THE FALL OF FALWELL

Faith
the difference between a cult and a religious leader: in religion one’s savior died for him, in a cult one dies for his savior

I had a friend who was a Pentecostal preacher. Tall, handsome, sincere, and kind. The church he pastored was extremely strict. No drinking, no dancing, no public displays of affection, and no divorce. He and his wife had four children. She had a mental breakdown. Her behavior became increasingly erratic. She was mean, violent, prone to sudden outbreaks of vitriol, and serial sexual encounters.

Her husband tried his best. They went to counseling. She was hospitalized. Nothing worked. He finally feared for the safety and well-being of their young children and filed for divorce. He was fired and excommunicated–instantly. Harsh, wouldn’t you say?

Then there is the story of the Bakers, Jim and Tammy Faye, she of the made up face. Their problem was they were thieves, con-artists. Like Klan leaders, they held the loyalty of their followers and stole them blind.

Clown Sketch
with power some make the holy into the profane

Now we come to Jr. I neednot sully the print with his escapades. Forget the stories about sex, in my friend’s church just the picture of him, arm around a bare-midrifed young woman in shorts with open fly, as was his would have spelled the administrative guillotine. In my friend’s church there would be no excuses, no negotiating, no blaming the fall on others. Out! Like the Yom Kippur goat that carried the sins of the Israelite’s that was driven out into the desert to die, so would have gone Falwell.

There are many stories like this. Why? Some would say it’s the burden. The burning need to bring their Savior’s message to large flocks made up of many who stray. If they could talk, no herd dog would tell you it’s easy constantly chasing strays from the flock, even if for their own good.

Some say it’s the added burden of administering what they’ve built. Few in the clergy are taught anything about administration. After all, Liberty University is the largest Evangelical University in the world! Some make mistakes. Some, seeing the wealth tending the mission fields can bring in and struggling to keep up financially on often meager pay, realize that loose administration opens to a promise of another kind. The response? “The devil made me do it.”

Devil At Home
temptation looks better from above than down below

I see it another way, and way that ties these stories together. There’s an old phrase in political science that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. How many people, men and women, of wealth enough to last for generations go to jail for financial corruption? It seems there’s a story every day. When it comes to money, gemstones, trophy wives, there is no such thing as “enough.” It isn’t the money, the money is a byplay of the power that begets it.

There was a most powerful politician in the ’60’s. He was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He held the purse strings of the nation. His name was Wilbur Mills and he was one of the ugliest men imaginable. Yet his career ended when he was found drunk splashing around in the Mall’s Reflection Pool with shall we say a dramatic looking stripper. Why? Because he could.

This brings us to a fairly thin book by one Harold Lasswell. It is called the “Psychopathology and Politics” and followed by a book whose title became a working definition of politics: “Who Gets What Why and When and How.” They tie these strings into a bow.

First know that this was no ordinary guy. On his death another great in his field memorialized Lasswell as ranking “among the half dozen creative innovators in the social sciences in the twentieth century…the most original and productive politicial scientist of his time.” Go argue with that.

Here is the simple of it. Study the background behavoirs of someone, the personality disorders they produce, obvious and not, add power and there you have an outline for figuring out why the social and political forces in an environment are who they are. The key frameworks of the power construct are the Benevolent Dictator, the Demagogue, the Prince (Machevivelli), and the Despot.

The Face Of Trajan
absolute power….

Putting it all together we see that the fall of Jerry Falwell, Jr. likely has to do with subjugation under his father, trying to live up to the reputation of his father, the leakage of the non-Falwellian offerings of he world when compared with the strictures that bound his, and the lack of character to ward off the temptation that came with power. Different people react differently to dysfunctions but most who exercise power in dysfunctional ways fall into the above categories. Mr. Fallwell had some extraordinary gifts. For reasons beyond the scope of this piece, all we could say is that they didn’t bring him satisfaction. We can say this. The likelihood is that if he and his Mrs. has been in therapy over the long-term they’d still be at Liberty.

To close, would that Harold Lasswell could come back and have a look around. at the politics of today. He’d smile, or maybe frown and mutter, “Still right after all these years.”–at least from my perspective.

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Disclaimer: Bill is having vision problems so the proof reading might leave something to be desired. Sorry. This article proves that there is more to write about than Covid and elections. Lord willin’ and the crik don’t rise (here as it just did on those poor folks in Louisiana), Bill will be right back here next week. And remember: VOTE: it’s good for all of us.

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