Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell, A Life Well Lived

Today 73-year-old pastor and evangelist Jerry Falwell was found in his office unconscious and then later died. He leaves behind his wife, three children and several grandchildren. He also leaves behind quite a legacy.

Dr. Falwell founded the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1956. In the beginning the fledgling church met in his home and later moved into the building of an old soft drink bottling company. Today the church has 22,000 members! Dr. Falwell established a television ministry that continues to be featured on stations around the country and he founded Liberty University with a student enrolment of that exceeds 20,000. He also built elementary schools, homes for unwed mothers and homes for alcoholics.

Falwell was perhaps best known as the face of fundamentalist Christianity. In response to what he considered an immoral drift of the country he founded the Moral Majority in 1979 that at one time boasted 6.5 million members committed to working the political system for the election of Congressmen and Justices. In 1983 U.S. News and World Report named him one of the 25 most influential people in America.

Falwell became a lightening rod for everything that was anti-fundamentalist Christianity or anti-conservatism. At one time he even had a significant point of difference with Billy Graham. There have been many things with which I have strongly disagreed that Dr. Falwell has said or done through the years. Nevertheless, I have great respect and admiration for what he has done for God and for people.

From what I understand and believe the Bible teaches Jerry Falwell is now in the presence of the God whom he has served for over 50 years. He’s experiencing a joy and peace that is beyond anything we know in this world. And I’m sure he is hearing from our Lord the words that all servants of Christ long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The past few days have been filled with commentary on the passing of Jerry Falwell. A great deal of it has been very mean spirited. The harsh commentators have justified themselves because Falwell often was outrageous and sometimes mean spirited himself.

My reflection on Dr. Falwell did focus on positive accomplishments with a brief acknowledgement of another side of his life for which I hold disagreement and disappointment.

The comments by Lance Lewis and Eric Redmond represent what I consider fair yet pointed criticism of Dr. Falwell’s legacy.

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