4 Things You Should Know About the Falwell/Claiborne Drama

It is imperative to critically assess the theological convictions of who we allow to lead spiritual events. Claiborne's commitment to biblical teachings is severely questionable.

Jerry Falwell Jr. has once again fallen prey to the media and ministerial critics after banning far-left Christian, Shane Claiborne, from campus. Here's what you need to know:

Claiborne sent a letter to Falwell requesting to pray with students while extending the invitation for Falwell to join them. Liberty University Police Department then sent Claiborne a notice of restriction from campus, under penalty of possible arrest or fine...which sounds pretty messed up, but read on.

Claiborne is the co-founder of Red Letter Christians, an organization of progressive Christians who aim to reshape traditional Christianity to fit a modern cultural narrative. Among their non-traditional beliefs are LGBT-affirmation, polyamory/polygamy, and pacifism (peace-keeping with no justification for deadly force even in self-defense.)

But in a fascinating spin of irony, those calling for peace and unity are causing perpetual division by manipulating the story of Claiborne's ban. It is as if to say, "unity on our terms, or we'll cause division!" RELEVANT Magazine, Religious News Service, and others have touted false narratives that Claiborne was banned from Liberty University simply for wanting to pray. That is simply not true.

Here's the bigger picture:

1. Claiborne was not banned for wanting to pray.

Claiborne tweeted that Jerry Falwell Jr. banned him from Liberty University's campus under penalty of arrest simply because he wanted to pray.

However, Falwell informed me via a telephone interview that Claiborne did not pursue the proper channels of event planning and was thus not allowed to execute his service on the private campus.

From my personal perspective, I wouldn't have allowed Shane on either but for additional reasons. While Claiborne's letter to Falwell claimed that no protest or opposing activity would take place, his Twitter account hasn't been so cordial. In January Claiborne described the revival as an event that opposes Falwell's "toxic Christianity."

He's also been quick to criticize Liberty University simply for having a gun range. At the revival, Claiborne explained that they chose Lynchburg for the revival because "powerful voices of the Church have not been very nice." While none of what he said was terrible, it does expose a much bigger picture than the cordial letter to Falwell suggests.

While Claiborne and Falwell hold significantly different political views, Falwell confirmed to me that this was irrelevant to the ban:

"You can hold whatever political ideas you want to believe, but that doesn't give you the right to just come on to private property without going through the proper procedures. This isn't about political views. We're having Jimmy Carter speak at commencement for goodness sake. This is just another attempt for the left to push their agenda. It amazes me to see the intolerance of the left in that if you disagree with them you're automatically hateful."

While Falwell was clear that Claiborne's ban was unrelated to his liberalism, there are still things to consider that should make one wary.

2. "Red Letter Christians" believe in Polygamy.

Allowing someone to organize a prayer event at the largest Christian university in the world is, by extension, giving them a platform of spiritual influence. Thus it is imperative to critically assess the theological convictions of who we allow to lead spiritual events. Claiborne's commitment to biblical teachings is severely questionable. How so? I attended the Red Letter Revival, which included congregational and breakout-style sessions. I attended a breakout session focused on LGBT affirmation. The leaders not only taught that the Bible supports active LGBT relationships but ALSO affirmed the practice of polyamory and polygamy (the philosophy/practice of having multiple romantic lovers and spouses.)

A young woman at the workshop, who is currently studying theology in a different state, mentioned that she was in a committed relationship with two men and gave her biblical exposition for why it wasn't wrong. The delivery was met with nods and affirming "mmmms" from the room and those leading the workshop. One leader gave what he calls a "half-baked idea" that the relationship of the Trinity may allude to a theological affirmation of polyamory.

3. This weekend was packed with prospective students.

Twice a semester Liberty hosts College For A Weekend, or CFAW. CFAW is a four-day event where prospective students and family visit the campus to experience classes on Friday, Convocation (chapel), activities, and the life of a Liberty student. I'd be wary to have an activity that promotes unbiblical habits and lifestyles present while families are considering whether to invest in their child's education here.

4. "Red Letter Revival" was saturated in dishonesty.

At the revival, LU senior Sam Herrmann took the stage to defy the "toxic Christian nationalism that we experience from our school's administration." Many of the characters are avid opposers of President Trump and have alluded to him being bigoted towards immigrants.

It should be noted that President Trump called on Congress to establish a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants. That's 800,000 Dreamers plus an additional 1 million illegal immigrants. That doesn't sound very bigoted to me.

It should also be noted that Liberty has students from over 75 countries, hosts a semi-annual Global Focus Week, continuously ranks among the top mission-minded Christian colleges in the world, and routinely commissions students to foreign countries in efforts to advance the gospel while providing humanitarian assistance. LU is unapologetically patriotic, but the evidence is hard-stacked against Herrmann that LU is nationalistic.

Other allegations from the stage, such as the Church "hates gays" and "wants to advance the agenda of gun violence" in America, were followed by audience applause. It would be one thing if the speakers were referencing Westboro Baptist Church or the KKK, but they weren't. Their target was the mainstream Church in America. Note: The Church does not hate gays nor do we wish for more violence. We do not believe that LGBTQ+ lifestyles are biblical and thus will not praise the lifestyle or allow those who are unrepentantly living in these lifestyles (as with ANY sin) to lead in ministry, but there is no hatred.

In conclusion, it's a good thing that Claiborne wasn't allowed on campus. I do believe that he has a heart for the oppressed and wants to see peace. But until he chooses to represent the leadership and student body of Liberty University fairly, and until his convictions lead him to a more accurate account of scripture, there should be no surprise that he isn't authorized to carry ministerial events on our campus.



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