An Open Letter to the Students of Liberty University

Liberty University is embroiled in a scandal that deals with allegations of Jerry Falwell Jr enriching himself at the expense of the university.  This is an open letter to the  students of Liberty challenging them on the situation. Liberty students should be able to do the right thing and call for an independent investigation of Liberty’s finances. This isn’t about conservative politics or persecution, but about ethics and allegations of financial wrongdoing. 

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

Peter Drucker

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:7 NIV

Jerry Falwell Jr.

Dear Liberty students, 

I need to write you a letter and communicate my thoughts to you about a topic that I think is important. This letter may be challenging for you to read, but I have the best of intentions in writing this note. Many of you by now are aware of the allegations in a Politico magazine article. You can read about it and some analysis in the following post called, “An Explosive Politico Article Raises Questions About Financial and Other Misconduct at Liberty University. In Response Jerry Falwell Jr Attacks and Claims There is a Coup Against Him.”  Some of the most troubling aspects deal with Jerry Falwell Jr personally enriching himself at the expense of Liberty University. Also mentioned is how Falwell allegedly directed business to friends or family. The university is alleged to have compromised its 501(c)(3) All of these allegations should be of deep concern to each and every one who calls Liberty home. They should also be the concern of those who are alumni as well. 

Many evangelicals its becoming clear to me have a warped definition of sin. If I were at Liberty and school rules subjected me to rules about drinking, dancing, and more, I would follow them. And if I saw pictures of my school leader violating those rules in a Miami nightclub I would be angry. Jerry Falwell Jr is not setting an example. He believes that he is above the rules that are subjected to you each and every student. How is that fair? How is that leadership? And also how is that a representation of faith? Could it not be said that your school leader is tempting you and leading you to “stumble.” (I am trying to put this in evangelical Christian language. If you are caught drinking or dancing do you think Liberty will show you mercy or grace? No you won’t be.

But there is another aspect that needs to change. Financial misconduct needs to be regarded as a sin. It needs to be considered to be malfeasance in a worst way possible. In allegedly violating financial rules for non-profits and more Jerry Falwell Jr is putting your school at risk. If I were at Liberty I would be deeply troubled to know that is happening. After all it begs the question does Liberty University exist to glorify God? Or does it exist to glorify Jerry Falwell Jr? Right now the answer to that question appears to be the later. That should trouble you deeply because your school is taking a hit. Your faith is also taking a hit in the process when you think about it. Its not above approach due to shady ethics violations. And again its almost guaranteed if an employee at Liberty misused funds that person would be fired and the university would find ways to recover the lost money. The hypocrisy in these situation is quite alarming when you stop and consider it.

There is another situation that needs to be raised also. Let me preface this by saying that I am not opposed to conservative belief or politics. But currently Liberty is going off the rails and in the process its redefining what it means to be an evangelical Christian. I was long under the impression that evangelical Christianity was about the incarnation of the Lord, redeeming the world from sin, and seeking the lost in the process. The greatest commandment is to love your God and then your neighbor with your heart, soul and mind. You are to love those who persecute you and pray for them in the process. Now when I see what is happening at Liberty much of that is in doubt. With the issue of Christian nationalism the following question must be asked. Was Jesus whipped, tried, forced to carry his cross and suffered an excruciating death…all for a Supreme Court seat? Or control of the government? Right now when I read and follow Jerry Falwell Jr’s behavior that is the take away for me. Jesus didn’t come to save the lost. He didn’t come for the sinner. He came for the Supreme Court and to save it in the process. That is not what Christianity is about.  But to those outside the bubble that is what is being communicated to the world.

The time to speak up Liberty students is now. Staying silent is only enabling the problem. Its time to raise your voice and go to bat for your university. What Liberty needs is a full and independent accounting by an outsider who has no connections to the school. This isn’t about conservative politics this is about ethics and following the law. After all didn’t Jesus say to render unto Caesar? What will you do when Caesar is contested? And the law is spurn? Elizabeth Brooks and those who protested and are wanting to bring in an outside investigator are courageous. Her love of Liberty shows and it comes through well. Sometimes you are faced with situations in your life in which you will learn much about life. There will also be times when you will be tempted to stay quiet or stay in the background. Now is not one of those days. For those of you who have studied and read Dietrich Bonhoeffer you know what needs to be done. Jerry Falwell Jr needs to be challenged and you need to rise to the occasion. For all the talk about being a man, now is the time for men to stand up and say enough.

I hope this note will give you something to think about.

Very Respectfully,

David Bonner