Liberty University students want to be free — of their president’s surrogacy for Donald Trump. On Wednesday, a group of students calling themselves “Liberty United Against Trump” released a letter dissociating themselves from the Republican nominee and his chief Evangelical surrogate:
In the months since Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him, Donald Trump has been inexorably associated with Liberty University. We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.
A majority of Liberty students, faculty, and staff feel as we do. Donald Trump received a pitiful 90 votes from Liberty students in Virginia’s primary election, a colossal rejection of his campaign. Nevertheless, President Falwell eagerly uses his national platform to advocate for Donald Trump. While he occasionally clarifies that supporting Trump is not the official position of Liberty University, he knows it is his title of president of the largest Christian university in the world that gives him political credentials.
Associating any politician with Christianity is damaging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Donald Trump is not just any politician. He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.
The slow-motion suicide of the Religious Right — which has been very publicly conducted over the course of this election cycle — is, among much else, a product of distinctly generational loyalties. It’s no coincidence that most of the Evangelical leaders who have bent the knee to Trump are Baby Boomers: As Yuval Levin has argued, it’s a whole generation, on both Right and Left, for whom nostalgia is the overarching mood. For Christians who came of age during the years of the Moral Majority, that entails a yearning to figure out how to restore the cultural consensus of postwar Christian America — a yearning that ignores that such an America only ever half-existed, at best, and that has led many to reduce the high duties of faith to the mechanics of national politics.
But a much more confident faith is on display among younger Evangelical leaders — Russell Moore, for example, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Convention. These Liberty students are another example. Here’s how they end their statement:
We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school. While our president Jerry Falwell Jr. tours the country championing the log in his eye, we want the world to know how many students oppose him. We don’t want to champion Donald Trump; we want only to be champions for Christ.
Take a moment to read the statement in full.