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What is Moral Failure?

Posted by admin in August 7th, 2020
Published in obedience

This week Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world, posted a video on his Instagram account of friends and family partying on his yacht. (There’s so much wrong with that sentence). The party’s theme was taken from a most disturbing and depraved reality TV show, The Trailer Park Boys. The video shows Falwell, his wife, kids, and their friends boozing it up, all with cigarettes in their hands, scantly dressed, and one young man holding his crotch while giving the finger to the camera man. It was ghastly. And you have to wonder why on earth did Falwell post that video? Has he no moral compass at all?!?

 

Liberty University, started in the 1970s by pastor and televangelist Jerry Falwell, Sr., was once considered one of the most conservative campuses in the nation with strict regulations on everything from attire to extracurricular activities. Still today the student handbook lists a code of conduct that both students and faculty are required to sign and follow each year.

 

“Every student is asked to respect Liberty’s Statement of Doctrine and Purpose and should avoid any activity, on or off campus, which would contradict the university’s mission or purpose, compromise the testimony or reputation of the university, or disrupt Liberty’s Christian learning environment. All members of the Liberty University community areasked to affirm the following: We, the students, faculty and staff of Liberty University, have a responsibility to uphold the moral and ethical standards of this institution and personally confront those who do not. “

 

Liberty’s moral code prohibits drinking alcohol, use of any tobacco products, and immodest attire. In Jr.’s video, (you can see it here: https://player.vimeo.com/video/444300274 ) every code is broken—and boldly.

 

At a one-million-dollar-a-year salary, Falwell can afford a yacht and multiple homes. And if the Board of Directors approved that salary, then that is between them and God. But, US News and World Report has stated that Liberty University is ranked lowest in Christian universities academically nationwide, has the lowest paid university professors in its ranking, and does not allow tenure. When Falwell, Jr., was asked about faculty members’ low salaries and his excessively high salary, he replied, “Simple rules of business: spend less on outgoing and increase revenue.” Simple rules of business. No thought to the brothers and sisters in Christ who serve the university; no thought to the ranking of the university and how that reflects on Christianity. No thought to the business principles modeled by Falwell to all those students enrolled in their business program.

 

According to figures from 2018, the university reported spending $2,609 on instruction per full-time student, per year, across both traditional and online categories. That is a fraction of what non-profit private Christian universities spend in the United States. For example, Notre Dame’s equivalent figure is $27,400 per student, per year—10 times that of Liberty. It is also behind other hybrid online-traditional nonprofit religious colleges like Ohio Christian University, which spends about $5,000 per student, per year. In 2016, according to an audited financial statement, Liberty University received $749 million in tuition and fees, but spent only $260 million on instruction, academic support, and student services. Is that okay? Is that moral? The university’s motto is to make champions for Christ. Is that being a champion for Christ?

 

Jr. Falwell explains that Liberty University, “…is simply being shrewd about keeping costs down, while plowing revenue back into the university.” Falwell boasts that Liberty’s net assets are now nearing $3 billion for the non-profit entity; that’s up from $150 million in debt in 2007, when he took over as president. $3 billion in profits and assets and yet, the average full-time salary of a full professor at Liberty is less than $40,000 a year. Adjunct professors earn around $11 an hour. Add to that, their online program has the highest complaints of any other institution in the country, and Falwell’s explanation of that is because it’s the biggest. That’s kind of like saying, “I’m fat because I’m fat.” Not really an explanation nor a promise to do better.

 

Falwell can afford the mansions, the yacht, the jet, and make huge investments in Miami nightclubs, and gay-tolerant hostiles. After all, explains Falwell, “They’re just investments.” Falwell believes that if professors wanted to make money, they shouldn’t have gotten into teaching in the first place. Even though without those professors, Liberty University would cease to exist.

 

So, the big question, “Is that immoral?” Is a lavish lifestyle, investing in vice stock, use of alcohol, tobacco, and emulating decadence, (videoing it while on your yacht) – are those immoral choices? I personally think they are. And if you are leading a Christian university with a clear moral code, your conduct should be scrutinized. Leadership is leadership after all, and accountability is important as Falwell stands at the helm of an institution which describes itself as one that equips students to become “champions for Christ.”

