As I’ve mentioned before, getting The Unlikely Disciple stocked in the Liberty campus bookstore has been harder than passing a camel through the eye of a needle. First, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. pulled it from the shelves. Then, after being reviewed (and approved) by a faculty committee, the book returned to the shelves, accompanied by a three-paragraph disclaimer, which you can see hovering above the books in the photo below.
The full text of the disclaimer reads:
Readers of the Unlikely Disciple should be aware that many factual inaccuracies were identified in this book by Liberty University faculty and staff reviewers. Some examples of the factual errors: the book quotes Dr. Falwell as saying the third world doesn’t need food and water, only the gospel. He never made such a statement and often preached that Christians should not expect the hungry and the homeless to accept the gospel until Christians had first met their needs to be fed and clothed.
The book also perpetuates the myth that Dr. Falwell accused Tinky Winky of being gay. In fact, Dr. Falwell had never heard of Tinky Winky when an AP reporter asked him about an editorial in his National Liberty Journal newspaper that cited reports from the Washington Post that Tinky Winky might have been meant to portray a “gay” character. The book is well written but contains quite a bit of fiction.
In the opinion of the reviewers, these inaccuracies raise questions about the credibility of the author and the accuracy of any unverifiable statements or quotes contained in the book. Readers should be skeptical about the veracity of any information contained in The Unlikely Disciple. Readers are also cautioned that The Unlikely Disciple contains offensive sexual references that Liberty University does not recommend for student readers.
I wasn’t going to address the disclaimer publicly, but I’ve gotten enough e-mails from Liberty students asking about the alleged inaccuracies in the book that I felt I had to respond. Until I’m sent a list of the “many” factual errors in the book, I can assume that the only two worth rebutting are the ones mentioned on the disclaimer. So let’s talk about those.
1) “The book quotes Dr. Falwell as saying the third world doesn’t need food and water, only the gospel. He never made such a statement.”
In a convocation speech he gave during my Liberty semester, Dr. Falwell said, “What is it that world citizens need most today? As hungry as some are, it’s not food. It is not material things. It is not education. What this world needs most is the word of God.”
For the audio clip of this quote, click here.
2) “The book also perpetuates the myth that Dr. Falwell accused Tinky Winky of being gay.”
Not only does the book not perpetuate the Tinky Winky myth, it actively dispels it. From page 193:
“At one point, we’re talking about my upcoming interview with Dr. Falwell, and Max tells me that I should ask him about the time he “outed the gay Teletubby.” I remember learning that Dr. Falwell’s comments about Tinky-Winky may not have been entirely his – they originated in an unsigned editorial in his National Liberty Journal newsletter.”
3) As for the “offensive sexual references” bit, I’ll plead guilty as charged. However, I don’t think that Liberty students are too delicate to read a little blue humor, especially given that the vast majority of the sex references in the book were made by Liberty students.
I have tons of respect for Liberty and its students, many of whom have written me supportive notes since the book came out. And as I said before, I’m glad that the bookstore committee decided to stock the book (and that they called it “well-written” — blurb for the paperback edition?). But this disclaimer has me shaking my head. It’s one thing to dislike my book. It’s another to attack my credibility with false allegations. In the face of a book that attempts to portray Liberty fairly and even-handedly, formulating a sloppy, ad hominem response like the one posted in the Liberty bookstore hardly seems like the reasonable – or the Christian – thing to do.