One of the most landmark First Amendment cases took place in the 1980s when Jerry Falwell sued Hustler and publisher Larry Flynt over a fake Campari ad in which he talked about his first time having sex with his mother in an outhouse. It was so absurd that no one could believe it as a real ad. But Falwell took some offense and sued. The probem was that Falwell, as the leader of the Moral Majority, and a TV personality, was ripe for public scrutiny.
Falwell spend years pushing people around that when they pushed back he couldn’t take it. He went after the LGBTQIA community calling HIV/AIDS a plaque from God. He even went as far as saying the Teletubbies were promoting it. He went after Disney movies. If there was anything he didn’t like, he went after it with a vendetta preaching hatred and intolerance that when he died in 2007, so many people were rejoicing that he was no longer around. Can you just imagine what Falwell would’ve done with the election of President Barack Obama?
Unfortunately, Falwell had a son who he had been primed to carry on his legacy. But it was just name recognition only. Yet, it was enough to get millions of people riled up that when Jerry Falwell, Jr. endorsed Donald Trump for President, it probably gave him the credibility he needed. Otherwise, we would’ve had Hillary Clinton for President. Trump and the Moral Majority go together like peanut butter and jelly. The Moral Majority was really started to keep school segregated after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. But after much trial and error with certain topics, they were able to find abortion as their leading cause to build their fanbase and help elect Ronald Reagan to the White House.
God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty, is an exploration of Falwell, Jr.’s alleged sexual indiscretions. Told mostly from the point of view of Giancarlo Granda, who at the time was a young 20-something pool boy at a luxurious Miami area hotel, would find himself in a sexual relationship with Falwell and his wife, Becki. Neither Jerry Jr. and Becki are interviewed so we have to take everything Granda says with a grain of salt. Luckily Billy Corben as the director manages to interview a lot of other people, including Tom Arnold, who connect the dots that it’s possible that Jerry and Becki intended Granda to be involved in their relationship where Jerry is the cuckold husband and Becki enjoys the sexual desires of a younger man.
And of course, the relationship with the young pool boy goes from Miami to New York City where Trump gets involved. People have accused Trump of digging up dirt on people only to use that against them when he needs it. Did Trump know about the relationships between Granda and the Falwell? Why would Falwell, as he was over the strict Christian-based Liberty University, endorse Trump?
Almost everyone thought Jeb Bush was going to be the one in the Republican Party, Trump is not a religious person. If he’s at church, it’s to make himself look good. Even that photo op at the church across from the White House was so poorly done, how can anyone assume someone holding a Bible upside down is a God-fearing Christian? It was total hypocrisy right before our very eyes and people didn’t buy it.
That is why Trump and the Falwells are such strange bedfellows (who knows if I’m not using that term literally) they’re basically telling people they’re full of shit and conning them to tell them what they want to hear. But the foolishness of the Religious Right that Falwell Sr. has made doesn’t allow them to question it. In many ways, the elder Falwell is to blame for it all. There’s one thing Christian people don’t want to do and that’s look like they’re not Christian enough among fellow Christians. That’s why they’re always swaying their arms up in the air while singing hymns and posting every noxious Biblical scripture they can find on social media.
The elder Falwell was able to tap into that need to be liked by people who don’t like you and you don’t like them but at least you’re sitting at the Cool Kids’ Table. He was able to take something that should be someone’s personal, individual spiritual relationship and enligtenment and drew a line in the sand saying you’re either with us or against us. As Granda even says to Jerry Jr., he thought his father wasn’t not a good person but using some more colorful language. And Jerry Jr. probably knew a good way to hide all his vices. A creepy photo of Jerry Jr. and Becki together when he’s 18 and she is 13 says one thing – grooming.
There’s a reason this TV program dropped on Hulu about a week before the 2022 elections on Tuesday. If it can make change the minds of enough voters to affect a few elections, then so be it. However, since most people it does attack are not interviewed in this documentary, it’s really nothing more than preaching to the choir about stuff we already guessed. Both Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert, who were major religious figures during Falwell Sr.’s time were caught up in sex scandals. (And Bakker’s should’ve been investigated further for sexual assault, but it was a different era.)
But the documentary only skims the service a little bit of the true problem here, and that is the Christian Right is more or less a ceasepool of sexual misconduct and deviants as well as a breeding ground for sexual predators. We see mere snippets of news stories of how young women at Liberty were victims of sexual assaults and then punished. One woman claimed something was put in her drink but they instead punished her for underage drinking or drinking while on campus.
And maybe, just maybe, it could have taken a potshot at how dangerous all Christian colleges and universities are in America. I understand it’s a lot to squeeze into a documentary that runs around 100 minutes. But toward the end, the focus seems to shift on how Falwell Sr. had a goal of turning America in a Christian Nationalist country and with all Republican Presidents since Reagan, we’re seeing more of that. As I said before, this was probably put together as quick as possible to get out before the elections.
But Corben and Hulu are just scratching the service. I would implore them to take this subject further and expose how Liberty and other Christian colleges and universities are giving certain students the benefit of the doubt for really major crimes. Schools like Liberty, Bob Jones University and Oral Roberts University are all controversial with their treatment of women and BIPOC. ORU had a financial scandal I would liked to see someone make a documentary about.
Keep exposing the hypocrisy!
What do you think? Please comment.