 

In fact, their mission statement says, “Encourage a commitment to the Christian life, one of personal integrity, sensitivity to the needs of others, social responsibility and active communication of the Christian faith, and, as it is lived out, a life that leads people to Jesus Christ as the Lord of the universe and their own personal Savior.”

 

If the mission statement says this and the leader doesn’t embody these values, or at least live by them, then that leader has failed. And yes, that is moral failure. Moral defined as doing what is right in light of scripture.

 

Recently I was talking to a good friend about the fall of James MacDonald. He said, “It wasn’t moral failure.” I asked, “Do you mean sexual misconduct?” He nodded yes. Well, no. No one has accused James MacDonald of extramarital affairs. But are there other forms of moral failure? As a leader? As a pastor? As a Bible teacher? And I would say even as president of a Christian University?

 

Paul’s letter to Timothy gives clear instructions as to what a church leader should and shouldn’t do.  “The elder then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money” (I Timothy 3:2).

 

Church board members found MacDonald guilty of out-of-control anger, abuse of church funds for personal profit, inhospitable in that no one could ever disagree with MacDonald and get away with it (firing employees, kicking parents and students out of his school, recorded on a hot mic saying he’d plant child porn on his enemies’ computers, and would spread lies about a reporter having an affair to discredit her). He was seen by dozens of staff members stabbing pictures of his enemies (is that violent?), had a gambling problem that cost him thousands of dollars and consistently refused to disclose spending and receipts for non-church expenditures. This resulted in his church losing its standing with the ECFA.

 

In his “so called” message of repentance he blamed others, used preface phrases like “illegally taped” or “my intense passion was confused for anger” or my favorite, “I got things done and very successfully, but perhaps didn’t take others’ feeling into consideration.” That is not an apology. That is not repentance. He would not follow through with board recommended discipline and is now back in the pulpit with no time off for bad behavior.

 

Add to that MacDonald’s nearly $3 million dollar a year salary and compensation package, you’ve got to wonder how on earth the church was left with $40 million in debt. MacDonald left the church with a debt of $40 million. Did you say that twice? Yes, because I felt it bears repeating.

 

Basically, MacDonald was fired for displaying “inappropriate language, anger, and domineering behavior,” according to the post, signed by nine elders of the church. His firing came amid turmoil in the church, which had taken on a massive debt while expanding across northern Illinois, the Midwest, and into Florida. Adding to the debt, MacDonald charged personal expenses to the church – things like stuffing a bear he killed in Alaska and having it shipped to Chicago, as well as, new Harley Davidson motorcycles every two years—all a part of his pastoral expenses, supposedly.

 

MacDonald’s $1.9 million home (which is now in foreclosure) was abandoned by him and his wife.  MacDonald owes the bank over a million dollars on the home he purchased in 2016 and owes over $20,000 in interest alone. Is that a good witness?

 

Is that considered moral failure? Yes. Sexual sin is not the only sin. In fact, leaders are held to a much higher standard. Why are Christian leaders held to a higher standard? Well, because the Bible say they must be.

 

“…but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” —1 Timothy 4:12

 

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness.” —Titus 2:7

 

James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers my brothers and sisters, for you know that we [who are teachers] will be judged by a higher standard because we have assumed greater accountability and more condemnation if we teach incorrectly.”

 

In February of this year, MacDonald stepped back into the pulpit at his new church and has assumed the role of teaching pastor. His original church fired him in January, 2019.

 

Now MacDonald’s strong support of Mark Driscoll all makes sense.

 

Mark Driscoll (who is back in the pulpit, this time in Arizona) used church money to purchase mass quantities of his book to qualify it for the NYT’s best-seller list. Driscoll, who blamed Ted Haggard’s drug-induced, long-term homosexual affair on Haggard’s wife, “You know who I blame? You know who is really at fault in the Haggard scandal? His wife. She let herself go.” Driscoll used profane language from the pulpit, described his sexual relationship with his wife in a book, and was caught plagiarizing massive portions of his writings from others, without citation or reference. Mark Driscoll, does that count as moral failure? I think it does.

