Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

Falwell in the 21st Century

Posted by Adam Graham on February 27, 2005

I’ve never been a Jerry Falwell-hater. On the air, Falwell has almost always come across as a gentleman. He has even made friends with many people on the left such as Geraldo Rivera. He was a key figure in electing Ronald Reagan and getting evangelical Christians into the political process. I also wish him well on his current hospital stay.

Having said that, I don’t support Falwell’s revival of the Moral Majority for four reasons:

Too many Cooks: Jerry Falwell’s reason for starting Moral Majority is to get Christians out to vote and in the political process. That’s great, he can join a big club that includes the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, the Campaign for Working Families, the Center for Reclaiming America, and a dozen others.

Sadly, the only thing that this group can do that others can’t is to bring Rev. Falwell and his son back to prominence, while sucking resources from existing organizations.

The Power of Falwell: Falwell and Pat Robertson had great success in getting Christians to the polls. Their failure has been making those vote count for much in terms of stemming the tide of cultural decline.

Both leaders have been strikingly similar in the results of their actions. Republicans have been elected, they’ve gained influence and prestige, but the causes of moral concern have not benefited from their efforts.

In addition, Falwell has been particularly notable in falling into almost lockstep with the GOP establishment. Since 1988 when supporting George H.W. Bush in the primary, Falwell has maintained power and relationships with party leaders by backing whoever the establishment choice is.

If history is any guide, those signing up with Falwell’s group will be unlikely to achieve anything other than the election of a few Republicans and Falwell’s political power increasing.

Race Relations: One of the biggest challenges for Christian Conservatives is forming alliances with Blacks and other socially conservative Christian minorities. As a former segregationist, Falwell simply can’t bridge the gap. Only new leadership can.

A Phariseeical Moment: The worst moment in Falwell’s media career came when on the 700 Club after September 11th: Falwell made the following ill-chosen statement:

“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.”

The problem with Falwell’s quote is not the idea that God punishes nations. Falwell’s statement, even in light of future clarifications takes the position that “they” (gays and feminists) were responsible for national sin that became a stench in the nostril of God so that God allowed the September 11th attacks to occur.

However, if September 11th was a result of national sin, it is the height of self-righteousness to say one group of sinners is guilty. The Prophet Daniel began his prayer for his stricken people by saying, “We have sinned…” (Dan. 9:5) and in the course of confessing his nation’s sins, he confessed his own.

The message “you sinners have brought this upon us” is neither charitable nor Christian.

Conclusion

For these reasons, it’s time for new leadership in Christian Conservatism. While Falwell has a role to play as a columnist, President of Liberty University, and a television talking head, he’s not the type of leader we need and this is one Evangelical who won’t join his latest crusade.

This is the fourth part of a series on Christian political activism.

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