I graduated from Liberty University. You've either never heard of it, or you know it as "Jerry Falwell's school." It's okay, I'm not offended. I got over that a long time ago.
I decided to go to Liberty on a whim, barely a month before my high school graduation. On the day I moved in I was having serious second thoughts. I thought that I would have to go to chapel every day, that we would only sing hymns, eat fried chicken, talk about conservative politics, and that I would have to wear dress shoes any time I left my dorm.
If you've ever thought this about Liberty let me just clear it up right now: none of that is even a tiny bit true.
I loved my time there. I wore jeans and rainbow flip flops every day. (There are also democrats, FYI.)
Jerry Falwell died at the end of my senior year, two weeks before graduation. I can't help but feel that anyone who goes there now is missing out on an integral part of the LU experience: Jerry running his big SUV up on the sidewalk after students and punching guys in the gut who came up to shake his hand. He was ornery like that.
Dr. Falwell was a controversial guy. He said some things that I don't think were correct. He said some more things that I don't think were wise.
But Mark Driscoll wrote this about Jerry on his blog this week:
He [Jerry's son, Jonathan] told me stories about what an amazing father and man his dad was—including Jerry Falwell’s friendship with pornographer Larry Flynt, whom he evangelized while riding on the Hustler jet. Apparently people are different than sometimes portrayed to be, and I learned a lot that day.
"Apparently people are different than sometimes portrayed to be."
Despite what the press, the media, or even the fundamentalists say, I want to tell you about two times that I absolutely adored Jerry Falwell. You just might like these bits of him, too.
1. One week during my sophomore year, a group of several thousand LGBT protesters came to campus on a Wednesday (the one day of the week Jerry spoke in convocation and it was televised). They wore matching shirts and carried all kinds of signs and banners and stuff. The whole campus was crawling with newcomers. Dr. Falwell knew they were coming ahead of time. The week before they arrived, Jerry got up to speak for convo, and with his deep, booming voice he started,
"As some of you may know, there is a large group of lesbian, gay, bi, and transgendered people coming to campus next week. If I hear so much as a whisper of any of you being anything but welcoming, respectful, and loving - you'll have me to answer to."
2. Halfway through my junior year, 400 students from Nepal enrolled; one beautiful young lady moved in right next door to me. A couple board members were miffed because the students were using Liberty to get an education visa, then transferring out to other schools. Some parents got their panties in a wad because their kids were calling home and telling them about their new Buddhist roommates who moved in and put little Buddha statues and idols all over the room. To address the situation, Jerry got up in convocation again, looked straight into the camera and said,
"I understand there are some folks who don't agree with my decision to admit all these students. But let me tell you something: If 25,000 Christians can't love 400 Buddhists in the name of Jesus, then we need to shut down this university!"
And that was that.
I think it just goes to show that no matter how much you differ with a person in style, opinion, politics, or any of the thousand other things in the world there are to disagree on, if you are a Christian, you have Christ in common. Christ is transcendent. I am a Christian before I'm a woman. Before I'm an American. Before I'm white.
And I loved the Jesus in Jerry.