Jerry Falwell scandal, a follow up

In a post two days ago, I laid out a brief accounting of the recent scandal around the conduct of Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.

It was set off by a photo Rev Falwell posted to his Instagram account. As scandals go, it was a pretty big deal.

I said in that posting that I thought he would escape any serious consequences for what he did.

I was wrong about that. He has now taken an indefinite leave of absence from post. As you probably know, that’s usually what happens just before a high-level leader or CEO gets fired.

The tendency to look the other way when powerful men do something really over-the-top is so common. I was certain that this would be another episode.

It looks like the University has done/is doing the right thing.

Although we can’t be sure about where this may go from here, it appears that I was way off as far as my assessment of how it would all turn out.

Happy to have been wrong about this sad situation.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

What will happen next in the Falwell scandal?

By now you may have seen the photo of Jerry Falwell Jr that has been widely circulated on social media.

It’s certainly not my place to chastise Rev Falwell. I’ll merely say that I fully expect others associated with the University and the ministry on which it was built to give him a pass here.

It brings to mind the scandal that engulfed Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart back in 1991.

Some are leaping to Falwell’s defense. Others–as you might well imagine–believe this is a very big deal and that he should be held to account.

For me, there’s an irony at play here that is a bigger deal than what actually happened.

For many people–and I am one of them–Falwell is now most closely associated with Donald Trump. It’s impossible not to think of how he’s embraced Trump from day one in spite of Trump’s seemingly endless deplorable and cruel actions.

He has failed to call out trump for anything; anything at all.

He said nothing about trump’s outright cruel treatment of brown children whose “crime” was being brought to our southern border by their desperate parents fleeing danger in their homeland.

Falwell stood idly by while Mr Trump sullied his office in a myriad of ways. Sullied it over and over and over again for the last three years and nine months.

Here, I’m sad to say, is where I think this situation stands: unless the University and the ministry possess more discernment and integrity than I think they do, they will enable Falwell and give him the same unmerited kid-glove treatment that their leader has been giving our president.

He will emerge from this in much the same way that Trump did, post impeachment. Sullen, unbowed and emboldened. Retaining his full power and prerogative, careening on to the next sad and shocking indulgence.

That’s where I think this is heading. I certainly hope I’m proven wrong.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Herman Cain has passed

Former Presidential candidate Herman Cain has passed.

He died today after battling COVID-19 for the last month.

If Mr Cain and I had ever had a chance to talk about this pandemic and the way it’s taken so many lives, I’m quite sure the discussion would reveal that we were seeing things very differently.

Having said that, it’s a tragedy that Mr Cain has passed from the scene too soon. It’s tragic when anyone is laid low by this horrible disease. Anyone here in the US–anyone, anywhere.

But it’s also true that Herman was clearly in the denialist camp. When he attended Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally, he and his party sat proudly in the Bank of Oklahoma Center with no masks.

I certainly understand that it’s possible that Mr Cain became infected in some other way. That’s true without a doubt.

Nevertheless, I seriously doubt whether he and his family did anything that would put him at greater risk than attending that rally back on June 20th.

There have been many large gatherings in the last few months that have put people at great risk. And many Americans are paying a steep price for their apparent rejection of the facts about this pandemic. About the pandemic and ways to lower your risk.

It’s not too late to put the politics around all of this aside, embrace the science and protect yourself.

Do it for your loved ones. Do it because you have something to live for.

Do it even if you get no support–or even opposition–from family and friends.

So many have died because of this accursed virus. Please take the precautions you can to make it less likely that you’ll be one of them.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Follow this link to see the guidance from the CDC on ways to lower your risk.

If you love your Mother

One of the urgencies humanity is facing at the present time has to do the way we’re degrading our Planet. The Planet that is our common home.

There are so many indicators that Mother Earth is suffering. Suffering badly, truth be told.

One of those clear signs that this is happening is that it’s been unusually warm in Siberia this year. Scientists are now seeing temperatures that have never before been recorded north of the Arctic Circle.

It’s just one more piece of evidence. As though more were needed.

Stay engaged. Don’t let yourself slip into hopelessness and despair.

We’ve got to keep shining a bright light on the crises we’re facing on the environmental front.

We’ve got to learn all we can, stay engaged and put our hands to the work.

There are so many on the front lines–volunteers, laymen and professionals–engaged in this work, giving their all to make a difference.

We can support them by contributing our time, contributing financially and by refusing to let other priorities–as urgent as they are–keep us from addressing the singular problem that can render all of the others insignificant.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Where Common Sense and Compassion Meet

As you no doubt have noticed, there has been a lot of discussion — and a lot of legal fights, as well — about what places of worship can or should do while COVID-19 is ravaging our communities and our churches.

For me, it’s really just a matter of common sense. Of common sense and compassion.

To gather for corporate worship is a right, of course. It’s a right in our Constitutional Republic and it meets an essential and deeply-felt need for so many.

But it’s also true that churches — like any other entity or enterprise in our communities — also want to help keep their members and friends from contracting or spreading a serious and sometimes fatal disease.

Some houses of worship did not like restrictions put in place while the epidemic raged. And they took the route of legal action.

Some churches have unwittingly become incubators of this opportunistic virus and have been deeply affected; many have lost members to coronavirus.

