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  • Reverend James Squire

God Forbid

It was suggested that I view a recently released documentary, God Forbid, on the rise and downfall of Jerry Falwell, Jr. It is a disturbing look at the evangelical churchs’ connection to politics in general and to Liberty University and Jerry Falwell, Jr. in particular and his association with Donald Trump. Falwell delivered the evangelical vote for Trump’s election in 2016. Be prepared for a sordid depiction of all that is wrong with parts of the evangelical movement in our nation. Watch on the documentary for a meeting of a group of men presumably the Board of Trustees of Liberty University. In the middle of the group is a short man with brown hair. That is Mark DeMoss.

The DeMoss family were members of the Episcopal Academy Community. Art, Nancy, David, and Mark were part of our school. Art, the father died suddenly in his early fifties. David attended EA as well and was killed in an automobile accident in his early twenties. Nancy, the matriarch of the family held the family together after these tragedies. She was a woman of great kindness who proclaimed the Gospel by acts and words.

I am writing this blog for another reason than to encourage you to watch the documentary, God Forbid streaming on Hulu. I am writing this to show how one person spoke truth to power and represents the very best in the evangelical movement today. The whole DeMoss family represented the best of the evangelical movement as well. Mark DeMoss was the founder and CEO of the largest public relations firm, The DeMoss Group, representing a large number of A list evangelical organizations and churches in our nation. He attended Liberty University and was a kicker on their football team as he was on our team at EA and a member of the Board of Trustees of Liberty University.

The documentary chronicles the relationship between Trump and Jerry Falwell, the president of the university. His support made a difference in getting Trump elected. The documentary also traces the sordid details of Jerry, his wife, and a pool boy who was carrying on an affair with Jerry’s wife for many years while Jerry watched seated in a corner of the room. A photo of Jerry with his wife’s assistant caused the university to suspend him from his position as president of the university. Jerry and the assistant are photographed in a sexually implicit photo. Franklin was later fired but not before he gave credibility to “Trump’s moral life.” In essence Jerry said, “We are all sinners! He is just like us!”

Mark’s firm handled all the details when the Reverend Billy Graham died including the official announcement of his death. More significantly, when Mitt Romney sought the GOP nomination for president in 2008 and 2012, Mark served as the liaison to the evangelical community who were suspicious of Romney’s Mormon faith. He urged his colleagues to look past his religion and focus on his values.

But in 2016, Mark could not endorse Trump to the evangelical community. Mark held a prominent post on the governing board of his alma mater, Liberty University, whose president at that time was still Jerry Falwell. Falwell gave Trump a terrific endorsement to be president. If you watch the documentary, you will see that both Falwell and Trump dealt in transactional relationships with strong strings attached.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Mark DeMoss expressed great criticism of the front- running Trump. He indicated that Trump was a rejection of everything that Liberty University stood for. Many considered Mark as a powerful member of the Board of Trustees and a person who embodied the Gospel.

In the end, Mark Demoss resigned from the board in protest of Falwell’s endorsement. Later, as I mentioned Falwell would resign in disgrace. Trump rode Falwell’s recommendation as far as it could go. I was proud of Mark’s stance. Mark went on say: “You are seeing a lot of what I would consider voices of reason being run out of the Congress and run out of government – and certainly out of the Republican party. Loyalties should not be to a party, but to values.”

Mark has a copy of a full-page ad that ran in the New York Times hanging on his wall. The headline read: “Burning the Qur’an does not illuminate the Bible.”

I hope that the values that he is referencing come from both the evangelical tradition and EA.

But there is more. Years ago, I received a copy of a book written by Mark Demoss, The Little Red Book of Wisdom. There was a handwritten note to me with the book.

“You may not remember me, but I remember you and was pleasantly surprised to learn you are still serving at Episcopal. I thought you might enjoy seeing this little book as I believe there is something here for almost everyone. Mark”

Proverbs 4:7 “Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

I remembered a chapter in his book about the importance in this day of technology to write notes or letters by hand. That makes it more personal to the giver and the receiver.

I gauge a book to be great if it helps me to see things in a different way or teaches me something new from a different perspective. The Little Red Book of Wisdom is a great book. I also know who Mark will not be voting for as a candidate for president.

Mark DeMoss is a prominent powerful voice in the evangelical world. I hope that people listen to him again this time around.

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