The Legacy Of Jerry Falwell
by J. Jacob Prasch
Televangelist Jerry Falwell, whom some would describe as a ” ˜pulpit politician” who sought to identify biblical Evangelical Christianity with the Republican Party, died suddenly at Liberty University on May 15th. Our views of the man”s ministry are mixed, but our views of the man are not. Whatever our differences, in the end he was still one of us.
Like many, we often disagreed with his methods, but we do not question his motives. He shared the same faith as us and like ourselves at Moriel was gravely concerned with the shift in the moral tide of the nation toward debauchery that would bring the judgment of God.
Dating back to his history of racial segregation in the Jim Crow era, Falwell has never been without controversy ‚ ” ” some of it unjust, but much of it valid. A low point was Falwell’s misrepresentation of his ministry operating in famine-stricken Ethiopia in a televised fund raising appeal, when his organization was not even operating in Ethiopia (it was claimed that it did operate elsewhere in Africa, once the misrepresentation was exposed).
There is also no denying that many Christians disapproved of his receiving a $3.5 million bail-out for Liberty University from a front for the Korean self-proclaimed “Christ” who claimed to be greater than Jesus, Sun Myung Moon. Moon, a convicted felon who spent time in federal prison, called America “the Kingdom of Satan” and admitted his goal was the destruction of its Constitution so it would bow to him. Falwell was reported to have asked Ronald Reagan to grant presidential clemency to Moon after Moon’s “Women For World Peace” (which also paid $100,000 to George Bush Sr. for speeches in Asia) funded the Reber-Thomas Christian Heritage Foundation that financially rescued Liberty from a sea of un-repayable debt in 1993. Robert Gordon, an ex-right hand man of Falwell’s “Moral Majority” went on to become Vice President of Moon’s “Washington Times” (Moon also controls UPI). The association shocked many Christians. While we do not necessarily agree with Falwell’s parlance with Moon, biblically “the ravens (an unclean bird) fed Elijah” and Falwell, who denounced Moon in 1978, always claimed Moon exercised no leverage at Liberty. This is not to either justify or condemn Falwell’s actions, but again, we cannot indict him for the sincerity and integrity of his motives.
Some felt that Liberty’s $73 million debt crisis (that resulted in 2,500 small Christian investors’ losses in a church construction bond scheme) was divine judgment on Falwell for politicizing the Christian message beyond the parameters of Scripture. Billy Graham blasted Falwell for editorializing on non-moral issues during his involvement with the Ronald Reagan administration. But, ironically (some say hypocritically) Graham was a similar bedfellow to a discredited Nixon during the Watergate scandal as Falwell was to Reagan during the Iran-gate scandal when the Reagan Republicans supplied weapons to the Iranian Islamic terrorist regime of Ayatollah Khoumeini and lied about it. The scandal left the Reagan administration with a record number of senior level indictments from National Security Advisor Poindexter to Attorney General Richard Meese, to Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger ” “ later pardoned by George Bush Sr. who served with him in the same administration when the criminal conspiracies took place. This was a similar replay of the Chuck Colson and John Mitchell convictions that defined the Nixon Republicans and damaged Billy Graham’s own reputation.
In 1983, as the national debt quadrupled under the scandal-ridden Reagan government and the trade deficit skyrocketed, the Reagan White House ordered helicopters that were ferrying hundreds of badly injured American marines from the Beirut Embassy bombing to nearby operating tables at Rambam hospital in Haifa to turn back so as not to offend the Saudi Arabians. I personally watched these marines sent to their deaths by the Reagan White House, arriving D.O.A. in Wiesbaden, Germany and Oxfordshire, England 2,000 miles away instead of obtaining treatment at a facility renown for its experience in combat trauma just 20 minutes away. This tragedy was allowed to happen so as not to upset the terror breeding Wahhabist Saudi Arabians tied by contracts to the Bechtel construction conglomerate from where Reagan recruited both his defense secretary, the later convicted felon Casper Weinberger, and his Secretary of State, George Shultz, who was followed by the anti-Israel lobbyist James Baker. Israelis wondered out loud if Reagan wanted someone’s sons dead, why did he not do the same to his own son, the ballet dancer, instead of to these young marines. Meanwhile, it was Baker who left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 when the Saudis did not approve a regime change, paving the way for the present Republican manufactured imbroglio in Iraq.
