Last year was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad one for Richard Land, one of the most prominent leaders of the religious right over the last quarter-century. His tenure as president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission went down in flames after he was exposed as a serial plagiarist. For those who don't remember, he used his radio show, Richard Land Live! to claim the White House was using the Trayvon Martin case to "gin up the black vote" for the presidential election. It turned out that this rant was not only disgusting--it wasn't even his. A leading moderate Baptist blogger, Aaron Weaver, discovered that Land's screed had been lifted almost verbatim from a Washington Times column that had run two days earlier. Weaver also discovered Land had plagiarized material on other occasions as well. Following an internal investigation, the ERLC's executive committee reprimanded him in June and canceled his show. Two months later, Land announced he was retiring in 2013--though you'd have to be out of your mind to think this was at all voluntary.
So you'd think this would be the end of the ballgame for Land, right? Oh, no. It turns out that he's landed on his feet as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, a nondenominational seminary based in Matthews, a suburb of Charlotte. In an interview with The Charlotte Observer, Land said that he sees himself as "an apologist in the culture for the Christian world view." He also makes no bones about his long-term goal of turning out pastors who will continue to push social conservative issues.
All indications are that Land is swimming upstream. After all, the ground is clearly shifting out from under the religious right's feet--all indications are that Republicans can't just count on running it up among social conservatives to win nationally anymore. But that's beside the point. No matter where you stand on the social divide, the fact Land has managed to land a job at any level in academia--let alone a presidency--is unconscionable. Journalists and professors have been fired and students have been suspended for less egregious cases of plagiarism than what Land engaged in. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the standards ought to be several times higher in the Christian world. Seems to me that if there's a definition for "failing upward" in the dictionary, there ought to be a picture of Land there.
For years, we've been told that liberalism is immoral by definition. After this, I don't ever want to hear that canard again.