The Enduring Legacy of Jerry Falwell by Richard A. Viguerie
What was it about Jerry Falwell that, even after his death, drives liberals crazy?
Contact: Vi Shields, 703-392-7676, 703-906-6542
MEDIA ADVISORY, June 18 /Christian Newswire/ -- Journalist Christopher Hitchens called the minister "a little toad" with "chubby little flanks" and called his ministry a "get rich quick scheme,” adding that Falwell may not have read the Bible: "I would doubt that he could actually read any long book…at all.” Said Hitchens: “I think it’s a pity there isn’t a Hell for him to go to.”
Alan Wolfe of Salon.com wrote: "One never wants to speak ill of the dead, but in the case of Jerry Falwell, how can one not?"
In the Calgary Sun, Kathleen Parker wrote: "Jerry Falwell's prosaic death has elevated speaking ill of the dead to the level of sacrament.”
Bill Maher, on his HBO program, remarked, regarding Falwell, that "Death is not always sad.”
Amanda Marcotte, John Edwards's former campaign blogger, wrote: "The gates of Hell swing open and Satan welcomes his beloved son.”
In the New York Times, columnist Frank Rich wrote, "Mr. Falwell was always on the wrong, intolerant side of history...Mr. Falwell had long been an embarrassment and laughingstock to many, including a new generation of Christian leaders."
Cathleen Faisani, religion writer for the Chicago Sun Times, wrote that "my initial reaction to the Rev. Falwell’s death was, and remains a relief…The Rev. Falwell was a spiritual bully. He was Tony Soprano."
During one report, CNN lingered for 15 seconds on a protester's sign that placed Falwell's face next to Hitler’s.
Beyond these gratuitous insults were statements in the mainstream media about Dr. Falwell’s legacy that showed a lack of understanding of Falwell, his followers, and the broader world of Christian conservatives.
One reporter or commentator after, another suggested that Dr. Falwell's power waned in the last 20 years. In fact, he simply changed his focus--from a short-term emphasis on direct political activity to a long-term emphasis or producing new leaders for America and the world.
The Falwell legacy includes:
· Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, which Dr. Falwell founded in 1965. In 40 years, his 35-member congregation grew to 22,000.
· "The Old Time Gospel Hour," the longest-continuously-running religious program on television
· Liberty Channel, a satellite-cable network offering inspirational, family-friendly programming;
· Liberty Godparent Foundation, helping unwed pregnant teenagers, babies, and adoptive families through a maternity home and an adoption agency.
· Elim Home, providing a place of protection and care for men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
· Liberty Counsel, with affiliate attorneys in all 50 states, providing free legal assistance on matters related to religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family.
· Liberty Christian Academy, an accredited institution with 1,000 students in pre-school through the 12th grade.
· Liberty University, which is creating a new generation of religious-conservative leaders, with a current enrollment of 9,600 on-campus students and over 18,000 in off-campus distance learning programs. The Liberty University debate team has won national championships in all three intercollegiate debating associates for two consecutive years. The first class just graduated from Liberty University's law school.
Since Liberty University was founded in 1971, it has produced more than 190,000 graduates, including about 11,000 who have become pastors and are carrying on the ideas they learned from Dr. Falwell.
Over the next 10 years, Liberty University is on schedule to graduate over 200,000 conservative Christians who will be future leaders in ministries, the law, public policy, and politics. A school of engineering will start in the Fall and a medical school is in the works as well.
Before Jerry Falwell, most evangelical Protestants--if they were involved in politics at all--were Democrats. They made up Jimmy Carter’s base, without which he could never have been elected president.
But after Carter’s IRS falsely attacked Christian schools as segregation academies, and after Carter supported items on the left-wing agenda such as the so-called Equal Rights Amendment, Jerry Falwell helped bring millions of social and religious conservatives into politics on the side of Ronald Reagan and other political conservatives.
The Republican Party owed its 1994-2006 majority in Congress to the tens of millions of former Democrats who followed Jerry Falwell into the GOP.
At the same time, Dr. Falwell broke down ages-old barriers between conservative Protestants and Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and others.
Peter Applebome wrote in the New York Times that Falwell “helped pull off what had once seemed an impossible task: uniting religious conservatives from many faiths and doctrines by emphasizing what they had in common.”
NBC’s Tim Russert acknowledged that Falwell was able to “suggest that religious people, whether they be Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish, could come together on conservative issues and have real political influence.”
Zev Chafets, who has written extensively about the relationship between evangelicals and Jews, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “American Jews who now take evangelical friendship for granted need to know that it is, to a large extent, a grant from Jerry Falwell.”
A man, beloved by almost everyone who knew him, overcame ages-old divisions and brought millions together in a cause that changed the course of history. Dr. Falwell’s legacy will continue to be felt in our nation for decades to come.
Note to Editors: As the man who pioneered political direct mail, Richard A. Viguerie has been called “the Funding Father” of the conservative movement. He is the author of Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause (Bonus Books, 2006).