First Entry: Bill Maher (A Response to the Reality [or Unreality] of Liberty University) - 4/29/2013
This time last year, Bill Maher opined that Liberty University was essentially an illegitimate (although regionally-accredited) university much to the delight of persons, who hold nothing but contempt for the university's co-founder (as Dr. Falwell was actually one of the co-founders of Liberty University).
The late Reverend Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr. was highly opinionated, like Mr. Maher, and both men should be credited with a willingness to openly engage with dissenting voices. However, when Mr. Maher lambasts Liberty University and makes light of Dr. Falwell's passing, rarely (if ever) does he mention that he and Dr. Falwell shared a mutual respect for one another as witnessed during Dr. Falwell's 2001 appearance on Politically Incorrect. Mr. Maher, and so many media personalities aligned with the Left, rarely had to schedule interviews with Dr. Falwell via an assistant or press secretary as they had direct access to Dr. Falwell via cell phone.
Rarely (if ever) does anyone mention Dr. Falwell's openness to meeting with leaders of the LGBT community, who wanted to personally voice their disdain with Dr. Falwell's rhetoric and positions. When protesters picketed Thomas Road Baptist Church during (a-Lynchburg-cold) winter, Dr. Falwell had no compunction about inviting the protesters into the vestibule of the edifice to warmly continue their protest replete with hot cocoa (to the dismay of some of his parishioners). A United States Senator as far Left as the late Edward M. Kennedy was not only a guest at Dr. Falwell's home but was invited to speak at Liberty University.
While Senator Kennedy was solidly pro-choice and Dr. Falwell doggedly pro-life, Dr. Falwell permitted the Liberty University Debate Team to argue in favor of abortion, when necessary, resulting in denouncement and criticism of Liberty University from the religious and political Right. It would seem that Liberty University is too unscientific to please the Left and too peripatetic to appease the Right. Honestly, what do these professional armchair quarterbacks actually know about the institution they so whimsically use as a rhetorical lynchpin? (pun absolutely intended)
Do these critics know that there exists a significant number of Liberty-educated Black pastors leading congregations throughout Virginia today—pastors whose education was subsidized by Liberty University in the early 1980s as Liberty distinguished itself from the racial legacy of Bob Jones University? Do these critics consider that the behind-closed-doors friendships that former President Bill Clinton, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and the Reverend Jesse Jackson shared with Dr. Falwell are indicative of the extent to which the media oversimplifies and truncates public figures ultimately reducing their personhood to mere nothingness?
Do these hosts and pundits know that Dr. Falwell offered his opinion of Tinky-Winky's sexual orientation after Andy Medhurst first broached the topic? Not only do these critics not know about the aforementioned, they do not care. It is tragic that many of the people who attack Dr. Falwell's legacy and debase Liberty University regularly engage in the same type of prejudicial, vitriolic practices for which they denounce this great (at times greatly flawed and at many other times greatly profound) man and this prestigious institution of higher learning.
To this point, despite my appreciation of what I consider the “courage” of the late Christopher Hitchens to speak as he did on matters of religion, even I found his remarks on Fox News immediately following the passing of Dr. Falwell to be unnecessary and in the worst taste. Such comments were beneath Mr. Hitchens' intellectual and literary stature. Yes, it is possible for me to respect both Mr. Hitchens and Dr. Falwell. This seemingly paradoxical respect is the result of consideration—consideration of history, personality and reality.
I have always enjoyed Mr. Maher both as an entertainer and as one of the sharpest contrarians since the late George Carlin. It is regrettable that in his effort to attack former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, caught in the rhetorical crossfire were certain listeners (some of them students of Liberty) who otherwise respect and appreciate Mr. Maher's political leanings. New rule, Mr. Maher: You should consider that there exist students of Liberty, who are fans of yours. Should you have a moment whilst preparing to level Liberty University to the ground with another clever (and hurtfully, unfair) tirade, this rule is worth considering.