God Forbid: Why We're Better off Without the Falwell Christian Empire

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> God Forbid: Why We're Better off Without the Falwell Christian Empire

At its height, the Falwell family was a theocratic machine, so influential that their endorsement could make or break a presidential candidate. They'd hoard billions from collection plates, corrupt business practices, and various enterprises and funnel those funds into building a vast Christian empire. They had influence, wealth, and a voice that reached the masses. But they were sloppy and bigoted, and they loved their vice. In the end, all it took to bring them down was a single Miami pool boy with a story to tell. It's all chronicled in the recently released Hulu documentary 'God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty.' 

In 2012, Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife Becki were staying at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel, where 20-year-old Giancarlo (pronounced 'jon-car-low') Granda worked as a pool attendant. He had been flirting with a group of girls when he looked back to see a middle-aged woman filming him with her phone. She reportedly told him, 'Don't bother with the young ones. They don't know what they're doing.'

They struck up a conversation, and he agreed to meet her at another hotel for sex. She said that there was one caveat: Her husband wanted to watch. Her husband just happened to be the son of one of the most popular televangelists in the nation--and also a cuck, who jacked off in a dark corner while Giancarlo had sex with his wife.

Giancarlo Granda, Courtesy of Hulu

Becki wanted to live out her dream of falling in love with a pool boy. She'd text Giancarlo, telling him she loved him, sending him dirty pictures, and reminisce about the day they met. If Giancarlo didn't respond right away, she'd call him crying and accuse him of being insensitive. After a few days without contact, Jerry would call and tell him that they needed to keep Becki happy. 

She did everything she could to rope him in and leverage him. As a cougar seducing a 20-year-old, she had the clear upper hand. She'd tease him ruthlessly, draw things out, and get his attention. They used business dealings to keep him close. They offered to help him purchase a stake in a property in Miami. Whenever Giancarlo would try to leave and find someone his own age, they would hold his stake over his head. They also used videos and pictures of his liaisons, saying that he could date whoever he wanted, but their relationship would come out if he tried to leave Becki. He did in fact date, which meant that he had to either cheat on his girlfriends or risk losing them.

When Giancarlo purchased the property in Miami, he called his friend Jesus 'Tito' Fernandez, who helped broker the deal. When Tito heard about his relationship with the Falwells, he threatened to go public if they didn't pay him a massive sum of money.  Jerry managed to pay him off, but that was just one of the many scandals he'd been handling at the time.

Courtesy of Hulu

Jerry was a serious alcoholic, who was rarely seen without a water bottle filled with tequila. He'd make drunken speeches, take incognito shots during FOX News appearances, and walk around in a belligerent daze. There are many reports of this occurring on the campus of Liberty University, which he inherited from his father.

Liberty has a strict code of conduct, known as the Liberty Way. Students at the university agree to follow a specific set of Christian standards--things like sobriety and complete chastity. If they break that code, they're faced with either a steep fine or expulsion. 

They didn't care so much about Jerry's behavior. Pious men can never get enough of the forbidden fruit, but the institution is required to maintain a facade of respectability, and he was getting dangerously close to crossing the line. In 2020, he posted and then deleted a now-famous photo of himself with his arm around another woman. His pants were unzipped. Her shorts were unzipped, and he was holding a glass of alcohol. In a drunken stupor, he called a radio show the next day and explained that he was at a costume party with a 'Trailer Park Boys' theme. He was supposed to be Julian, a character that walks around with a cup of liquor. He said that his glass was filled with water and food coloring. It was just a prop to go with his costume. People like Jerry operate under the guise of plausible deniability. Believers want to think that he's telling the truth. Otherwise, they would have to question their indoctrinated falsehoods, along with the thousands of dollars they paid to send their kids to a Christian college. But he was slurring to the point where it was difficult to understand him. There was no denying the man was three sheets to the wind. It was just one nail in the coffin for the Falwell empire.

