Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The Rev. Jerry Falwell Died Today at 73
Jerry Falwell was one of those names that dominated the face of public Christianity in this country for decades. His visibility certainly rose with his entry into the political scene in the late 80's as he molded together a new conservative political organization known as the Moral Majority. However his Thomas Road Baptist Church with 22,000 members (founded 1956), along with the Liberty University complex (founded 1971), now over 7,000 students strong, were also visible reminders of his significant presence in the world of the Evangelical movement of our times.
Although my theology is quite different from Falwell's Baptist views, I appreciated his straight-forward support of traditional morals and ethics, as well his defense of such biblical truths as the divine 6-day creation. Despite the differences any might have had with him, you had to respect his consistent commitment to the ideals he held, unwilling to sway with the vacillations of public opinion. He held strongly against the powerful societal views of abortion, homosexuality and other widespread sins of our day.
His involvement in the political realm is seen as a significant force behind the election of Ronald Reagan, and the Republican surge in congress in the 1980's. He certainly felt strongly that leaders such as himself needed to step into the political arena if conservatives were to have a chance. Again, I commend him for his convictions. However, as a Lutheran I could not have mixed the kingdoms of the right and left the way he did. While I am a citizen with an obligation to carry out my duty to vote and to support the work of government, actively perusing a political agenda while pastoring a church seems to me still very much a contradictory mixing of vocations. The "tools" of each "kingdom" are different, and there is always a danger that one will carry what is natural to one into the other, thus confusing the mission of both. I have felt this to be one of the weaknesses with the Evangelical movement.
It will be interesting, now that he has built an 'empire' in his name, to see what will become of all the institutions he has helped build. Time will tell. This may, in some ways, be the beginning of the end of an era.