Pornographer Larry Flynt wrote a piece for the The Daily Beast regarding Jerry Falwell Jr.'s fall from grace and his personal saga with the Falwell family. The article is interesting on a number of fronts. Flynt gets some things right and some things wrong.
Flynt relished his Supreme Court victory over Jerry Falwell Sr., in which the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist upheld Flynt's right to satirize and parody public figures. Flynt calls it a "vindication" and a "landmark ruling for the preservation of our First Amendment rights to free speech."
While that may be the case, does his desire to engage in parody justify Flynt's reputation-destroying attacks on Falwell and his family? Reasonable people can easily argue that it doesn't.
Flynt is right about the Evangelical obsession with sexual behavior. Good sexual behavior — or the lack of it — has never been Christianity's most pressing concern; its most pressing concerns are the redemption of the entire human person, and stopping evil — the deliberate infliction of suffering upon the innocent.
Flynt is right again in saying that TV preachers of the 1980s often emphasized a sort of prosperity gospel for themselves. Most lived in the lap of luxury by fleecing their flocks.
Flynt then goes on to write about an alleged tryst between Falwell Jr., his wife, and a Miami hotel pool attendant, exemplifying the hypocrisy of those my dad used to call "holy rollers" decades ago. Again, Flynt is right to call that out, but while he seems to understand the essential message of the Christian Gospel, he neglects to mention that during the 1980s there were not only hucksters like Swaggart but also men of great faith preaching God's Word, e.g. Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindol, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, and the list goes on.
We may reasonably ask whether a pornographer would be expected to know the names of these men of faith.
It is at this point however, that I lose Larry Flynt. Larry brings President Trump into the mix, calling him an "orange buffoon" and asserting that Jerry Falwell likely played decisive role in Trump's election by shoring up Evangelical conservatives. Larry accuses Trump of violating "almost every principle of the Christian faith," mentioning Trump's multiple marriages as a de facto indication of bad moral character.
We may reasonably ask whether a pornographer ought to lecture America on moral character.
Flynt cavalierly dismisses as "flimflammery" two things: first, the assertion that if God supported King David, Evangelicals ought to support Donald Trump; second, the assertion that the teachings of Jesus which apply to our personal lives cannot be used to govern a society. But both of these assertions are correct. Here's why.
King David did horrible evil and he was severely punished for it. But unlike Flynt (at least so far), David repented of his wrongdoing, and sincerely asked God to forgive him. We are told that because of David's contrite heart and broken spirit, God forgave David through Nathan the Prophet. But though he was forgiven, David was still cursed during his lifetime: God told him, "the sword shall never depart out of your house;" this was part of the punishment David had to bear.
Flynt seems to be saying that we can never follow King David's example because he was a "murderer and an adulterer." In Flynt's version of Christianity, God never forgives. Or if he does, his forgiveness is meaningless. But Christians don't believe that. We believe that God's forgiveness is extended with mercy, force, and power. We believe that once God has forgiven wrongdoing, it is like a presidential pardon: it's as if it did not happen — with the caveat of course that we ought never to repeat the same wrongdoing — and David didn't repeat his evil.
Flynt omits a crucial part of the reason that conservative Christians of all denominations were comfortable supporting President Trump: the far more corrupt and destructive alternative running for president in 2016: Hillary Clinton. As Dennis Prager argues, if never-Trumpers believe that a national disgrace should not have been allowed to become president, that means they supported another national disgrace becoming president — why isn't that an embarrassment? Or perhaps Flynt doesn't think Hillary is far more corrupt and destructive?
While I did not support Trump until after he formally announced in June 2015, I have been more than pleasantly surprised by what Trump has done so far. As Dennis Prager again writes,
Evangelicals realize that the moral good of defeating the Left is of surpassing importance. It can feel good to oppose the president, but religious supporters of the president are more interested in doing good than feeling good. On issue after issue — religious liberty, the unborn, Israel, the American flag and free speech, to cite just a few — the president and religious Americans have made common cause.We may reasonably ask what Larry Flynt's positions are on all of these important issues.
Perhaps the underlying issue here is not so much the supposed hypocrisy of Evangelicals supporting Trump, as Flynt alleges, but rather that Flynt is himself is on the Left side of the political spectrum. It wouldn't have mattered if the Republicans had nominated Mother Teresa — Mother Teresa wouldn't have gotten Flynt's vote.
Flynt is right that Jesus never told Caesar how to run Rome. Christ's mission wasn't to lay the foundations of good government nor to map out a social contract between citizens and the state, but to accomplish mankind's eternal salvation. Christ's Sermon on the Mount was not directed at Caesar, nor even King Herod, but to the men, women, and children listening to it.
The Left's social gospel teaches that the state should, by forcibly taking from some people, do for other people what Christ taught us to do personally for our neighbor. Christians are permitted to become as selfish and mean as the next guy — when the state becomes the dispenser of Christian charity, Christians are no longer obligated.
This seems to be why Flynt rails about First Amendment freedom, but he has nothing to say about the massive Marxist redistribution of wealth that has taken place over the last several decades so that this social gospel might be fulfilled — that the state might love our neighbor in our place.
Flynt concludes his piece by noting,
If there were ever to be a Second Coming of Jesus Christ, I have no doubt that his first order of business would be picking up a whip and banishing forever all the hucksters and false prophets who have perverted his message.Perhaps Larry's right. We may reasonably ask whether Larry would be among the first to go.