There were multiple scandals already brewing when Jerry posted his absurd yacht party photo. He was constantly under fire for his drunken gaffes. Liberty students formed an organization to have him pushed out, especially in the wake of his endorsement of Donald Trump, which was partially responsible for Trump's primary win. 

Giancarlo was furious. He didn't like Trump or any of the corruption that went on behind the scenes. He saw them for who they were, and he had known for some time that he was in an abusive relationship. Becki was manipulative, childish, and needy. He needed to move on with his life. The Falwells agreed to pay him, let him have the equity from the property they co-owned, and send him on his way. But they had failed to live up to that promise. So Giancarlo went to the press, and Becki was forced to admit that she had an affair. Falwell swore up and down that he had nothing to do with it, and again, people wanted to believe him. 

Then Becki called Giancarlo. She was clearly drunk and fully naked, traipsing around the house, talking about everything they had when they were together. He recorded everything, including the part where Jerry popped his head into the room, beet red and smiling. When the world saw the video, Jerry was forced to resign from the university. He swore up and down that he was just moving on to greener pastures, but nobody was fooled. He had made far too many drunken speeches and bad decisions.

A few days after his resignation, Becki got a call from her husband at 11 PM. Jerry had fallen over. The house door was locked, and she didn't have a key, so she was forced to break in and call 911. She found him on the ground lying in a puddle of blood. Apparently, he had been drinking. He fell down the stairs and hit his head on a nearby trash can. Both of them were belligerent and uncooperative with authorities. Shortly after that,  there were reports that Jerry had been making uncomfortable calls to staff members at the university. They were subsequently barred from speaking to him to avoid the appearance of him running things behind the scenes--something the university's supporters were heavily against. 

His mental state was declining, and he had been slipping into addiction. But that's no reason to feel sorry for the man. He extorted more than ten million dollars when he left. That's along with untold amounts from financial schemes and fraud, which the university is now investigating. God only knows who he bribed or how much of the school's money went to drugs and liquor.

It's About Forgiveness

We could forgive the cuckolding, the open relationship, and the affair with the pool boy. Giancarlo is kind of sexy in his own way. But they lifted themselves up and lorded over thousands of students, enforcing a strict code, which they themselves never followed, and they fined the kids. Force thousands of rich 19-year-old frat boys to pay you every time they take a bong rip or have sex, and you're going to make a fortune. They also railed against homosexuals, democrats, socialists, Muslims, Jews, and everyone else that didn't fit their Aryan standard. They are walking examples of every form of pasty white bigotry in existence--literally. Their family's history in the spotlight goes back well over 50 years. 

Evil is in their DNA. Falwell Sr. was the one who started the empire. His father Carey was an entrepreneur who made his fortune by building gas stations and grocery stores with restaurants attached. He was also a well-known alcoholic and atheist. He used to get drunk and tell his children that one day he was going to shoot his brother, and then he did. The town newspaper reported it by saying that Garland Falwell's career of terrorizing the police and populace was over. It was ruled that Carey killed him in self-defense. 

Falwell Sr. accepted Christ later in life, and let's face it, he probably did it for the money. He opened Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1956 and immediately began broadcasting the Old-Time Gospel Hour, which aired until 2004. He'd frequently host pro-segregation politicians and rail against integration in his careful roundabout way. In 1967, after schools did in fact start integrating, he opened what is now referred to as a segregation academy called, Lynchburg Christian Academy--part of his efforts to keep the race pure. Four years later, he opened Liberty University, which complemented that effort. The school has since become a serious force in American politics, and according to Giancarlo, there aren't a lot of black students that go there. While Falwell Sr. has recanted his racist beliefs, he avoided mentioning them, and he was well known for mastering dog whistles--secret rallying cries that white supremacists would slip into their television and radio appearances, quietly signaling their support for the cause. He would even speak out against Martin Luther King Jr.

