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Real Answers™
dl126
Copyright: © 2007 Donald E. Lindman
585 words

FALWELL'S LEGACY:  HOW WILL HE BE REMEMBERED?

By: Don Lindman

The death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell presented headline writers with a dilemma.  Most probably will say, as did the headline writer at washingtonpost.com, “Television Evangelist Falwell Dies at 73,” but it could just as well have said “Baptist Preacher,” or “University President,” or “Moral Majority Founder.”  Falwell made his mark on American society while wearing a variety of hats.

His first was as a Baptist preacher.  Starting in 1956 with 35 members, Falwell built the Thomas Road Baptist Church, of Lynchburg, Virginia, into what is now a 24,000 member congregation.  He provided spiritual counsel and guidance to many, many people over the ensuing 51 years.

In 1971 Falwell started the Lynchburg Baptist College, which today is 9600-student Liberty University, a very credible Christian institution of higher learning.  At this time in his life Falwell was a virtual unknown on the national scene.

That changed with the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing a woman’s right to abortion.  Motivated by Roe vs. Wade, Falwell in 1979 founded the Moral Majority, a conservative Christian lobbying group. 

At first America’s religious, political, and journalistic leaders didn’t take the Moral Majority seriously, but in 1980 they were credited with being a major force behind the election to the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  Falwell quickly became one of the most recognizable spokespersons for the religious right.  He also became one of the most controversial.

In a highly publicized case he sued Hustler magazine and publisher Larry Flynt for libel.  He took over part of the Rev. Jim Bakker’s ministry when the televangelist stepped down in a sex and finances scandal. 

Speaking at a religious conference Falwell said that the Antichrist was a Jew and probably already alive.  Shortly afterward he accused the Teletubbies TV show of promoting homosexuality, suggesting that one character, Tinky Winky, was gay.  Falwell also blamed the 9/11 terrorist attack on America’s declining morals, suggesting it could be God’s judgment on the nation.

Falwell referred to himself as a lightning rod, and that he was.  He said and did some rash things, from which he later tried to back away, and it is likely that Falwell will be remembered more for his ill-advised mistakes than for the good he has done.

It was Falwell who brought a large segment of American society, the evangelical right, back into the life of politics, where their voice deserves to be heard just as much as the voices that already are there.  Liberty University will continue to educate young people for life in the adult world of business and culture.

The Thomas Road Baptist Church will continue its ministry, and in all likelihood it will continue to grow.  Thousands upon thousands of people have had their lives changed for the better by his ministry and by the ministry of others in his church.

I disagree with some of Falwell’s theology and I at times felt embarrassed by his public antics.  But in his own way he was serving the Lord—his Lord and ours—and I expect we’ll have a lot of time available to discuss our differences in heaven. 

I may have felt him wrong numerous times, but I give him credit for teaching evangelical Christians the importance of living the life, not just talking about it.  He taught by example as well as words that what you believe must be lived out in the market place.  Pulling away and withdrawing into a spiritual shell isn’t a viable option.

May he rest in peace, and may God bless his memory.

"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; amyfoundtn@aol.com

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