Jerry Falwell Dead at 73

Jerry Falwell has died.

Jerry Falwell Photo Evangelist Jerry Falwell died Tuesday after he was found unresponsive in his office, an official at Liberty University told CNN. Falwell, 73, was rushed to a Lynchburg, Virginia, hospital, where he was given CPR.

Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979 and is a nationally known voice for conservative Christian views. (Watch Jerry Falwell’s rise to fame Video) In 1956, the 22-year-old minister started Thomas Road Baptist Church with just 35 members, according to his Web site. The church now has more than 24,000 members. Shortly after starting the Lynchburg church, Falwell began broadcasting the “Old Time Gospel Hour” radio and television ministries. He founded Liberty University in 1971.

Falwell has found himself at the center of several controversies, such as the one sparked by his comments two days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which he seemed to blame “abortionists,” gays, lesbians, the ACLU and People for American Way for causing the attacks, saying they “helped this happen.” On September 14, 2001, he told CNN that he would “never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize.”

Falwell was a catalyst in bringing Christian evangelicals into active politics and helping broaden the Republican coalition. Unfortunately, he often became a symbol for what was wrong with the Christian Right rather than a force for good in the mold of Billy Graham.

John Cole “won’t miss him” but thinks “now is not the time” for ugliness. I would concur. I disagreed with Falwell on most matters religious and much politically but he was not an evil man.

Hot Air is tracking reactions from some of the darker corners of the left blogosphere. As might be expected, they’re not very friendly. The moderators at HuffPo wisely decided to close comments rather than serve as a message board for vitriol.

UPDATE: Bob Owens rounds up more lefty reactions and doesn’t have to dig around the Democratic Underground to find examples.

Hotline‘s Marc Ambinder strikes the right balance:

Fallwell fused contemporary Christian moralism with political conservatism. Being “born again” became a badge of honor in Republican politics. He was opportunistic at the right moments, was always eager to inflame cultural trigger points, and was a master of the media. More than any one man save Ronald Reagan, Falwell brought white evangelicals to the Republican Party and made sure that their concerns were only one rung below communism in the party’s hierarchy of concerns.

With the movement, Falwell had detractors. His preference for political oppositionalism — in insisting that Christians were persecuted by modern politics and had to aggressively wage war against modernism to break free — was a grave error, according to critics. Evangelical Christianity became synonymous with Christian fundamentalism, and that small trick of language sublimated the political impulses of modernist evangelicals for decades. Others simply felt that he was crass, politically opportunistic and simply, mean.

FILED UNDER: LGBTQ Issues, Obituaries, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Floyd says:

    I had to laugh when I saw that John Cole claimed that he will not miss Rev. Falwell! He will be missed MUCH more by the left than even the most conservative Christians![lol]He was a larger than life target and easy for even the least intellegent of his enemies to attack.
    I will miss him, if only for his ability to draw ridiculous hyperboly from the left.
    Oh; who can take his place as the left’s “punching bag”against Christianity? Might I suggest the most Reverend Jesse Jackson?[grinz]

  2. James Joyner says:

    You may have John Cole confused with Juan Cole. The former is many things but a leftist is not one of them.

  3. Steve Plunk says:

    Falwell brought together and provided a voice to those who believed a moral foundation was necessary to this country. While he spoke firmly against what his faith believed immoral his message was still one of compassion and forgiveness. He believed the appropriate place to advocate change was not only the pulpit but also the ballot box.

    Now I consider myself a world class sinner and haven’t found myself in a church pew on Sunday in many years. That being so I still recognize the good that comes from people like Falwell who seek to better individuals as well as the country we all share. We need moral compasses like him.

    Many considered him a threat. He never advocated violence or considered sinners worthy of stoning. He never called others monkeys and pigs because of their faith or race. He was willing to be a lightning rod and accept the criticism of others while maintaining a belief in his religion. I find little fault in the man and much to be admired.

  4. Tlaloc says:

    but he was not an evil man.

    That’s an opinion. You can certainly have yours but I also have mine.

  5. Fallwell was overbearing at times easily reaching the point of being pompous. But the Culture Wars wouldn’t have been as passionate without his ability to get Evangelical Christians politically active and working in conjunction with conservative Catholics.

  6. legion says:

    He made a huge amount of enemies with his judgemental declarations. He specifically singled out gays for helping cause 9-11. He tried to recant 3 days later, but as Aravosis notes, he repeats his bigotry and stupidity as recently as last week. Which means his recanting was a pathetic lie.

    He may have spread a lot of love to those whose beliefs coincided with his, but he was quite dangerous to those who didn’t. No, he didn’t advocate violence, but that’s hardly the standard by which a Christian minister should be judged, don’t you think? Aravosis has a sizeable laundry list of Falwell’s public stands on issues from homosexuality to Apartheid. I won’t go so far as to insult a dead man, but I can easily see why a great many people are not saddened by his passage.

  7. Triumph says:

    I disagreed with Falwell on most matters religious and much politically but he was not an evil man.

    Amen. The guy told it like it is:

    “If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.”

  8. Tlaloc says:

    But the Culture Wars wouldn’t have been as passionate without his ability to get Evangelical Christians politically active and working in conjunction with conservative Catholics.

    And that’s a good thing because…

    Really, we’re celebrating that the guy managed to inject a lot of hysteria into the national debate? Great.

  9. NoZe says:

    I’ll always remember he and Pat Robertson yucking it up after 9/11, blaming it on the ACLU, homosexuals, liberals, etc.

    Still, one rule of thumb I always try to follow…never speak ill of the dead! At least not until they’ve been dead for a while!

  10. G.A. Phillips says:

    Triumph, (“if you’re not a born-again Cristian, you’re a failure as a human being”) how true, how true.

  11. Paul Barnes says:

    It’s interesting reading his “non-political” doings (if there is such a thing…oh Aristotle). He did a lot of charity work, setting up homes for unwed mothers and alcoholics. I find that aspect, which was unreported when he was alive, to be fascinating. From all accounts that I have read about him, he was a very interesting fellow. Someone I wouldn’t mind having a beer with…or maybe not, considering his religious beliefs.

  12. We’re all more complex than what the tv shows. Even if, like Falwell, he played it up to promote his issues and himself.