Founding Father of Gilead

Falwell Sr. was not a pastor. He was an entrepreneur and a political activist. He worked his entire life to bridge the gap between church and state. He would come up to the podium, tell the audience that he didn't want them to leave with a single coin in their pocket, and then he'd twist the scripture to fit his political message. 

We already know his views. What made him extraordinary was his ability to influence others. In the late 1970s, Falwell declared that he was disgusted by the moral decay in America. Most of his peers had strict rules against entering politics, but he believed that was a mistake. He began by holding what he called 'I Love America' rallies. He would go across the country preaching the evils of abortion and homosexuality while he gauged support for himself and the issues. 

In so doing he was able to gain major political clout and establish his name in the arena. He founded the Moral Majority at a Freedom Rally at the Dallas Convention Center in 1979. It was called the birth of the New Christian Right, a powerful force capable of transmitting a streamlined message to the bigoted masses. If they said it, it must be true, and it needed to be defended. Falwell called the organization 'pro-life, pro-traditional family, pro-moral, and pro-American. In other words, 'we hate abortions and gay people.' The Moral Majority was credited with delivering two-thirds of the Evangelical vote to Ronald Reagan. Ironically, Truman, Reagan's opponent was Evangelical, and Reagan himself was just an actor who had been married multiple times. That meant that people believed Falwell. They didn't verify anything that he said. They just took him on his word, because questioning him would mean questioning their beliefs. That was exactly what he wanted.

Courtesy of James V via YouTube

The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing: that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called 'reverend'.'

-Christopher Hitchens on the day after Jerry Falwell's death, 2007, CNN

There's a reason 'The Handmaid's Tale' was written in the 1980s. It was a scary time. You had sweaty men with bad toupees, strutting around the stage on TV, a fifth of tequila hidden in the podium while they shrieked about hell and God's vengeance. The legality of domestic violence laws and women's right to work was being debated, and on top of that pyramid built of money and blow, you had Jerry Falwell, the man who commanded the Christian vote. It was a theocracy in the making. 

He would talk about how the president was a minister of God, anointed by the Holy Spirit to smite evil from the face of the Earth. He'd rail about socialism, welfare, and social security checks, saying that Jesus was a capitalist. His dog whistles were constant. People knew where he stood on race; he barely hid it. He openly opposed sanctions against apartheid. It was slightly veiled, of course, using elegant, politically correct wording. That was his style. But he'd get this sickly smile on his face, add an inside joke, raise his eyebrows, and everyone would laugh. They knew exactly what he meant. He was the worst kind of southern good ol' boy, back when you were allowed to be one.

Probably his most insidious act--though there were many--was his handling of the AIDs crisis. Falwell helped to squash the rise of true social progressivism in the late 70s and early 80s, partially due to his rhetoric on homosexuality. He would say that AIDs was God's punishment, not only for homosexuals but for a society that tolerated homosexuals. It started a movement that postponed equality for nearly 30 years. These are people who were dying, losing every single person they loved; trans individuals were nearly wiped out in many areas, and they were being blamed for it--shamed for who they were, and the suffering that they faced. He was widely criticized. But like many reverends who preferred the Old Testament, he believed that God punishes the public when they're sinful. He applied this same doctrine to the 9/11 attacks.

Proof That Evil Never Dies

Falwell had a little bit of dignity. He was often careful about the way he said things, depending upon whether he was on camera, and the crowd he was with. He was even sensitive about the way he handled racism in the early days. But he was still the symbol of an unholy marriage between the church and state, and even though he's dead, his legacy has survived. 

Liberty University is one of the most influential political institutions in the nation. It was the kicking-off point for Ted Cruz's campaign. Their endorsement was pivotal for Trump's nomination, and they continue to use their system as a way to indoctrinate students. 

Jerry Provo, the new president of the university has been reported as saying that he wants Liberty to become a more effective player on the political stage. He plans to use their think tank, the Standing for Freedom Center, to motivate conservatives, inspire them to vote, and influence American politics. He said that he's already seeing their impact throughout the nation, but he doesn't think it's enough.

Jim Olsson

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