 

The list just keeps on growing and the Body of Christ is paying the price for exalting these celebrity preachers and letting them exploit their positions and get away with moral failure. From Bill Hybels, to John Ortberg, Calvary Chapel’s Bob Coy (25,000-member church in Florida), to Josh Harris who says, “I excommunicated myself.” We have a problem in this nation with celebrity preachers who are given too much power, too much money, too much praise. How did we get here?

 

Pete Evans, an investigator at the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, has been tracking religious fraud for almost 30 years. He recently told The Christian Post that billions have been lost in church fraud annually just in the past ten years due to a lack of transparency and accountability. You’ve got charismatic personalities that are larger than life and they suck followers into their vortex. There is nothing biblical in how they preach, how they spend their money, or how they treat their congregations. I thank God, that even though it is heartbreaking and greatly discouraging, this stuff is being exposed and hidden sins are being revealed. But is that helpful when these guys just move to another church and start it all over again? It’s more than frustrating. It’s well, moral failure.

 

Billions of dollars given by hardworking, God-loving, eager-to-obey Christians to corrupt leaders who spend the money fraudulently – like MacDonald’s houses, Driscoll’s massive book purchases, Haggard’s blackmail payoffs, legal fees, hush money—what good could that money have done if used for the Kingdom? What lives could have been transformed and yes, even saved, had that money been used for good and not for evil?

 

Recently, an African pastor (immigrated from Nigeria) in Michigan asked me, “Why you got to be so negative?” Perhaps it seems like that, but I think his focus is wrong. The question really should be, “Why do celebrity pastors have to be so corrupt?” And moral failure is in simple terms sin—unrepented, unremorseful, requited sin. There’s a difference between being remorseful because you got caught and being remorseful because you broke God’s heart. Two very different things.

 

I think the day of mega churches and celebrity pastors is over, or at least should be. A friend asked me recently, “Are there any church leaders you admire or respect?” Yes. But they serve quietly, honestly, humbly, passionately, without mega church numbers and no best-selling books. They live powerful lives of service, preach the uncompromised Truth of God’s Word, and love their congregations. There are thousands in the land who have not bowed their knee to Baal. And I thank God for each and every one of them. Peace.

7 users Responded In This Post

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54835. Lana said,
August 8th, 2020 at 3:07 pm

Powerful. Calling sin sin. Real shephards exist.
“they serve quietly, honestly, humbly, passionately, without mega church numbers and no best-selling books. They live powerful lives of service, preach the uncompromised Truth of God’s Word, and love their congregations. There are thousands in the land who have not bowed their knee to Baal. And I thank God for each and every one of them.”

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54836. Carol Howell said,
August 8th, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Our Women’s Bible Study has been doing a study of Jude. It has been so amazing to study the warnings Jude gave to those early Jewish Christians and how it is so relevant to many of our situations today.
Thank you for keeping us informed of situations we must be aware of as we continue our Christian walk.

“…In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” Jude 1:18

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54837. April said,
August 8th, 2020 at 5:52 pm

You are sounding like a protestant Zmirak and that’s a good thing! God help us.

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54839. admin said,
August 9th, 2020 at 5:52 am

Thank you. 🙂

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54841. Crystal Rough said,
August 9th, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Thank you for calling it for what it is! The spirit of Babylon has invaded the church.

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54843. steve a said,
August 10th, 2020 at 9:34 am

Proud spirits are manifesting on Instagram and elsewhere. They cant help it. We know from the New Testament that whenever Jesus shows up in your neighborhood the spirits manifest and the religious leaders get jealous. So Jesus must be somewhere close to Lynchburg about now.

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54903. Cheryl said,
August 25th, 2020 at 6:04 am

I am so completely sickened and heartbroken over all of this, especially the Jerry Falwell, Jr. disgrace, for very personal reasons. Oh, dear Lord, we are surely living in the perilous times the Bible warns us about. God has sent forth a wake-up call, and so few are “getting it.” All you hear is how they want to see their multi-thousand seat mega-churches filled with people again, and how they want to get back to “business.” Yes, I said business because that is what so many “churches” have turned into. If it is so sickening to us, it must be completely revolting in the nostrils of our holy God. I don’t know how He continues to have mercy, but I pray He does for the sake of His true saints who are doing their utmost to live a holy life.

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