Following the ousting of Jerry Falwell Jr over his cuckholding scandal, Liberty University has rebranded its Falkirk Center to be the Standing For Freedom Center or Freedom Center for short. But in parting ways with Jerry Falwell Jr, the Freedom Center has also parted ways with Charlie Kirk. The listing of Charlie Kirk as a former fellow signifies a parting on good terms. But the direction of the Freedom Center and Liberty University is being called into question by some conservatives. Bobby Lopez wrote an article titled, “The Woke War on the Baptists Claims Charlie Kirk. Will Liberty U Fall Next?“
What caught my eye about this article is that Bobby Lopez has been a vocal critic of Charlie Kirk for grifting off of the grievances of college conservatives but never attempting to solve any issues. Lopez has been an advocate for conservative professors, a group he feels is neglected. You may also remember that Bobby Lopez was the professor fired by Adam Greenway at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for writing an article that connected homosexuality to sex abuse, a key part of his testimony in becoming a Christian.
It’s important to understand that Bobby Lopez sees Charlie Kirk’s ousting as part of a much larger movement at Liberty University, one that predates the Falkirk Center. Despite an apparent lack of fondness for Charlie Kirk, Lopez believes that the Falkirk Center is a proxy for Liberty University’s conservatism, both theologically and politically. Liberty University is one of the few conservative colleges left in the country.
Falwell and Kirk’s close relationships with Trump turned a lot of people’s disgust with Trump into a hatred for Falwell, Kirk, and their institute. An anti-Falwell group called “Save71” seems to have convinced many journalists that they speak for a large contingent of concerned student, staff, and alumni (there are reasons for skepticism). They were closely allied with Never Trumpers such as former Liberty fellow and Falwell critic Karen Swallow Prior.
Karen Swallow Prior is a former ERLC Fellow and professor at Liberty University. She was hired by Danny Akin at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, despite having a documented history of undermining Christian sexual ethic. She is also a Beth Moore ally and NeverTrumper.
In 2018, Prior led feminists against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over questions about how Patterson’s administration handled sex abuse cases. As critics have pointed out in multiple places, her convictions reveal doctrinal inconsistencies. Other more prominent ministers had even worse cover-ups, but their NeverTrump zeal seems to have protected them from her scrutiny. Prior has not challenged any of these people with the same kind of criticism she directs at solid conservatives like Patterson, Falwell, and other pro-Trump Christians. While accusing both Patterson and Falwell of unethical management, Prior did not raise any red flags about disturbing behavior on the part of people who shared her political views.
Bobby Lopez is calling out the hypocrisy of Karen Swallow Prior and selective outrage. It’s worth noting that Lopez is also an advocate on the issue of sex abuse and whistleblowers having submitted a resolution to protect whistleblowers to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Liberty’s endowment is many times larger than Southwestern’s, reported recently with assets nearing $3 billion. At this early stage of transition, we have precious little evidence of what the post-Falwell players plan for the campus’s equity, including the Falkirk Institute.
Bobby Lopez goes on to explain how Liberty University is an organization that sits on a mountain of assets. This vehicle, as he describes it, attracts the ambitions of more than woke leftists but also greedy thugs.
But we can get a general idea of what will happen at Liberty by looking at what happened at Southwestern, which is two years ahead on the slippery slope. The two campuses’ travails are tied together by common factors such as shared antagonists (like Karen Swallow Prior). They are both intertwined with the Southern Baptist Convention and Republican politics.
The slippery slope argument is critical. Having seen the downfall of SWBTS, Bobby Lopez is seeing the early signs here. I have zero confidence in the new president of Liberty University, given his apology over a snowball fight that violated coronafascism. But perhaps the fact that they never fired Karen Swallow Prior is the real beginning.
The Riley Foundation had been set up to provide funds to Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary, yet both institutions were in many ways adrift from core Baptist values. Greenway sued the Foundation to force them to appoint people he chose to its board, thereby ensuring cash flow to the seminary he had taken over with the help of activists who claimed their main concern was the response to sexual assaults against women.
There is no shortage of Christian educational institutions that are adrift, and I would certainly agree that Baylor is one of them. Lopez closes:
It does not serve our church well. And these institutions depend upon their affiliation with churches for their very legitimacy. Maybe we need to rethink the whole concept of a Christian university.
Author and radio personality Eric Metaxas supported Trump and took a lot of flak for it. He still remains as an associate of the Falkirk Institute. If he is not the leading candidate to replace Kirk, he should be. His balanced, prudent, and principled presence might just save the Institute, and perhaps even Liberty University itself.
I agree with his closing sentiments. But as for the question of the Falkirk Center rebranding, I’m not sure if he made a case that this move was bad. The now Freedom Center is designed to be a Christian political thinktank. Lopez stated that Jenna Ellis was gone but she is still listed as a fellow. With the exception of Jenna Ellis, it seems like the Freedom Center has a talented cast of faces with it current lineup: Eric Metaxas, Darrell B Harrison, Jenna Ellis, Virgil Walker, and Dr. David Brat. If anything, I would argue that the Freedom Center is more conservative than the Falkirk Center.
But Bobby Lopez is not talking about the Freedom Center of March 2021, he’s talking about the trajectory of the Freedom Center with the direction of Liberty University called into question. These are concerns we should not neglect. Liberty University has perhaps the largest seminary that has not been compromised by Critical Race Theory, among other college programs.
The Evangelical Dark Web is a play off of the intellectual dark web, a movement of people who entertain contrarian thought. Bobby Lopez is certainly a contrarian, one with a specialized experience in the academic field. We may very well look back on Liberty University as yet another fallen Christian institution in a few years. In this particular instance however, I do not believe that the Freedom Center supports Lopez’s larger concerns surrounding Liberty University. I also conclude that the Freedom Center is an improvement even if I think little of para-collegiate political thinktanks.