It’s going to make this ordeal better — or at least mitigate the damage we’re experiencing — if we take common sense precautions and do all we can to safeguard the health and the lives of all our friends and everyone in the communities where we worship and work.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

It’s a Happy-Sad Thing

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
    but heartache crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:13

I came upon this familiar verse from Proverbs this morning and it got me to thinking.

Its message clashed with my dour mood of the moment — there is certainly no shortage of things happening here and all over the world right now that can really undercut our serenity and leave us emotionally and spiritually drained — and so I found the verse comforting.

Like so many of us, I have my share of life’s ups-and-downs and get into a funk fairly often. This passage reminded me that whether or not I stay in those occasional foul moods for very long depends, in no small measure, on my response.

As a younger man, I tended to stay trapped in that depressive space for what seemed like very long periods of time.

It’s a good thing indeed that I’ve progressed as I’ve moved along life’s path and I’ve developed the skill of turning, or re-orienting myself when “trapped” in these dark spaces, turning in a more positive direction.

If you’re anything like me, you may well find yourself navigating those decidedly unpleasant places often. It may seem that you’re more acquainted with the heartache part of that brief verse than that happy heart way the verse begins.

If so, you’ve got plenty of company. Don’t forget that we all experience those sometimes heart-wrenching highs-and-lows and that we can steer ourselves towards the happy heart end of the polarity by thoughtfully, consciously turning towards the light.

It’s a good thing indeed, to turn in that better direction — even when we feel as though the last tiny shred of happiness has been torn from our grasp — and ready ourselves for the return of those moments of blossoming joy.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The president and the Bible Photo Op

Because this regrettable and surreal scene played itself out on Monday, I’m thinking that many of you are well-aware of what happened by now. And here — for what it’s worth — is my take on this disturbing event.

It’s clear now that America’s Divider-in-Chief thinks he can use faith for his own purposes. Just like he has been using so many other things, people and events.

He uses people and things to try to improve his terrible image; he uses things and events to sow confusion and deflect blame; he uses people and things — way too often — to punish and wreck revenge on his political enemies or merely on people he doesn’t like.

All of this is — it hardly need be said — to the Nation’s detriment. So now we can add Faith to the things this selfish and spiritually-dead man believes he can use to further his own ends.

Brother Ben

Postscript: for a more detailed look at some of the fallout from Monday’s events — the reactions of Faith leaders, in particular — follow this link.


© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Love Covers All

When we read this passage from the 10th Chapter of Proverbs, it may at first seem unremarkable.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
    but love covers over all wrongs.

from Proverbs, Chapter 10

Those wise, clear exhortations to treat our fellows with courtesy and respect are timeless. The exhortations to let love be our guiding principle in all things.

These words of wisdom are common to all cultures and all religions. All spiritual paths.

As verse 12 wraps up, the clear emphasis is on love and how love can cover over all wrongs.

Just in case a reader may think that Solomon had been imbibing too much of the fruit of the vine and had gone all hippy on us, there are, of course, hundreds–if not thousands–of passages from the Bible that put over that very same idea.

And from the literature and sacred books of a thousand religions and cultures.

The common folk saying found below is an almost word-for-word paraphrase of the familiar Wisdom we read in Matthew chapter 7, verse 12:

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Common folk saying

It is hard, at times, to understand why so many of us are in such great need of being reminded of these things.

The reminders, the exhortations, come from a thousand voices, heard at every turn as we walk along life’s path.

And often we aren’t listening.

I’m not. You’re not. He’s not. She’s not. They’re not.

Listen to those voices.

Heed them.

Let love be your touchstone, your all-in-all.

Brother Ben

© The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Not Here, Not Now

More than two millennia ago, the writer of Proverbs had this to say:

Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse.

Proverbs 8: 6-8, italics mine

Let’s take a closer look at verse 8. In the text, Wisdom is speaking, and says this about the words she utters: “none of them is crooked or perverse.”

What a wonderful thing it would be if we — in these troubling times — could say the same thing when we hear or read of things our leaders have said!

We hear a lot of spin, evasions and outright falsehoods virtually anytime we listen to, read or view the news these days.

The lies we’re hearing are pervasive. They’re deliberate. And they’re causing untold harm.

We might wonder how long this tragic state of affairs will go on.

I don’t know.

But I do know that it’s imperative that we recommit ourselves to speaking the truth. To recoil from deception and lies.

And to refuse to accept lying and deceit from those who hold positions of power and authority in this pivotal time in which we live.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

National Arbor Day 2020

Yes, it’s National Arbor Day today. But with most of America — and the world, for that matter — staying close to home, celebrating this auspicious day is just a bit different this time.

My celebration of the day this year includes two things. Small things, but things which nevertheless help the cause.

I just made a donation to the National Arbor Day Foundation. This is something I look forward to doing each year.

If you would like to do that today, follow this link.

I’m also going to use today’s hashtag on my twitter account. And that is: #ArborDayAtHome. When you use that tag, the Foundation will plant a tree for your gesture of support and good will. Up to 50,000 trees.

That’s a wonderful thing.

One more thought: if you’d like to take a look at the blog for the National A.D. Foundation, go right here.

Yours in the spirit of Arbor Day, I am,

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile