Over the past several years, I've taken to task Jerry Falwell, Jr., and the upper administration at Liberty University (LU). I've been quoted in the New York Times, Politico, and the Washington Post and "guested" on such podcasts as The Roys Report and Gangster Capitalism. When it was not vogue to step out in criticism of Falwell and LU, I was right there on the front lines with a valiant few...alone and exposed to whatever counter-criticisms or legal machinations Falwell and his lawyers might "trump" up (yes...pun intended). Fortunately, we were never chided or charged, and once Falwell was ousted by LU and the media's fascination with his madhattery waned, so did journalistic interest in my perspectives and any legal danger from the Falwell camp. Over the past six months or so, I have decidedly faded back into obscurity, which is just fine with me! I rather enjoy the shadows.
However, I was texting with a colleague of mine recently, who had just heard the Gangster Capitalism podcast for the first time. He was praising me for what he called "clarity and conviction and . . . courage" and for being "a champion for integrity." Although such sublimity is flattering, I don't personally buy into the press. I know my faults, failures, and fears, and though I have certainly demonstrated courage, conviction, and integrity at times in the past, I've also demonstrated their opposites on far too many other occasions. So, even though I appreciate my colleague's encouragement and am heartened by his confidence in me, I cannot indulge in any self-praise.
Even so, in reflecting upon my ordeal with the Falwellians (i.e., Falwell and those in upper administration at LU)--whom I not-so-affectionately call "the wolves of Lynchburg"--I cannot help but recall a theory I developed during those years to describe the phenomenon of facing the metaphorical wolves who inevitably surface in our world and create mischief. It's called the Theory of Wolfslayer, and it articulates three types of "warrior" who fight wolven battles along with the life principle they personify. An understanding of these types and their corresponding principle has helped me judge my actions when presented with conflict and will hopefully keep me on firm, battle-focused footing when presented with the next wolf. Allow me to outline my warrior typology...
The first warrior is the theoretical namesake himself, Wolfslayer. He is the wolf's most formidable enemy because he does not respond to intimidation, self-generated fear, or socially imposed limitations. Wolfslayer is aggressive, resilient, and confident, and when the wolf sees him--even from far off and even before Wolfslayer has seen him--he backs away slowly and eventually runs for cover. Wolfslayer's effectiveness in battle rests upon his foundations of faith, strength of character, and justice as well as his ability to counter-intimidate and fight the good fight. Falwell and his minions did not attack those who spoke out against them early and assertively because they had already run for cover! They saw these opponents as Wolfslayers--imposing warriors armed with a weapon they neither possessed nor understood, namely, Truth. I am so very proud of several colleagues of mine who stood firm in their convictions, even when faced with the blood-toothed, foamy-mouthed snarl of the wolf. As they predictably saw, the Falwellian canine was all bark and no bite. He quickly expended his exhaustible energies and faded away. But the courage of my true warrior-friends has endured and continues to inspire me every day!
The second warrior is one I call Wolfplayer. Although this warrior can be an effective fighter, he only emerges after the wolf has been routed, wounded, or contained. Less aggressive, confident, and, thus, formidable, Wolfplayer nonetheless serves the valuable role of "heaping coals" upon the wolf and thus hastening his demise. The drawback to Wolfplayer, however, is that his numbers are usually much greater than his predecessor's, thus his cacophonic voice quickly drowns out the more intrepid growl of Wolfslayer. This would be largely unproblematic were it not that most Wolfplayers (though not all, for sure) desire to be seen as Wolfslayers. As such, they inevitably seek credit for courage they did not demonstrate, deep integrity they do not possess, and Truth they did not author. In the end, their caricature of wolfslaying can become the model by which future battles are lost because the lessons of the truly creative and courageous vanguard are suppressed. I have seen this unfortunate scenario play out in the matter of Falwell. Once his sexual sins were exposed and LU had ousted him, the numbers of folks willing to speak out "on the record" swelled, and those who led the initial, heroic charge were quickly relegated to the backseat and forgotten. I am saddened for these my lionhearted colleagues, many of whom placed everything on the line to do what was right. At the same time, I don't lose heart because the errant Wolfplayer knows the discreditable ill he has done and, again, it is the courage of the true warrior that endures.
Finally, there is Wolfnayer, whom I am want to call a warrior at all. Unfortunately, this is probably where most people find themselves when the wolf comes a'scratchin' at the door. Wolfnayer is generally so fearful, laissez faire, intimidated, or socially hamstrung that he fabricates notions whereby the wolf does not exist or is at least not as dangerous as everyone assumes. While Wolfslayer prepares for battle and Wolfplayer awaits his prime opportunity to pounce, Wolfnayer is content to go about his daily business with the blinds of life tightly closed. The wolf is eventually meted, but no thanks to Wolfnayer, whose only contribution is to reap the rewards of the dead wolf. Most folks in Lynchburg and at LU simply stood by and watched as the Wolfslayers and later Wolfplayers went nose-to-nose with the beast. And today, they continue to reap the rewards of their large paychecks, special privileges, and administrative power, whilst their slaying and playing counterparts have had to shoulder the burdens of re-employment, ostracism, loss of professional status, and/or wolfnaying criticism. For most Wolfslayers and some respectable Wolfplayers, however, these are small prices to pay in order to place themselves firmly among the honored class of warrior-heroes. Still, the injustice of it all is hard to swallow at times.
So, the life principle illustrated by these three "warriors" should be abundantly clear by now. While we all strive to be and surround ourselves with Wolfslayers, the harsh reality is that not everyone will rise to the occasion. Some can only muster enough courage for wolfplaying and others, the Wolfnayers, cannot even muster that. Consequently, when the wolves come, there will only be a small cadre of people to lead the wolfslaying endeavor, a slightly larger cadre to help smother the wounded wolf, and an overwhelmingly large forum of spectators simply waiting for the dust to settle. But I guess such one-sided heroism is to be expected. In the first place, human nature being what it is--largely the product of fight-or-flight psychology and survival instinct--we deceive ourselves when our pine for chivalry and valor supplants our firm grasp on reality. That is to say, we must maintain realistic expectations for our fellowmen! More significantly, however, is the practical reality that everyone cannot be Wolfslayer. He is the warrior-hero precisely because he is rare. Were everyone Wolfslayer, then his resiliency would be expected, his confidence conventional, his faith feral, and his character commonplace. But this is decidedly not the case. Wolfslayer is a warrior of uncommon virtue and valor, and, as such, he will always be a lone, unsung enemy of the wolf.