Jerry Falwell was a self righteous intolerant bigot who wanted to impose his morality on the whole country; or so I once believed. The fact that I believed this, yet knew not why, attest to the insidious affect of being an uncritical consumer of mass media. My first real memory of "the man" was on a televised debate in which he was the moderator. Being a non-believer at the time, I was struck by his courteousness, gentleness, and the sound arguments forwarded by what I knew to be his side. This seemed odd to me at the time because it so conflicted with what I "knew" to be true about him.
I have since come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and so have come to view him as a courageous brother in Christ. And even though, like every other single person I've ever met, I found things about him with which I disagreed, I grew to have great respect and admiration for his vision and audacity. He was a man of incredible courage and fortitude. As many in his day were content to remain safely within the confines of their church buildings, he realized the importance of Christians being salt and light to a dieing world and challenged Christians nationally concerning the very meaning of those words. The vision of the Moral Majority was built on the belief that the country was not suffering collectively from a lapse in morality as much as it was a lapse in understanding within a majority of otherwise moral people. (I hasten to add here that it is a testimony to how right he was that we now so cringe at the name then chosen for that organization. The word moral now, unlike then, has an entirely different and negative connotational feel.) What was taking place in the culture, and indeed in the spiritual realm then, was the beginnings of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan D-NY coined: defining deviancy down. Sadly what was then a slip is now a free-fall; but one is confronted with the fact while remembering Falwell that this free-fall is in spite of his efforts, and not due to a lack, or because of them.
God bless you Mr. Falwell, you will be missed.
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