What might not be surprising is that, as devout Christians, this group of students object to being associated with a man who represents a set of values that opposes theirs.
Recently, on CNN, the Reverend Falwell was interviewed regarding his unshakable support of Trump as a presidential candidate. When the conversation turned towards the Access Hollywood video of Donald Trump discussing privileged sexual assault, he repeated that “we are not voting for a pastor, we are voting for a president”. The point being that we can ignore disgusting immoral behavior because a president only deals with “practical” issues.
I take issue with this claim. It’s been too long since we took a good look at the Constitution in terms of our political system, demonstrated by the success of Donald Trump. The foundation of our nation is in this famous bit of text:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Right there it becomes clear that the founding fathers felt that the health and morality of our country was based on rights given to us by our creator, that the essence of the United States IS an issue of morality towards individuals, not only the ability to be a competent bean counter or an administrator as Fallwell suggests. Surprisingly, being a president, as Jerry Fallwell sees it, isn’t simply an outgrowth of the morality expected of us by God but someone who has the basic ability to deal with the practical issues. I will suggest that part of the presidential bag of tricks includes acting as steward of the United States and providing a moral compass suggested and informed by the constitution. The fact that Fallwell, the scion of a religious dynasty, would separate the basis of having a free nation like ours from religious and moral considerations is disturbing and shows what the effects of celebrity and power can have even on people who are supposed to be spiritual guides. It seems clear that Falwell has either fallen victim to the cult of power that is based on the thrill of being associated with powerful men and women or he is more concerned about issues such as immigration and the dominance of conservative values than a basic morality in our nation.
For years, talking heads on both sides of the aisle have discussed “values” and “passion” when talking about the two party system. And what are these values? Are they based on anger and the resolution of that anger? Are they based on racism, developing a strutting “player” male persona, “counter punching”? I will suggest that the “values” suggested by the constitution involve a consistent, unstoppable, effort to keep the moral bar high, always being aware of the effects of any policy or decision on even the smallest groups in our nation. This is in opposition to the fascist exercise of royal power that brought about the American revolution in the first place. The suggestion that we can ignore these moral imperatives is disturbing and highly un-American and, in my opinion, the opposite of our religious values.
Let’s say that we don’t need a “pastor” per se, but we need a Chaplain. A Chaplain serves the faith needs of a number of groups as a religious steward. The fact that an army Chaplain deals with more than one religion makes clear that we are a nation of religious freedom and the needs of many religions are part of our national fabric. This “national chaplain” has, in the past, dealt with such things as racism. Any student of history know that George Wallace attempted to block two black students from entering the University of Tuscaloosa in 1963. President Kennedy sent 100 troops to help the local federal employees in bringing justice to two black students whose rights were and still are equal education opportunities.
This was not a practical administrative issue. It would have been easy for a career politician ignore the issue and let it play itself out. But Kennedy was no career politician; he was, among other things, a responsible steward of the republic and he was not going to let our moral values slip based on the actions of a counter part of the jack booted British generals in the American revolution.
Dealing with faith and faith-based values is a slippery slope in a nation that is based, in part, on separation of church and state. Yet we continue to make the effort to implement the morality suggested in the Declaration of Independence; the founding fathers handed us a tough job that requires good judgement and an excellent moral compass. We’ve come to many crossroads in our national history where these values have seemed like they would go the way of the dodo. And yet, somehow, we manage to dig our nails into the dirt and hold on.
I can only hope that the outrage of the “Liberty United Against Trump” will result in an epiphany for Jerry Fallwell Jr.; young people often have a lot to teach older ones. While I’m sure that Donald Trump serves Reverend Fallwell’s political aspirations, it seems impossible that Jerry Fallwell could not be deeply offended by Donald Trump the man. It makes me wonder what his priorities are in terms of his faith.