Sunday, November 5, 2017

Jonathan Martin, Liberty University, and what cheap publicity looks like.

NOTE: *This is my personal blog. I've written here for years, long before I was employed by Liberty University. These are my personal thoughts and do not reflect Liberty's position in any way. I did not ask permission to write this, nor have I cleared it with anyone. I do not speak for Liberty University. I am an alumnus, I have a daughter at Liberty, and I work for Liberty in the IT department. These are only my opinions.*

Last week, “well-known pastor” Jonathan Martin was removed from the campus of Liberty University in what became a minor controversy that was troubling at first but soon went away.
We’ve heard the allegations from the Christian Left, (a term as contradictory as “Military intelligence” or “Office of Governmental Efficiency”) about how Martin was denied his free speech rights, how Liberty has secretly become the Devil’s playground, how Jerry Falwell Jr. is sacrificing small animals to a golden image of Donald Trump, and how he has sold his soul to the President. We’ve heard how jackbooted thugs roam the campus, extinguishing dissent and carting off anyone who disagrees with the administration. (That’s why he held on to The Annex even after Commons Three was opened…to isolate the infidels) We’ve heard from those trapped inside, how Jerry Jr. takes those diplomas that the handful of dissident alumni returned to him a while back, and tosses them into his fireplace, warming his hands over their hard-won degree and laughing menacingly while chanting an incantation. Any day now, we’ll get the news of their tragic demise on some inexplicably icy road, Jerry will smile a knowing smile and we’ll all understand what really happened.
Okay…enough with the nonsense.
I’m being my typical Philly-bred wise-guy here but honestly…to listen to the screeching voices of the attack dogs, my humorous description is spot-on. To listen to them, it really is that crazy.
To quote my beloved Mrs. Riccio from across the street where I grew up: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Where do these people come up with this stuff?
I waited to jump in here because it’s smart to do that when things like this happen. I’ve learned from past mistakes not to go a-blogging when I’m still 140-over-95. (That’s a blood pressure stat for the uninitiated) So I sat on this, waiting to see who responded and how, and thought it over. I also wanted to research just who this Jonathan Martin guy is, anyway, because for a “well known Evangelical Pastor” he’s an unknown to me. Nobody I asked knew who he was either. Then again, people keep calling themselves “evangelical” when they are not. I feel like doing my best Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word…I do not think it means what you think it means.”
So, let’s begin, shall we? This is my opinion on this matter.
First of all, just who is Jonathan Martin?
Well as best as I can tell, he’s yet another liberal who is angry at the somewhat conservative thread woven in Scripture, has decided that God got it wrong, and wants to do something about it. I read his Bio page. I swear he copied it from every other “liberal Evangelical” out there. It reads exactly like Rob Bell’s, and Rachel Held Evans’ and Stan Mitchell’s, and …well you get the picture. Every self-described evangelical who supports gay marriage, socialism, declares every Republican a white supremacist, thinks BLM is doing God’s work, thought Obama was a good president, and believes the notion that everybody makes it to Heaven in the end, seems to like Jonathan Martin’s books.
I didn’t read them. I never will. I read a few parts on Amazon. I don’t need to eat the whole steak to know it’s spoiled. Let me summarize…
He is yet another “pastor” who thinks organized religion is bad, white people’s religion is even worse, (even though he is white) conservative white people are in league with the devil, Grace means “do whatever the heck you want and God will laugh and call you his son anyway.” Oh, and if you don’t fall in line with this view of his…he’s going to hold a protest on your private property and call out the demons he claims are holding you hostage.
Maybe this makes him even more nuts and more heretical than Bell, Evans, Mitchell and those folks, because at least they don’t attach demonic possession to those who disagree. Heck, even Calvinists / Reformists don’t do that, and they used to hold the title for the most spiritually smug.
So, last week, Jonathan Martin, (who conveniently has a new book out, and as a struggling author I can tell you, publicity- even bad publicity--makes people curious about your book. If you can somehow make yourself into a victim, even better!) decided to come to Liberty to hold a “protest” on our campus. In front of the library that bears the name of our founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. He wasn’t invited, he never asked permission, he sent out word through social media to organize some dissenters among the student body, you know…like Antifa does.
His big protest rally was supposed to happen on Tuesday morning and the evening before he shows up on campus and takes in the “Johnnyswim” (who??) concert in our music hall. Let me reiterate: Our music hall. He gets invited backstage to the green room to visit the band because A: they were apparently friends of his and B: and this is strictly conjecture on my part, they were perhaps in on this whole thing.
So, word gets out, (I’m guessing that he was already on the “campus banned” list from his multiple social media posts and they were just waiting for the opportunity to serve him notice) LUPD finds him backstage and they escort him out.
Of course, the dude from “Johnnyswim” (who??) posts videos about how “armed officers came to our dressing room!” and escorted him out.
With firearms!
The nerve!
Then he said they got him outside and “shined flashlights in his face!”
At night!
Those animals!
Then “Johnnyswim” (who??) says they’re donating their proceeds to some worthy cause and asks their fans to tweet them suggestions. I’m surprised they didn’t give it to the Clinton Family Foundation…’cause that’s what libs do.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Martin is making all manner of publicity hay with this one. Dude can’t wait to post pictures of his warning, tell everyone how abused he was, how he was  bum-rushed from campus, how God told him to protest Liberty and to wage warfare against the demons running rampant on Liberty Mountain, and of course, to offer interviews to every outlet that would stick a microphone in his face or return his phone call. And being Liberty, everyone wants dirt, so there was no shortage of stories run about this outlier. Oddly enough, every story mentioned he is an author and has a new book out, many of them even included a link to that book on Amazon.
As an author, I would have to wonder if anyone was buying my books because they were actually good, or was it because I just puked myself all over the news by grandstanding and using spiritual warfare as the backdrop?
Call me crazy, but I’d prefer my work stands alone on it’s merit and not because I carefully selected an enemy that would get me a lot of press.
So…that’s my wise-guy recap on last week’s events. Now let me dissect it all…
Again, these are my opinions here. I am a Liberty Alumni, a parent of a Liberty student, and I work at the college. I am NOT writing on behalf of Liberty University, these opinions are not theirs, they have not read this or screened it. This is just my blog, and my thoughts on a Sunday morning. Here we go.
Jonathan Martin had no inherent right to just show up on campus and protest. It’s private property first of all, and nobody has that right. We’ve had a very broad spectrum of speakers here, some of whom I disagreed with and wished we hadn’t allowed to speak. But they were invited, and / or asked permission. Nobody snuck on campus and started organizing protests. This isn’t pirate radio or Berkeley in 1968. I have a daughter here and I don’t want her education being interrupted by anyone…much less some guy casting out imaginary demons in front of the library. Capice? Look…if you ask, you will at least be considered. Heck we had Vermin Supreme here last year.
 (Not in Convo, but he was permitted to come speak in an open forum one evening before the election) We’ve had any number of preachers who are only that because they say they are. We’ve had politicians, comedians, business leaders, authors, movie makers. 
We had Rudy here last year and he was a rabid Hillary supporter.

