Moral Rot at Liberty University

David French is a conservative writer and a “theologically conservative traditional Christian,” Wikipedia says. But he’s also been known to think about things, which must be disorienting for him sometimes.

In The Moral Collapse of America’s Largest Christian University, French appears genuinely to be surprised at the moral rot at Liberty University. He begins by citing a report at Pro Publica documenting that women students were discouraged from reporting rape. Rape victims, in fact, were threatened with punishment for violating the university’s moral code if they reported being raped.

One young woman went to the school’s designated office for investigating sexual harassment and violence with all kinds of evidence — a hospital report, photographs of her injuries, emails from friends discussing what they saw. Liberty took all this material and lost most of it (the photos were “too explicit” to be kept in a file, as were some of the witness statements). At the hearing, all Liberty cared about was grilling the young woman on how much she’d had to drink before the incident. The investigation couldn’t continue until she had signed a form acknowledging she had violated the school’s code of conduct. And then the school exonerated the rapist. Some of the students who testified on behalf of the woman said that their testimony was misquoted in the final report. See also ‘Weaponization of the Liberty Way:’ LU punishes women reporting sex assaults, lawsuit says.

David French may have been surprised at this. I am not. This is what happens — what has always happened — in rigidly patriarchal institutions, religious and nonreligious.

As far as religion is concerned, one of the most common traits found in very conservative religious institutions, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or anything else, is the subjugation of women. In particular, women are seen as “unclean” and impure by nature, so if they are violated it is their own fault. Liberty University may not condone stoning rape victims as “fornicators,” but the difference between Liberty and extremist Muslims is one of degree, not kind.

In the political realm, you might have noticed that right-wingers are opposed to rape, in theory. But when confronted by an actual flesh-and-blood rape victim bringing accusations against an actual flesh-and-blood man — well, a white man — somehow the woman is never convincing. She’s probably filing a false complaint. What was she doing in a bar, anyway? What was she wearing? Is this worth destroying a man’s life? You know the drill. And while the Liberty student might have been better off if she’d gone straight to police rather than report through university channels, there’s no guarantee the local LEOs wouldn’t have been just as sexist as the university.

David French points out that while Liberty’s women students were being blamed for being raped, “their own school president was an open and notorious drunk. His wife was accused of affairs with younger men, and one of those men claimed that Falwell liked to watch.” Yes, Jerry Falwell, Jr., never met a corruption he didn’t like. He was so thoroughly debauched the university had to cut him lose to save itself.

David French, bless his heart, wants you to know that Jesus doesn’t approve of Falwell’s, and Liberty’s, behavior. He also has a pretty candid analysis of Christian influence in U.S. history.

Historically, one could arguably locate the apex of Protestant power in the United States as somewhere around the time of Prohibition. After all, Christians were powerful enough to pass a constitutional amendment banning alcohol, all as part of an effort to improve public morals and public health.

Yet what was the state of American righteousness at that time of apex Christian power? Lynch mobs roamed the South. The entire region was an oppressive nation-within-a-nation, largely cut off from the rule of law. Anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments proliferated across the United States. Not even religious liberty was safe when Christians ruled.

And what about the present? Its largest institutions reel from scandal. A great mass of its members have succumbed to conspiracy theories. Its “religious” anti-vaxxism is claiming lives by the thousands.

He doesn’t mention Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. But it’s safe to say the influrence of Christianity has been a very mixed bag.

Religious institutions often prioritize protecting the institution over practicing the religion. We’ve seen that recently in the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, both found to have covered up sexual predation and to protect the clergy-predators rather than deal with the problem. In patriarchal cultures, it’s second nature for the menfolk in any organization to close ranks and protect other men who are predators, especially if the predator is the boss. A high-ranking church official who also has political connections and influence is practically untouchable.

I don’t see this as a religion problem as much as a problem of human cultures and institutions.

“Success often becomes its own suit of armor,” French writes, “degrading character requirements in leaders until the sin and abuse become too overwhelming to ignore. Then everyone wonders (once again), ‘How did this go on so long?'”

None of this is new. I have a hard time understanding people being shocked by it.

In other dirtbag news: The New York State Assembly has issued a report saying that Andrew Cuomo’s conduct while in office was “extremely disturbing.” And I doubt there isn’t anything in that report that most of the assembly members haven’t known for a long time.

6 thoughts on “Moral Rot at Liberty University

  1. Watching American "Christians" in action from day to day reinforces on a daily basis my youthful decision to be an Agnostic (who borders on being an Atheist 😉  )

    French couldn't see what was going on because his lifestyle depended on him not looking.  It's as simple as that.

    Now, I'm being kind to French here, because I'm presuming he didn't know; and not that he did and chose to look away.  In other words, he looked, but did not see.  And he did not tell. 

    As for Liberty U, if I went there – ostensensibly for a Christian education – I'd sue the school and Fallwell Jr until they didn’t have a cent between the two of them.

