A Missed Opportunity: #lynchburgrevival

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This past weekend a revival was held in Lynchburg, Virginia on the doorsteps of the largest Christian educational institution in the United States, Liberty University. It was an event helped put together by Shane Claiborne, as self-prescribed Evangelical Christian and who many consider a leader in the new monasticism movement. Claiborne burst into the Christian pop culture limelight in the mid-2000s with his book The Irresistible Revolution. Since then Claiborne has continued to write, be an activist through his anti-death penalty stance, and demonstrate a communal lifestyle through his work in North Philadelphia with his organization “The Simple Way.” I’ve been a fan of Claiborne since the beginning. His east Tennessee southern draw and almost unapologetic “aw-shucks country-ness” was a fresh voice in a time where most associated with the term Evangelical were more known for their political leanings instead of their religious affiliation. And honestly, Claiborne was just doing something different. I mean driving around on a book tour in a grease-powered “veggie bus” is just cool.

Claiborne, and others known as Red Letter Christians, had planned the #lynchburgrevival in response to the message(s) they felt were anti-Gospel coming from Liberty University’s president Jerry Falwell Jr. Falwell has said A LOT in his time as the head of the university. Prompting students to carry firearms on campus, to his continuous alignment and support of U.S. President Donald Trump on issues ranging from immigration to Falwell’s defense of sexual allegations charges being brought against Trump. Claiborne has been vocal with his criticism of Falwell, unabashedly at times. Yet, on the eve of the revival, Claiborne reached out to Liberty and Falwell in hopes to have a prayer vigil on their campus, uniting people from both the school and those showing up for the rally. Falwell and Liberty responded with an official notice that if any vigil took place there would be consequences ranging from fines to arrest. So much for reconciliation…

I found myself wondering while all this played out; is anyone really surprised with this outcome?

I’m not a supporter of Falwell, finding myself sitting in the Claiborne camp more often than not. However, all this reeks of grandstanding from both sides. Falwell flexes his muscles, citing the safety of his students and Shane prophesies that all he was aiming to do was share the Gospel message in Lynchburg. Claiborne even says that in the letter he sent Falwell he asked if the two could pray together and informed Falwell that he'd been praying for him all this time. Claiborne and fellow RLC Tony Campolo even collected prayer cards that will be sent to the Falwell family after the event. All this sounds sincere from both sides and yet…

Citing the safety of students from what was aimed as a prayer vigil seems absurd. Falwell has been on Claiborne’s radar for some time and probably didn’t want a potentially embarrassing confrontation to occur on his campus aka his own backyard. And Claiborne can confess brotherly love all he wants, but come on…these tweets don’t seem to express those feelings. 

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Do I think the things that Falwell spews are heretical and toxic? Absolutely, but...

Saying you're praying for someone after blasting them continously is like a sweet old church lady giving you the buiness on everything from your hair color choice to your "clearly wrong stance" on LBTQ/Gun control/Abortion (take your pick) and after the verbal lashing leans in and says, "I'm praying for you hon." It just comes across as presumptuous and inauthentic. Rest assured Claibornes' not concerned for Falwell, but concerned about Falwell.

Here was a chance for something beautiful to happen. I just think egos and agendas on BOTH sides got in the way.

Shame.