Surveys consistently reveal conservative Christians are becoming increasingly isolated as they turn to a right-wing form of Christianity. But in efforts to preserve their political power, some teachers and students at Liberty University would like to see President Donald Trump create a new generation of folks like them.
A report in The Guardian explained that polls show a drop in the number of white evangelicals from its peak in the 1990s (around 27 percent) to between 17 percent and 13 percent today. The massive Millennial Generation has added to the problem as they view Christianity as intolerant and hypocritical.
"Changing attitudes and legislation on abortion, divorce, gender equality and LGBT rights were 'powerful indicators of the loss of Protestant privilege and a prelude to white evangelicals moving in such large numbers to supporting Trump,'" The Guardian quoted Prof. Bill Leonard, of church history at Wake Forest University.
According to Leonard, it was the establishment of Liberty University by Jerry Falwell Sr, the founder of the Moral Majority, that created the "primary goal" of creating "generations of rightwing Christians who would run for public office for everything from dog-catcher to US president.”
That has been the focus of Jerry Falwell, Jr. The agenda is based on so-called "traditional “family values,” narrow gender roles and opposition to abortion regardless of the reason. They fiercely support Israel and maintain a nationalist identity.
“People are quick to put one stamp on Liberty, but there are a lot of students who are embarrassed by Falwell,” said Jack Panyard, a senior journalism student. “A good chunk of students are unhappy with the public face of Liberty, but the ones that support Falwell speak louder and are promoted by the university.”
Panyard was about to be the editor of the school newspaper, but after a few weeks, he was told there was a "restructuring," and he was no longer needed.
“Falwell will not put up with people who disagree with him. I was a victim of that culture,” Panyard told the Guardian. “The [Liberty] Champion was my world, I practically lived in that office. Now it’s run by people who are compliant, those with the same political agenda. Yes-men. Anyone who’s going to raise a ruckus will quickly be ejected.
English Professor Karen Swallow Prior described evangelical supporters of Trump by splitting them into two categories: The first is the true moralists who held their nose and voted for Trump, disgusted by his unethical behavior, lack of family values, greed, pride and lustful behavior. The other is the group that is over the moon about the president.
There's a greater focus on compliance among all students, however, according to Pastor Cyd Cowgill of the First Christian Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, where Liberty University is located.
Christopher Stroop, a scholar, writer and ex-evangelical with a history and humanities Ph.D. from Stanford told Salon that political beliefs were woven into the fabric of his upbringing.
“When I was growing up in the 1980s," Stroop said, "two issues that were frequently lamented in my evangelical community were the legalization of abortion and the supposed banning of prayer in school — ‘supposed’ because the right-wing evangelicals I grew up with usually failed to note that the Supreme Court had only ended officially school-sponsored prayer, and had not outlawed private prayer in schools. Extreme exaggeration of the ostensible persecution we supposedly faced as Christians was prevalent in my childhood milieu.”
While the strive for indoctrination persists campaigns like the fake "War on Christmas" or "War on Christianity in Schools" paint the right-wing evangelicals as victims, who deserve to be a protected class. Stroop called these tactics a kind of "Christianization" of America, which could ultimately force belief on children who aren't raised with religion.
"I cannot help but associate this goal with evangelical resentment over legal limitations on prayer in school, and to see it as an attempt to take a step toward the Christianization of public schools. On its own, posting the motto 'In God We Trust' in schools would already embolden Christian nationalists present in those schools, leading Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, liberal and atheist children to feel alienated and pressured to conform.”