    As for Fallwell Jr, I'd say you weren't aptly named.  You "fell" 'fast,' not 'well.'

    Butchya seemed like you had one HELL of a good time!!!!!

    Might be hell to pay.

    Hell, to pay…

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  2. I kinda wonder about the intellectual standards of Liberty U once I heard that they bestowed an honorary doctorate degree on Madison Cawthorn. I realize that it's all just political fluff but, Madison Cawthorn? He's like one step above a drooling moron.

    And Becki Falwell has checked out more baskets that the Easter Bunny.

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  3. I am sipping on tea as I write this, Tea is the most consumed beverage on earth so I hear, but it is not so popular in the United States.  We are the odd ducks in many more ways than that.  Our football is not the word normal in football.  So too is the State's obsession with sex and strange religions.  To those with even a bit of an international perspective this national preference/perversion has been a slam dunk oddity for quite some time.  Liberty U. seems to occupy the meta world intersection of sexual obsession and strange religion.  Since the meta world has many dimensions let us just say it also intersects with weirdo republican way. As most of its students are virtual, we can only guess how twisted the sex lives of their avatars may be. You may need fog resistant goggles to get there.

    For sure the sex lives of the students on Campus, by this report, has institutionalized exploitation and Barbaric components.  You get your cave man religion, your cave man's higher education, your cave man sex life, and a code of conduct that is just one of many facades.  With luck you can graduate with not too many life-long emotional scars and some really distorted notions.  You may even leave with great confidence that humans and dinosaurs coexisted at one time on this planet. You can be sure of one thing as a graduate, you won't be world ready for anything but a tiny twisted part of this planet.  Let the buyer beware,  

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  4. "(T)he influence of Christianity has been a very mixed bag."

    Absolutely.  I encountered some meaty excerpts from speeches from the leaders of the Confederacy, in reading Shelby Foote's "narrative."  The oratory was lofty and colorful, seizing on "freedom" and "morality."   There was something akin to MLK's use of language, but, turned about 180 degrees, defending their God-given right to hold people as property.  I hadn't really thought such a thing was possible, but the evidence was inescapable.  The mixed bag has come about in part because some subscribed to a belief that gave them privilege and forgiveness for unimaginable cruelty, and some found the belief a way to survive centuries of torment.  Today the two branches of Christianity don't keep much company.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." 

    In trying to learn French, I looked up the original, which is from a conversation between a hen and a capon.  (The title is similar in French.)  The original concerns people who had the power and the right to dictate what you should believe, basically, the King and the clergy.  All the while,  the morality and the powers of mind that, presumably, your "Creator" gave you, would allow you to see through the dictates, to reality.

    So, the original is more like, "Those who have the right to make you absurd, can also make you unjuste."  This raises the question of what he means by "absurd."  I'm stretching a bit, but, I think he might accept that being "absurd" is knowing one thing and believing another.   I think this can apply to a lot of present day "Christians."

    I hope i didn't go on too long.

  5. The inscription at the Jefferson Monument from a letter from TJ to Dr. Benjaman Rush says, "For I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the  mind of man." The quote takes on a whole new meaning in context because in that part of the letter, TJ was discussing the lies and machinations of some leaders of the church to oppose Jefferson for the purpose of attaining political power.

    More than any other modern institution I can think of, Liberty Union is the monument of the modern church trying to overcome the separation of church and state. The alliance is a two-way street – amoral leaders want the mantle of legitimacy which a church endorsement can bring. This is a VERY old schtick – it was SOP in Europe when the US broke away from England and redefined the authority which legitimizes government as a pact between the people (and their individually chosen religions) and government formed BY the people vs the old-school pact between the king and God (endorsed by the state religion) over the peasants who would have no say in policies. 

    Regarding rape and Christianity – the Old Relgion of Europe which predates Christianity was not political and was based on the cycles which the feudal pre-science people observed in nature, built around fertility and bounty in harvest.  Who knows the degree which modern Wicca actually resembles the pagan practices of 2000 years ago but they say it was based on balance – women had power in the church and covens. To the degree that soldiers followed a "witch" the leader of a powerful coven, a woman known as Joan of Arc. (This scared the defecation out of church leaders who realized the peasants were actually practicing paganism in secret and the pagan leadership actually had the power to topple the Christian political structure (but did not because the Old Religion was never political.)

    I'm not sure if the loathing of strong women is a reflexive fear based on the recognition in the Christian (male) leadership that they could be overthrown by a preistess in the pagan religion.

  6. Can anyone explain why on Earth the investigation and absolution of crimes (especially sex crimes, apparently) is left to college functionaries if the crime happens to take place on campus (or between 2 or more students, even if off campus)? What weird power do colleges have over/above police and sheriffs and DA's?

    If I was a college crime victim the last people I'd report it to would be college administrators…

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