As a man of a certain age, I got to thinking about an alternate life for myself. What if I was wealthy, closeted, arrogant, narcissistic, and devoid of any morals? I would probably surround myself with beautiful, handsome men as “business associates” (i.e. Benji from Will & Grace), trainers, and of course ripped and smooth pool boys to ostensibly clean my loch — and go ahead and make the rhyme for what else they could do.
And of course, I would hide all of this devious debauchery by attending church each Sunday, heaping my house of worship with lots of money, serving on the church council — for good measure and public appearance purposes. I'd attend fundraisers with bishops and have my picture spread all over philanthropic media. My piety would be rewarded, and I would become a pseudo member of the clergy, ordained as a deacon. My family, my real business associates, and my fellow worshippers would all praise me for leading such a pristine, prayerful, and pious life.
Pushing even further, I would be sure to lavishly support politicians and causes of the conservative ilk and pour money on candidates who oppose the “sinful practice” of homosexuality. Oh, and almost as if on cue, I would feign absolute disgust and denunciation when a conversation broke out about that “alternative lifestyle.”
There would surely be some rumors that all of this looked pretty desperate for a single, middle-aged man. “Methinks thou dost protest too much,” some might snicker. Or all those questions. “Do you think he’s hiding something?” “Do you think he might be…um, mmm…you know, light in the loafers?” “Why are there always handsome men around him?” “No, he’s so religious, right?” “So, it’s all legit?” “Why hasn’t a woman snagged that amazing man?” Oh, "...he just hasn’t found the 'right one' to match his virility and virtuousness.”
But because most fervent, over-the-top, hypocritical, Bible-beating Christian evangelicals are oblivious to anything but themselves and their own salvation and reject any accusation that their behavior was sanctimonious or in any way wrong, they would surely be in denial about my secret life, because most are in denial about their own.
Now, let’s tweak this imagery a bit and add a wife, and for the purposes of this column, let’s call her Becki. And let’s add Becki to the equation to help shield my sordid life. A beard — even though I have a literal one — to distract people from the fact that I feel the love that dare not speak its name.
The wife is really the only difference in my imagined, warped, and duplicitous life from that of Jerry Falwell Jr. I think the almost stereotypical pornographic pool boy tale is only the shallowest part of Falwell’s swimming hole that probably runs 10 feet deep. We are sure to find out more, once those Speedo-clad hunks start coming up out of the water for air to tell of their own adventures with him.
This is all just too rich from a man who presides over a college where sex is a four-letter expletive and gay sex a one-way ticket to hell. Liberty University is a bastion of hate, backward thinking, self-indulgence, and judgment. The university and its associated church were founded by Falwell’s dad, and if you don’t know who he is or weren’t around when he was kicking and screaming about how gays caused 9/11, then you missed out on one of the most truly bigoted and hateful people that ever walked this planet.
What would he think of his son? Most assuredly, he would be appalled, but in order to save the church and school — I’m sorry, in order to save all that money — there would be redemption. If more stories about Falwell start to emerge, and you know they will, then you would think the evangelicals will waste no time opening that overused hatch to hell and send Falwell slithering down on his merry way to fry like the rest of us so-called heathens.
But you would be wrong.
Aren’t we all, especially in our community, just sick and tired of these phony pious ones, lying, cheating, and stealing behind their pulsating pulpit, all the while following their lust anywhere it leads? And when they are caught, like Falwell, continue to lie and deny, even in the face of mounting evidence.
Then they resign or go away — only for a bit — and triumphantly come back, miraculously claiming they have “seen the light.” They have received redemption from God because God talks to them personally. And they are ready to resume pontificating to the masses — not Catholic masses — but to the swarms of pocket-lined people who attend their services each Sunday and throw droves of money into the church coffers, so that the accused and the repentant can continue to live in mansions, ride in limos, and party on yachts.
While we undoubtedly take lots of joy in watching Falwell’s fantasy-ridden fall, replete with hot, sexy men and revelations of pool boys, top-trainers and youth hostels, we need to temper our enthusiasm. Falwell’s journey to the bottom of the pool won’t last long. His wife is already calling for him to be forgiven, and while he goes away to “rehabilitate” (can I suggest he go stay at his gay Miami Beach hostel and get on his knees asking for…well…something), he will be back. He gets a break, but if you and I came out as gay in Falwell’s church, we’d be banned from the church, and heaven, for eternity.
Because it’s not about Falwell. It’s not about the fact that he might be gay, bi, or just kinky. It’s not about pictures of unzipped pants, alcohol, or dancing in a club. It’s not about cheating on his wife. It’s not even about being sinful and asking for reclamation. And, it’s most certainly not about God.
It’s all about the money.
Liberty University and its associated ministry are a cottage industry of cash, so the first order of business is to stem the bleeding from exorbitant tuitions and offertory collections. And the Falwell name, thanks to his founding father, is all over this dynasty. For the icing on the cake, Donald Trump is also joined at the hip — not in a sexual way, but who knows with Falwell — not with only Liberty and the unholy man himself, but Becki, Falwell's wife. Trump is like the pool boy in some ways, sandwiched by Falwells. Jerry Falwell Jr. was Trump's top evangelical supporter, and Becki on the bottom-feeders Women for Trump committee.
Because of this connection and money, Falwell will get a pass, not tomorrow, but someday, and probably sooner than we think. In the meantime, whoever steps in to replace him in the interim will continue to spew hate, hypocrisy, and heathenism, until, Falwell, the very definition of those three words returns. We should all be so lucky?
It’s fitting that this entire drama breaks during the Republican convention, where evangelicals are self-righteously lined up to support their own debaucher in chief. They aren’t looking past Trump’s sins because in their white, male, condemnatory God’s eyes, he’s OK since he’s saving innocent babies in the womb and getting rid of dirty babies from shitholes. Trump’s OK because he’s protecting the all-white neighborhoods where those charade churches are. And Trump surely knows what he’s doing because he’s making sure that only “men” go into men’s rooms.
But these two-faced types sure know how to maliciously label and denounce. If you’re Black, and if you protest — they call it looting — you are a criminal. And if you’re gay, and you love — they call it the devil’s work — you are doomed. And if you cheat on your wife — they call it a lapse in judgment — you are forgiven.
So, in my imaginary closeted world, if I was exposed, I’d be imprisoned. Justifiable to those who have no sense of justice, but only a strong desire to be judgmental. Only my God is not judgmental. And my God surely knows what’s just. Thus, I’m hoping that my God is rightfully shaking his head at all this phoniness, and at Falwell and at Trump. And I’m praying that my God is rooting for the pool boy — and the Democrats.