Jerry Falwell, Jr. Gives Sex A Bad Name

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I rejoice at Jerry Falwell Junior’s downfall—the way he would at mine.

In case you missed it, the president of ultra-Christian Liberty University gleefully photographed himself cavorting (trousers unzipped, drink in hand) on a yacht with a woman to whom he isn’t married. The school has now placed him on “indefinite leave.”

The only reason to care about this is that Liberty University has a strict code of conduct for students that prohibits non-marital sex and consuming any media with erotic content or nudity. The school wants to improve America by destroying our precious separation between religion and government, and by training women to be submissive wives and breeders.

Falwell is among the most vocal evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump, who is as fully devout as Nero was. Trump isn’t half the hypocrite Falwell is—he sucks on the Christian political teat, grabs its financial crotch, and sells whatever perks he doesn’t steal for himself and his family. Trump doesn’t claim to do differently, claims no ideology, and approaches sex like every other transaction—if you can afford it, you get to have it.

But Falwell is a true believer, committed to creating more true believers (who are urged to run for their local city councils) under the tax-exempt guise of “education.”

And so another Christian leader busted for sexual hypocrisy? Just call it Groundhog Day. Criticizing the never-ending parade of Christian men who want to control everyone’s sexuality while unable to control their own is like shooting fish in a barrel, like bemoaning the humidity in Florida, like complaining that the more you view Facebook, the worse you feel (and continuing to do it anyway). These aren’t creative uses of our time.

What is worth discussing is the way that Falwell, like all hypocrites, tarnishes sex when he falls from public grace. Self-righteous, publicly sex-negative, rigid charlatans give sex one more black eye, making it a tiny bit harder for healthy people to see sexuality as celebratory and life-affirming. And making it harder for people who don’t care much about sex to recognize their common humanity with people who do.

So I’m glad Falwell the toxic national figure has fallen, but I wish he had chosen a different vehicle—say, shoplifting or jay-walking or eating too much crow and then exploding. Dude, when you’re exposed as a fraud—when your “faith” is exposed as a pious cover for selfish greed—it’s fine that you tarnish religion (which encouraged and enabled your lack of ethics). Just don’t give sex a bad name on your way down.

“I’m gonna try to be a good boy from here on out,” Falwell said when confronted with his behavioral disrespect for the hundred thousand would-be virgins over whom he’d presided since 2007. That’s another part of the problem—the idea that our sexuality is a lifelong struggle between our internal “bad boy” and “good boy.”

No, our sexuality is simply one of a million different domains in which we’re all trying to grow up and live ethical, responsible lives. Sex is NOT some special domain where we monitor our snarling libido, “trying to be a good boy (or girl),” while living the rest of our non-sexual life in wholesome morality.

Mythologizing sex as presenting special ethical struggles (“trying to be a good boy”) provides a psychological distance from our sexual decisions. It’s an escape from being honest with ourselves about what we actually want, especially if we privately fear and condemn it.

That’s why people drink so much around sex—they don’t want to face what they actually want, and blame alcohol for the decisions they claim to abhor.

When public figures fall because of unauthorized sex—which of course they hide and then lie about on their way down—people blame sex. Sexual desire. “Perverted” sexual interests, like open marriage, big age gaps between partners, or BDSM.

And when people lie about sex, use sex to hurt people, damage their marriage or kids or careers with poor sexual decision-making, people associate sex with unethical behavior and bad outcomes.

But sex and uncontrollable impulses are not the same. Passion and not caring about hurting others are not the same. Eros and self-destruction are not the same. And that’s one of Falwell’s biggest crimes—making sex dirty. Making it ugly. Making it what hypocrites blame hypocrisy on.

Falwell’s institution is committed to preventing others from doing what he himself wants to do—and apparently does. This isn’t “religion,” this is sick. Clearly, the guy running Liberty “University” has been reading too much about Adam and Eve—the dangers of knowledge and sex—and not enough of the Song of Songs—the redeeming quality of erotic joy and pleasure.

Like father, like son, Junior.
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