Jerry Falwell died.
People’s response to this news has been most interesting. Some are grieving the passing of what they see as a great person, some are indifferent, and some have an almost bemused expression.
Like most people Jerry Falwell will leave behind a mixed legacy. He was the founding pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and was a beloved pastor by all accounts. In interviewing people at Liberty University, the school he founded, he was also beloved. He was above board with his accounting and never really got hooked up in a scandal----which is, in and of itself a legacy, because so many people wanted to find one. I do believe that his faith was sincere. In fairness he was a regular on many shows representing his beliefs----and unlike many people in talk radio he was willing to talk to people who disagreed with him.
I was not a fan. This was a Christian minister who produced a hate movie about Bill Clinton that was filled with fictional events parading as reality.
This was a Christian minister who, in part, blamed 9/11 on the ‘immorality of this country.
This was a Christian minister who made war on Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubbie who Falwell proclaimed was gay. I decided to watch the Teletubbies after that and, trust me, it was PAINFUL!!! The Teletubbies made Barney look like Shakespeare.
Falwell preached a Gospel which pretty much was focused on being anti-gay and anti-abortion. He preached a Gospel on being anti-gay and anti-abortion almost to the exclusion of every other topic. To be blunt, listening to him, he sounded like a bigot. He angered me because he cherry picked Scripture to support his bigotry. I found it and I still find it to be offensive.
He also completely ignored other social issues of huge importance. Hunger, poverty, homelessness and such were not on his agenda. Despite the fact that Jesus spoke more about hunger and poverty than anything else (if you take the time to read an entire Gospel, you’ll notice this!), Falwell believed that these did not rank the importance of speaking on his agenda.
He was often portrayed as kind and generous. Alexandra Pelosi (yes, ‘her’ daughter) did a very benign documentary on Evangelicals and interviewed Falwell----and did not, in any way shape or form, attempt to defame him. Falwell was very happy to speak with her until he found out who her mother was. Then he had her removed from his presence telling Ms. Pelosi what he thought about her mother. (It wasn’t good!)
Frankly, Jerry Falwell preached a message that, to me, distorted so much of Christianity.
But he had his fans and built a legacy. Someone said to me that they hoped Falwell was in hell. Frankly, I hope that he’s in Heaven learning that preaching about the depth of God’s love is what it’s about as opposed to teaching others to hate in the name of God. That’s my hope and that’s my prayer.