Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Jerry Falwell Dies at Age 73
Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority and Liberty University, died a few hours ago of heart failure at age 73. I honestly don't know what to say about this. It is sad when anyone dies. My heart goes out to his family. However, I'm having a hard time finding anything positive to say about him. In so many ways he pursued a version of Christianity that is very much opposed to everything I think the way of Christ is about. So I guess if I can't say anything nice I just shouldn't say anything at all.

Though one thing I wonder is who, if anyone, will "succeed" him - i.e. will fill the same role he has in American culture these past 30+ years? Or is his style of fundamentalist activism destined to slowly fade away as his generation passes. Right now there is still Robertson and Dobson to carry on the legacy, but they're as old as Jerry was and might not be around much longer either. Who comes after them? I'm not saying anyone should (I hope their brand of Christianity does just fade away) but if there is a "next generation" for the extreme Religious Right I wonder who will lead it. Most of the big name Christian leaders these days (e.g. Rick Warren, Franklin Graham, T.D. Jakes, etc.), while still mostly conservative, are not really in the same league of extremism that Falwell was. Personally I take this as a good sign.

Anyone else have a suggestion for who will be the Jerry Falwell of the next generation?

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posted by Mike Clawson at 3:22 PM | Permalink |


At 5/15/2007 05:48:00 PM, Blogger Macht

"So I guess if I can't say anything nice I just shouldn't say anything at all."

My mom used to say that. Of course, she also used to say something to the effect of "If you can't find something good about a person, you probably haven't looked hard enough."


At 5/15/2007 06:02:00 PM, Blogger Wes & Judy

...in the words of Pat Robertson, about other people, "This must be God's doing!" Fascinating thoughts you bring up...and I tend to agree with you.



At 5/15/2007 06:53:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Some of the (rather more gleeful) atheists over at Hemant's site said something similar Wes. They pointed out that since Falwell was always blaming the deaths of other people on particular sins (in New Orleans, or on 9/11 for instance), one wonders what Jerry must have done to provoke his own death.

But I suppose a jab like that is in poor taste when someone has just died. (And no, I don't think God smote Rev. Falwell. It was probably just his time to go. If God wanted to punish him I suspect he'd have done it a long time ago.)


At 5/15/2007 09:00:00 PM, Blogger Connie+

I can not disagree with what as been posted. Your question "Who will replace him? is a good one in that it brings to the front the future of the fundamentalist movement?

What is the future of fundamentalism? It seems to me that it is beginning to coolesce to the outside extreme of Christianity - or that maybe my perspective from where I sit.


At 5/15/2007 09:16:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

I honestly don't know what to say about this. It is sad when anyone dies. My heart goes out to his family. However, I'm having a hard time finding anything positive to say about him. In so many ways he pursued a version of Christianity that is very much opposed to everything I think the way of Christ is about.

Interesting - that was pretty much my reaction when Dana told me early this afternoon.
Of course, then I felt a little bit guilty.....


At 5/16/2007 03:37:00 AM, Blogger Robin

Mike you said..

**But I suppose a jab like that is in poor taste when someone has just died.**

Perhaps it is to the grieving family.

But the fact that Falwell put himself out in the public arena as such an outspoken hate monger (even if he didn't think so), it is to be expected that nice people will have not so nice things to say about a man that brought these type of comments about, soley by opening his mouth.

His family and close friends, surely know what a public figure he was and basically should be expecting to hear some not so nice remarks.

And the fact that gerbmom feels a *little bit guilty* over having a hard time finding anything positive to say about him, only shows the damage that religion *can* produce from having an honest thought.

gerbmom, please remember that god did not condone hypocrisy. So, please don't feel guilty. Mr. Falwell was an adult that was or should have been fully aware of how his words would fuel the fire.


At 5/16/2007 07:45:00 AM, Blogger jazzycat

I've never seen such a judgmental and hateful thread. Didn't Jesus say something about being judgemental?

Robin, can you give me one quote to support your charge that Falwell was a "hate monger". While I was not a fan of Falwell, I do not believe you can give a single quote where he expressed hate toward people.

Conservative "BIBLE BELIEVING" Christians have just as much right to be activists as extreme liberal left wing activists such as Jim Wallis and Jesse Jackson.

I wasn't going to comment here again, but you people are deceiving yourselfs about your following Jesus. You are sinners in need of grace just like I am and like Falwell in his life. He understood this and while I disagreed with some of his theology, He believed and trusted all of the Bible and not just the part that fit his pre-conceived world-view.


At 5/16/2007 09:10:00 AM, Blogger PrincessMax

Jazzycat, I'm sorry that you see this thread as hateful and judgemental. To me, it looks like people who are saddened by their own brokenness that stands in the way of them being able to fully love another of God's chosen people. However, they are not denying that brokenness but acknowledging it and trying to sort out what to do with it. They could pretend they haven't been hurt by Falwell, but they'd rather be honest.

These are by far the most gentle responses that I have heard about Falwell's death. So much of America has only heard him say the equivalent of "God hates you. You caused all of the problems we're having. You must change before God will love you and the world will be right again." There are plenty of quotes out there to support that statement. (Google feminists, homosexuals or 9/11 with his name.) These quotes are hate mongering in that they identify people that God loves as worhty only of the condemnation of other people. The people in the world who have been made to feel like God hates them see Falwell as a major source of pain and their anger is understandable. Many of us who are not subject to his attacks are angry that we have to defend our Christianity as being "not like Jerry Falwell." But I do not see that anger in this thread.

Nor do I see anyone saying that right-wing activists do not have rights. In fact, most of us that hang around here respect all folks that are willing to act out their faith, even if we disagree with them.