As for those who say free speech is stifled on campus…
I can’t speak for professors or anyone else here. But I don’t feel that I risk losing my job for every post I put on social media. I think I should be about as careful as I would be in any other employment situation. It’s no more or less an issue here than anywhere else. I have read articles by our folks and thought to myself how very much I disagree with them, how very much they aren’t exactly quoting the “company line” and yet they are still teaching here. Nobody is vanishing overnight. At least not that I can see. If you have an issue with leadership, there is always a means to voice that issue. That’s what a board of trustees is for. Organizing a protest to exorcise demons is not how it gets done.
About those alumni returning their diplomas…
I never really understood this action. Not from Liberty students or anyone else. What is it that you think you’re achieving? You worked hard for that, and unless your degree is in college administration, how is it even related? Colleges don’t give money-back guarantees, so sending your diploma back isn’t going to get you anything. Oh wait…it gets you mentioned in a news story.
As for Jerry ignoring the alumni…
I’m wondering what it is Jerry owes me as an alumnus? Seriously. This is Liberty University, not the “Evangelical Higher Education Collective.” I paid my money, hit the books, and Liberty held up it’s side of the bargain. Jerry’s obligation to me as an alumnus is to move the school forward, keep the doors open, and as much as possible, advance his dad’s vision and his own, for my beloved alma mater. If Liberty were to fail financially or academically, do you think they’d blame the alumni?
There is a board of trustees in place for oversight and, given as how we’re doing just fine where a lot of colleges are foundering…I’d say they’ve earned my trust.
I’m free to voice my opinions, concerns, suggestions, whatever. But Jerry doesn’t owe me his ear. He has a college to run.
Does this mean I am in lockstep with everything I see on campus? No. Not entirely. I’m older. I’m a bit curmudgeonly these days. I find myself yearning for the “good old days.” There is a generation gap and I’m on the other side of it. I get that. But we have good kids on our campus and our leadership has yet to fail them. They’re doing fine and I feel a whole lot better having my daughter here than at some state school. Besides…It’s my job to train her spiritually…not Liberty University’s. They add to what I did for 18 years.
Does it bother me that Jerry supports Trump? Oh, heck no! But then, I fully support Trump. But even if he had supported someone else, that doesn’t concern me. He does his job here and who he supports for president doesn’t affect how he does that job. There are no pro-Trump rallies on campus. There are no pro-anybody rallies in fact. Except Jesus. Jesus is still numero uno around here and that’s really the essence of this whole thing.
We alumni need to step back and ask ourselves if we seriously believe that Liberty should never, ever make decisions that we disagree with. Do they owe us that? Okay…if they were really crossing into heresy I’d say yes. But Jerry’s support of Trump, or the school refusing to allow a guy to hold a protest against the school on school grounds, or the occasional speaker who doesn’t pass my personal muster…none of those things means Liberty is selling out, failing, abandoning her roots or forgetting her history.
Liberty is doing fine. I’m here every day. I see it. We’re in good hands both with Jerry and with those under him. I am more impressed every day with the spiritual depth of those I work with. And those I work for. I’m glad my daughter is here and from my perspective, if I have grandchildren someday, I’ll feel good about them coming here as well. Everybody take a deep breath.

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