May 22, 2007
RIP, Reverend Falwell
A leader who was more than the sum of his public parts.
Today's memorial service for the Rev. Jerry Falwell brings to a close one of the most interesting chapters of recent American political and religious history. Falwell, a recovering fundamentalist, made evangelical political involvement the norm, no matter how many toes he stepped on both inside and outside the camp. At times a bombastic publicity seeker who was known to develop embarrassing cases of hoof-in-mouth disease, Falwell was a devoted pastor, broadcaster, evangelist, and provider of ministries to the poor, unwed mothers, and other down-and-outers.
Yes, he sometimes made evangelicals out to be just another political interest group in the service of the Republican Party. But those megapastors who have followed him into the public arena, such as Rick Warren, testify to his godly example. Even his political enemies, such as Jesse Jackson and Larry Flynt, agree that Falwell was a good man, full of warmth and good cheer.
As someone who has made my own fair share of dumb public statements, I can only hope to leave that kind of a legacy. I don't know whether history will judge Jerry Falwell very kindly. But I have a feeling that his gracious Lord will.