Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Remembering Jerry Falwell

I have to admit that I couldn’t bear watching Jerry on TV, and there’s probably too little liberty at Liberty University. He was not a master of nuance and no theologian. But he was an important political figure, with plenty of successes and failures. It’s appropriate today to remember when he told the truth and the good he did, as well as to praise a country that gave him liberty to speak his mind and his faith and to achieve what influence he could. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Discussions - 9 Comments

I think there's a parallel between the black community in the US and the religious community insofar as both seem desirous, sometimes desperately so, of intelligent, articulate, charismatic leadership; problematically, both have settled for shallow caricatures of the proposed ideal. Falwell's popularity is a testament to the religious longing that still characterizes much of our country and to the vacuum of religious leadership while his failures are indicative of our capacity to judge that those longings were not adequately understood or represented by him.

Well, I knew that the NLT "official" community wouldn't make much of Falwell's passing. Just not "nice" enough, not "PC" enough.

He did more for political conservativism that a hundred NLTs. Lay off the halfhearted commentary...the man, whatever his faults, deserves better.

dain, did you hear what NPR did to him, reporting on his passing, yesterday? EVERY word of praise was carefully balanced with a damnation. Those were on their terms, of course, which my ethical ear often translated to praise.

I have fond memories of election night in 1980, my colleague John Hittinger and I toasting Falwell, among others, and smoking a cigar (or trying to) for every Democratic Senator who went down to defeat. Falwell and the "Moral Majority" (an improvement on the "Silent Majority") were the vanguard of the return of evangelical protestantism to American politics after 50 years of scratching old wounds and watching the old WASP ruling elite commit suicide in the 60's. It always gave me pleasure to promounce his name, especially around liberals--and his name was a good one to pronounce. Though the style of evangelical leadership wears, as Ivan says, it took real courage to stand up for what we were all taught was true and good, and to endure for so long the ugly opprobrium of the worst among us. It seemed to make him more restrained and dignified as he grew older. I have a great Falwell story told me by an official of the Israeli Embassy....maybe will relate later. But Kate, what are you doing listening to NPR?

Dain, why would you expect someone so controversial to not produce criticism in the wake of his death, when he was criticized at every turn while he was alive? I admired Dr Falwell for many reasons and was surprised and saddened to hear of his death, but to expect that he's going to all of a sudden be lauded as some kind of saint by the world at large, or even the "official" community at NLT as you have dubbed them, seems to be a bit unrealistic.

Robert, the public radio station in our area is the only one available that plays classical music. That's not all. NPR's news is on while I am fixing dinner for my family and when I was teaching my children, it was THE way to catch the news. It has become a normal part of my day. I find it an effective way to think about an issue, to hear what they say and mentally refute it. Not reflexively, but disputatiously. It was a gift to be able to think like that for the long time in my life as a stay-at-home mother. They have such logical lapses: the non sequitur abounds, to my conservative mind. In this case, to cite the influence of religion on Falwell's thought, and then fault him for something like opposing gay marriage or "the woman's right to choose" was really funny.


I would like to read your Falwell story, but it might be better to place it under the Hayward post as being the more pro-Falwell spot.

What an edifying answer to my half jest about listening to NPR. Kate, you have more patience than I with such things. The very sound of the "NPR voice" is my idea of hell. I overstate, but it's the way it makes me feel. I'll post my Falwell story above later this eve, I hope.

Debbie, I don't expect anyone to canonize him...just give him his due. But Peter's kick-off posting starts with 1) I hated to listen to him, and 2) he ran a prison camp. Isn't that a lousy way of memorializing the man, particularly for people purportedly on the "right?" Before we bad-mouth a dead ally, let's at least wait for his body to grow cold.

Shabby...very shabby.

8: Dain, I think "shabby" is too strong a word for Professor Lawler's comments, but I do agree with you that Falwell deserves better, and I'm glad that Steve Hayward stepped in. Falwell did not AIM to be a "master of nuance" or a "theologian." He had more important tasks, and dared to attempt them. Falwell was an excellent communicator, overall. He made things happen. He got into the arena, initially to great effect. After he was demonized by the liberal Establishment and shunned by many conservatives (see Tony Snow's and GWB's weak statements on his passing), he focused on education, I suspect also to good effect, at Liberty University. Jerry Falwell put most of our religious "leadership," evangelical and Catholic alike, to shame. May his example continue to put them to shame. RIP.

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