Jerry Falwell Dead at 73
Jerry Falwell has died.
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.