Jerry Falwell Jr. Is Now the Worst Thing to Happen to God in a While

It usually takes someone like Franklin Graham to make Christianity look like an econo-sized box of derp. But Jerry Falwell Jr. has managed to elbow his way to the front of that dubious line with his gun fetish, telling the students for whom he is theoretically (though not, it appears, practically) responsible that he "just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your [concealed carry gun] permit. We offer a free course. Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here."

One wonders from which version of the Christian Scriptures president Falwell finds justification for his bellicosity. Jesus seems pretty solid on the whole “love-your-neighbor-and-pray-for-those-who-persecute-you” stuff, so I’m not sure how encouraging young Christians to brandish shootin’ irons against imagined threats demonstrates faithfulness to the Bible. I mean, isn’t a strict adherence to the text a sine qua non for fundamentalists? Apparently, fidelity to Scripture is also a pliable and self-serving concept among conservative Christians, once again pointing up the delicious irony raised by their own condemnations of liberal readings of Scripture. But, let’s be honest, Jerry Falwell Jr. is what you get when you let people roam about Scripture without adult supervision.

Even when it comes to self-protection and the protection of others, Jesus isn’t nearly as Ted-Nugenty as president Falwell would have his students believe. Think about Jesus’ arrest as it unfolds in all four Gospels. When it comes time for the authorities to arrest him, at least one of Jesus’ followers picks up a sword (John names Peter in 18:10) and starts hacking away in an attempt to protect Jesus.

And how does Jesus respond in the face of this "reasonable" use of violence in his defense? Does he tell the rest of his friends that it’s time to draw down, so, you know, they could “end” those Romans before they walk in?

No. In the face of the question of whether or not to use violence Jesus chooses to absorb it rather than inflict it. That is to say, in a disappointing lack of good ol’ American gumption, he says, “Put your weapons back in their holsters.”

Alas, Jesus also said something about buying a sword (Luke 22:36)--interestingly enough, he said this just 14 short verses prior to his run-in with the authorities when it would have made the most sense to use those swords, but which he forbade--so we can ignore the rest of that overwhelmingly liberal non-violentiness Jesus evinces throughout the rest of the Gospels. (See how easy that was?)

But not only does Jerry Falwell Jr.’s armed truculence make following Jesus that much more difficult for the rest of us to justify, his race-baiting antagonism against Muslims is also a big obstacle.

Unsatisfied with only inciting general violence at the prospect of the (obviously immanent) guerrilla incursions of Liberty University, president Falwell focuses his hostility by making a ham-fisted reference to “those Muslims” as apparent threats who need to be ended.

Oh, I know. He said he wasn’t speaking about Muslims in general … just the terrorist ones. The problem with that rationalization, however, is that the constituency to which Falwell appeals too often suffers under the delusion that “Muslim” is just a nice way of saying “terrorist.” The irony, of course, is that half-witted Christians feeding the narrative that “all Muslims are terrorists” inadvertently underwrites the common presumption that “all Christians are intolerant bullies.” Lest we forget, Jesus was a young man with questionable religious ties, violently killed in the name of protecting the state against radical revolutionaries.

And all this poor theologizing is why I once again find myself having to point out to the rest of the world already suspicious of Jesus’ followers that Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks for all Christians in the same way that Dwight Schrute speaks for all beet farmers--which is another way of saying that Jerry Falwell Jr. is now the worst thing to happen to God in a while.

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