Farewell to Falwell


By: Robert E. Meyer

On May 22cd, they buried a man who had changed the course and structure of American politics as few others in the final quarter of the 20th century.

Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” became a household brand, and was at least partially responsible for ushering a new era of conservative politics that commenced with the landslide victory of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Of course, those who received the greatest media exposure concerning the passing of Falwell, were his irreverent detractors, who were inclined to uncork the champagne and crack a smile, when the news became official. The politically incorrect Bill Mahr, lamented that Falwell didn’t take Pat Robertson with him on his sojourn to the great beyond. Some atheists suggested that if there were a hell, Falwell would certainly be there.

There is an interesting dichotomy in the way Dr. Falwell was viewed. The people who hated Falwell considered him to be a hate-monger; the people who were closest to him saw him as a man of courage, compassion, wit and wisdom.

I believe the reason that Falwell was so hated was because he was so effective.

I knew of Falwell long before his days as a leader of the “Moral Majority.” I remember him from my teen-age years as the 40-ish televangelist broadcasting his show from Thomas Road Baptist Church. I recall watching his program many a Sunday in the early to mid 1970′s. At that time, I never expected Falwell to become an icon on the national political scene.

My local paper editorialized on the death of Jerry Falwell. It was pretty much a straight forward chronology without the innuendos of recrimination that were business as usual in many venues.

A local atheist was upset about the lack of “critical analysis” in the op-ed.

Presumably, by “critical analysis,” he meant that they did not succumb to reiterating the boilerplate diatribes on the lips and pens of numerous detractors of Falwell.

The usual method is to produce a selective ledger of irreverent comments uttered by Falwell over his decades of media exposure. These comments are hardly “critical analysis,” but represent a negative caricature of Falwell’s true persona, as evidenced by the people who were closest to him.

He also complained that the paper said nothing about the “fact” that Falwell’s faithful eschewed science and reason. If Falwell commandeered a voting bloc that denigrated science and reason, then I am sure it’s news to those folks. Of course, what the writer likely refers to, is that certain ideological peers of Falwell, objected to metaphysical philosophies that were festooned as scientific fact.

In typical monkey-see-monkey-do fashion, the writer reminds us of Falwell’s infamous comment in the wake of 9-ll, yet never mentions that Falwell apologized profusely for singling out certain groups of people, who he said contributed to the reasons for the 9-11 attacks on America.

That said, it’s not unusual for political figures to blame certain perceived cultural ills for divine judgment on America.

Take Abraham Lincoln on slavery for example…

“If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

The writer then attempted to compare Falwell’s post 9-11 sentiment to the precepts that motivated the 9-11 terrorists. Such a comparison is more absurd then anything ever publicly uttered by Falwell. Contemporary Christianity has been spread by evangelism, such as that through the ministry of the Rev. Billy Graham, not through terrorism. Falwell has never preached violence, or advocated public insurrection. This is a big distinction that people need to be reminded of, when they chirp preposterous rhetoric about Fundamentalist Christianity being tantamount to radical Islam.

Every man with a ministry has some combination of natural gifts and divine calling. Falwell is one who didn’t get enamored with his gifts and forget his calling.

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