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In 'God Forbid' Jerry and Becki Falwell are the embodiment of evangelical hypocrisy

There's no need to question why evangelicals remained relatively quiet about the Falwells' downfall.
Then-president of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., delivers a speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 21, 2016. Falwell resigned from the evangelical university in August 2020, (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

Hulu’s new documentary “God Forbid” is a stark, steamy, seedy look at former Liberty University President and Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., his wife, Becki, and the reportedly coercive sexual relationship they had with a former "pool boy," Giancarlo Granda. This documentary about the downfall of the son and namesake of Jerry Falwell Sr., who founded Liberty University, the Moral Majority and obliterated the lines between white evangelicals and the Republican Party, shows how religion, sexuality and a corresponding lust for political power led to the younger Falwell choosing Donald Trump over other Republican candidates before the 2016 presidential election.

“God Forbid” is a seedy look at former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., his wife, Becki and the reportedly coercive sexual relationship they had with a former pool boy.

Falwell resigned from Liberty University in August 2020 shortly after Granda told Reuters he carried on an affair with Becki Falwell that began in 2012 (when he was 20 and Becki was 45) and lasted until 2018. Granda, who said he felt the couple had taken advantage of him, said Falwell would watch him have sex with Becki.

As he resigned, Falwell put the blame on his wife: “Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved,” he said. In an interview published this year, Becki admitted to a lengthy affair with Granda, and Falwell admitted that he knew Granda and Becki were having a sexual affair. He said he “let it go on” and even walked in on them once. But both the husband and wife denied Granda’s claim that Falwell was a participant in the affair.

People watching the documentary will likely be skeptical of that claim. But aside from the question of Falwell’s participation, documentarian Billy Corben has evangelicals dead to rights as he connects the dots between the Falwells’ sexual dalliances , Liberty University and the complicity of evangelicals desirous of political control. In other words, those evangelicals who have shown themselves willing to forgive every so-called “sin” committed by their own in order to gain power. Corben, in my opinion, deftly shows the machinations and greed of all of the parties involved, including Granda’s apparent desire to become a Cuban Trump. (Full disclosure: I am one of the experts who appears in the film. An expert on the history of the evangelical movement, I might add, not sex!)

Yet, “God Forbid” isn’t simply a story about sex. It’s about how the expressed morality concerns of evangelicals promoted by Falwell Sr. have shaped American politics. From civil rights, to the feminist movement, pornography, gay rights and abortion, Falwell Sr. and other evangelicals were trying, as historian Matt Sutton says in the documentary, to “roll back any progressive change that’s going to happen.”

By giving Trump his endorsement, Falwell made it OK for evangelicals to vote for him. Trump may not have won the presidency otherwise.

But who knew that the man who made presidential candidate Trump teflon with evangelicals was a “cuck?” Those who throw around the term would argue that being cuckolded makes one less of a man, but, in this case, the man who allegedly liked to watch and film his wife having sex with their "pool boy," was the man in Republican and evangelical politics. By giving Trump his endorsement, the younger Falwell made it OK for evangelicals to vote for him. Trump may not have won the presidency otherwise.

Evangelicals who voted for Trump and continue to support him are also revealed as cucks. Because they were willing and remain willing to watch and not object to the dubious claims to morality of people such as Trump and Falwell. They voted for the twice-divorced Trump after the release of a 2016 tape on which he was heard boasting of grabbing women between the legs. They are willing to forgive Herschel Walker despite two women’s claims that he paid for each of them to have an abortions (which Walker denies). They’ve generally shown themselves willing to ignore or push aside the sexual sins that they used to rail against, and very few have publicly condemned the Falwells for their inappropriate relationship with Granda.

A rare example is Charisma News, which, in an October opinion piece, calls out the “hypocrisy” and “failures of leadership” among prominent Christians. The opinion also calls “God Forbid” a “black eye” for Christianity, accuses Hulu of trying to “profit off of the sins and downfall of Christian leaders,” and says its readers should “lift up the Falwell's in prayer, that they repent and turn from their old ways, that their family is protected during this time and that the church leadership of today is protected and strengthened against the enemy who seeks to destroy them.”

To be as charitable as I can, Christianity has a lot more than a black eye these days. “God Forbid” isn’t just the story of this particular scandal; rather, it is the story of American evangelicalism in the 21st century.

While Republicans have made it a habit to call Democrats “groomers” for supporting the LGBTQ community, in “God Forbid” Granda says the Falwells lured him into their web and even inserted him into family events to make him feel accepted. And when he started to turn away, he said, they coerced him.

“God Forbid” isn’t just the story of this particular scandal; rather, it is the story of American evangelicalism in the 21st century.

While all this was happening, the "Liberty Way," the purity and social code that Liberty students were supposed to abide by, was being used to penalize students who said they experienced sexual abuse and rape. Survivors are still detailing their issues with the university, and the Liberty Save71 group is calling for change in the wake of the scandal and lawsuit filed against Falwell by the university.

After watching “God Forbid,” you may wonder how so many evangelicals could have looked up to a man who Granda claims liked to film his wife having sex with a younger man and who, at the very least, says he knew about their sexual affair and “let it go on.” What you won’t wonder about, however, is why so many evangelicals continue to remain so low key about Falwell’s reported transgressions or continue to send their children to Liberty.

Simply put, power is more important that morality to them. On every level.