Falwell U

By JERE REAL  |  August 3, 2006

The “Liberty” in Liberty Baptist is ironic in light of the college’s approach to learning and student life. But LBC is interesting in that it provides a microcosm of a Falwellian society. In his 1980 book, Listen, America!, Falwell wrote, “In Christian schools, education begins with God. The objectives are based on Biblical principles, with God as the center of every subject. The philosophies taught stand as witness to society, as the ultimate goal, not as a reflection of man’s sinful nature. In science the student learns God’s laws for the universe; in history, God’s plan for he ages; and in civics God’s requirement of loyalty and support for the government He has ordained.”

This unquestioning faith seems everywhere at LBC. People on the campus seem to smile a lot and to speak cheerfully. Whether it is the bliss of an inner light or that of ignorance, one cannot say. It’s certain that Falwell himself remains the school’s prime motivational force. One professor agrees that the college’s growth was largely the result of Falwell’s ambition and imagination. He adds that the faculty and staff hope to keep LBC from changing from what it is now.

Falwell wants no breach of his control. In a speech at Raleigh, North Carolina, last year that was taped by William Goodman and James Price, two Virginia ministers and authors of Falwell: An Unauthorized Profile, the chancellor of LBC said, “It’s amazing when you cut the money off. We have a college up there, Liberty Baptist College, and I am the chancellor. . And we have a board of trustees, and because of the accreditation, they don’t allow the chancellor, you know, to be the ultimate dictator. We have a little safety valve. We subsidize it from the Old Time Gospel Hour, of which I am president. Any time they start teaching something we don’t like, we cut the money off. It’s amazing how hat changes philosophy. You know, money can change a multitude of problems when you cut it off. So we don’t have any problems along the line. When we ask that a faculty member be dismissed when he’s teaching something wrong, our president understands that it’s good to do than – because your paycheck may not be coming along next week if you don’t.”

Falwell lives some distance from his college, in a mansion behind a $75,000 concrete security wall. The wall cuts through the neighborhood in a manner reminiscent of Berlin’s. A local newspaper editor dubbed it “the Wall of Jerry-Co.” In a recent interview, novelist William Styron, a native Virginian, pondered how Virginia could have produced both Thomas Jefferson and Jerry Falwell.

Jefferson’s house, Monticello, sits atop a small mountain about 75 miles from Falwell’s house and college. It overlooks Jefferson’s creation, the University of Virginia. There, an inscription on one gate reads: “Enter Here, and Seek Truth Wherever It May Lead.” This concept would not be understood at Liberty Baptist. At Falwell’s LBC, the motto is “Knowledge Aflame,” and it has a very ominous ring.

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