Jerry Falwell Jr., early apostle of Donald Trump and happy scourge of the libs, has finally resigned as president and chancellor of Liberty University. A former friend of the couple who might or might not have been extorting them, Giancarlo Granda told Reuters he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife, whose name, of course, is Becki. And Jerry sometimes liked to watch. It’s the kind of smug bully’s humiliating comeuppance that makes a perfect scandal.
But this scandal goes deeper than that—and I don’t mean the possible Michael Cohen connection. In the old theological meaning of the word, scandal isn’t really about what happens to the person who does something wrong. It’s about what happens to everybody else, those left in the scandal’s wake, wondering if there’s anything left to believe. In that sense, Falwell’s scandals are of a piece with Trump’s. Falwell makes people wonder if religion is actually just jerks reciting pieties and making money; Trump makes people wonder the same thing about democracy.