Finally, I'm sorry that you don't want to share kinship with those of us that have a different perspective on how to follow Jesus. Many of us have been hurt quite deeply when told that we "aren't really Christians." That is a more hateful and judgemental statement than any that has been made here in this thread. To deny someone Christ? Only God can do that. And he doesn't. We are all in a journey toward Christ and it does not help anyone's forward progress for you to be sticking out your foot and tripping folks that are on a different path than you are. Both of us are delayed when you do it.

I hope that as you spend more time on this blog and others like it, our willingness to examine ourselves and the world and to come to the conclusion that we are not always right will help you see that we are not a threat to you. Your over-reation seems to indicate you feel that way. God is so big that none of us can see all of him. We are simply exploring different aspects of him than the aspects that are in front of you. No one is claiming that we aren't sinners in the midst of that exploration. In fact, we are willing to put that sin out in front of our peers and talk about it, like in this thread.

We are all right. We are all wrong. We are all just trying to do the best we can. I believe that about you and I hope that someday you can believe that about me.

Thank you for being honest with us and letting us see you while you were upset and vulnerable. That is an honor that I do not take lightly.


At 5/16/2007 09:19:00 AM, Blogger M James

The Carpetbagger Report has up a list of Falwell's "gifts to society".

Among them:

- July 1984: Falwell is forced to pay gay activist Jerry Sloan $5,000 after losing a court battle. During a TV debate in Sacramento, Falwell denied calling the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Churches “brute beasts” and “a vile and Satanic system” that will “one day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven.” When Sloan insisted he had a tape, Falwell promised $5,000 if he could produce it. Sloan did so, Falwell refused to pay and Sloan successfully sued. Falwell appealed, with his attorney charging that the Jewish judge in the case was prejudiced. He lost again and was forced to pay an additional $2,875 in sanctions and court fees.

- 1994-1995: Falwell is criticized for using his “Old Time Gospel Hour” to hawk a scurrilous video called “The Clinton Chronicles” that makes a number of unsubstantiated charges against President Bill Clinton — among them that he is a drug addict and that he arranged the murders of political enemies in Arkansas. Despite claims he had no ties to the project, evidence surfaced that Falwell helped bankroll the venture with $200,000 paid to a group called Citizens for Honest Government (CHG). CHG’s Pat Matrisciana later admitted that Falwell and he staged an infomercial interview promoting the video in which a silhouetted reporter said his life was in danger for investigating Clinton. (Matrisciana himself posed as the reporter.) “That was Jerry’s idea to do that,” Matrisciana recalled. “He thought that would be dramatic.”

And who can forget the classic:
- February 2007: Falwell describes global warming as a conspiracy orchestrated by Satan, liberals, and The Weather Channel.

The man was a liar, anti-semitist and a hatemonger. But he did set up homes for unwed mothers and do other good deeds for society. It's just a shame that's not what he will be known for.

To answer your other question, about who should take his place: I would think the answer is as plain as the nose on your face!
It's going to be Bradlee Dean of Junkyard Prophet (the band) and his You Can Run But You Can't Hide ministries. He will be fundamentalism's next saving grace!


At 5/16/2007 09:26:00 AM, Blogger Julie

Hmm... What's not hateful about his summary of 9/11 -
" I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."


At 5/16/2007 10:00:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Man Jazzy, if you think this thread is hateful and judgmental you'd better not read this one. I think your head will explode. (And that one is also pretty tame compared to some of the others out there I could point to.)


At 5/16/2007 10:13:00 AM, Anonymous John

I could have guessed before I visited your blog today that you wouldn't really have anything nice to say about him.

I remember as a child (1980's) that Christian people really didn't get involved in politics. It wasn't what they did. I think he changed all this. He brought them together and encouraged them to get out and have a voice. Before that Christians didn't encourage each other to get involved in politics at all.


At 5/16/2007 10:51:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Yeah, it's just too bad that once we did get involved we chose to speak out about all the wrong issues...


At 5/16/2007 11:35:00 AM, Blogger Macht

Hey guys, my comment above was serious - have any of you even took any time to look for anything good that Falwell did? Did you know he started a home for pregnant women, along with an adoption agency? Did you know he started a home for men with alcohol and drug problems? I'm assuming you didn't, even though it only took me about 2 minutes to find that out through google. And I really wouldn't be surprised to find out that there are plenty of other good things to say about him, too.


At 5/16/2007 01:01:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Yeah macht, I think Michael James mentioned that above.

Everyone is a mixture of good and evil. In Falwell's case the latter was simply more noticeable.


At 5/16/2007 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Macht

Oops, I must have missed Michael's mention of that. But your last sentence is my point exactly - I don't want to know what people would say about me after my death if the most public part about me were my sins.


At 5/17/2007 05:31:00 AM, Blogger Macht

Here's another good thing about him that I just ran across. Even when he was diametrically opposed to somebody else's beliefs, that didn't stop Falwell from becoming that person's friend. (I also find it mildly amusing that Larry Flynt's mom sounds a lot like my mom.)


At 5/17/2007 12:02:00 PM, Blogger Robin


Flynt said....

**Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in

California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling. **

They were both predators of society.

Falwell took advantage of peoples good nature and blind faith.

Certainly, everyone has some likable quality. Even a serial killer has likeable qualities. But that doesn't take away from the totality of their crimes.


At 5/17/2007 01:08:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

"They were both predators of society."

Indeed, it doesn't surprise me that Flynt and Falwell got along so well. They both seem of a similar personality to me.


At 5/17/2007 02:11:00 PM, Blogger Macht

Wow. I didn't expect that reaction.


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