They’re turning on their own.
As Beth wrote about yesterday, Jonathan Martin, a self-described evangelical Christian pastor and author, was banned from Liberty University for criticizing President Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his connections to Donald Trump and white supremacy.
But there was one aspect of this story I really wanted to highlight.
Martin, who has condemned Falwell’s alignment with “the darkest contours of Trumpism,” Steve Bannon, and “the alt-right he represents,” said he was served with papers by armed police officers and told he’d be arrested if he ever stepped foot on the Liberty campus again.
His criticism seems fairly legitimate from one Christian to another. It shouldn’t be controversial to point out when you feel someone in your own tribe is straying off the path. But the comments were apparently too much for Falwell.
Administrators said they welcomed “peaceful debate” but had to ban Martin because he was trying to hold an “unauthorized event on campus.”
The statement said he did not follow protocols for campus events, that such events require advance notice and authorization and that he was seeking publicity.
Earlier Monday evening, Martin had announced his intention to hold a prayer meeting the next morning on the Liberty campus.
Martin said on Twitter that he “was openly considering some sort of future action oriented around prayer & repentance,” but that he came to this event “only for the show.”
I don’t see how a prayer meeting could be considered worthy of a lifelong ban, but that’s what the university is saying. It seems more likely, as Martin himself says, that this was “in response” to his “strong criticism” of Falwell’s alignment with Trumpism and the alt-right.
The irony here is that the Right has criticized liberal, secular universities for mishandling speakers who hold different opinions from the majority of the student body. Yet here we see a conservative Christian college doing something much worse: banning someone on their own side because he criticizes their politics, even though he only wanted to attend a prayer meeting.
What exactly are they worried about? That the students can’t handle a critical speaker? That the facts make Falwell and his school look bad? That a dissenting voice might gather support?
If you’re in possession of what you believe is the truth, you shouldn’t be worried about what potential critics have to say.
There were a lot of ways Liberty could’ve handled this situation properly. But they chose the worst possible option.
(Screenshot via YouTube)