In entering the realm of Republican politics, Jerry Falwell entered a world of corruption, hypocrisy, and deceit that he never understood. Baker is now legal counsel in the Bush/Saudi Carlton partnership acting as legal defense for the Saudi Arabians against the families of 9-11 victims. Falwell was duped by Republican Party strategists like Karl Rove into conniving Christian America that the Republican Party was somehow “Christian” . By “bamboozling” a na ƒ ¯ve and undiscerning Falwell, the Evangelical Right could be manipulated by forces inherently anti-Christian. In a rank betrayal of the Christian right with the help of Jerry Falwell, Reagan appointed pro-abortion judge Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the Reagan Republican O’Connor who would order God out of the courtroom when she authored the Supreme Court’s decision to force the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama State Judicial building, citing “European Precedent” against the wishes of over 75% of the American people.
Ultimately it came to light that everything, from the timing of presidential press conferences to the timing of international summits, was controlled by Nancy Reagan acting on the advice of her astrologer Joan Quigley to whom she had a daily hotline to the White House and Camp David. The Word of God calls this pure witchcraft. This was Reagan, this is the Republican Party, but it was not Jerry Falwell. He was just a political stooge who with good intentions misused the pulpit for politics at the behest of professional power hacks who sold him a bill of goods that he just could not see through.
Others defend Reagan on this basis, claiming that he too was a sincere Born-Again Christian who was likewise simply a PR front man and an ignorant stooge for those more devious than himself. Once again, we fault Falwell’s actions, but not his motives. He meant well, but really understood little politically and was misguided theologically. From the Herodians to the Zealots, Jesus avoided the religion-charged party politics of His day. Sadly and unfortunately Jerry Falwell did not.
Another professed born-again politician, the former president Jimmy Carter, a liberal Baptist and promoter of homosexual rights, was no fan of Falwell. Carter, whose late sister Ruth Carter-Stapleton achieved recognition as a purveyor of heresy in the inner healing movement of the 1970s, is reported to have said, “speaking as a Christian, Falwell can go straight to hell” . In the few hours after Falwell’s death was announced, this quote from Carter has been popping up all over the network news in America.
Oddly, given that Jerry Falwell was a keen supporter of Israel taking God’s prophetic promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob first seen in Geneses 12:3 literally, he could not seem to recognize that the curses of those who cursed Israel came from both Republicans and Democrats. When Jimmy Carter’s peanut farm was in financial trouble, it was Saudis who rescued him and who financed Carter’s “Peace Center” just as Moslem oil money financed the Bill Clinton Library. Carter of course became a virtual hired propagandist for the Islamic apartheid regime of the Saudi Wahhabists who persecute, jail, and flog or execute Christians, prosecute, flog, jail or execute homosexuals, and will not allow a woman to even drive a car. While Israel protects the religious freedom of Arab Christians and civil and human rights of all people including women and homosexuals, it is Saudi funded Israel who Carter lies against and denounces as “apartheid” in his new found role as failed president turned virtual apologist for Moslem terror. Jerry Falwell was no supporter of Carter.
Jerry Falwell did however remain a friend of George Bush, who pressured Israel to unilaterally bow to Moslem terror and Saudi demands and leave Gaza forcing Israelis from their homes without a peace treaty. Some Christians (including ourselves) believe Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans that struck the following day was a result of Genesis 12. Meanwhile, as the Moslems use Gaza as a base to continue to fire rockets into Israel, oil industry owned Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush press Israel to forfeit even more of its biblical land to Moslem terror. The Bush regime also diplomatically boycotted the reunion of Jerusalem celebration, again to please the same Saudis who fund the Wahhabist extremism that engenders support for terror. It is little wonder that Bush is bringing divine judgment upon America in Iraq as a result of cursing Israel, Jerry Falwell remained loyal to Bush at all costs. Bush allows the Saudi sponsored construction of mosques all over the USA, knowing that not a single church can be built in Saudi Arabia or even a Bible to be brought into that nation of barbarian Islamic savages. Indeed, Bush continued the express easy entry program for Saudis a full year after September 11th, which some compared to giving visas to Kamikaze pilots after Pearl Harbor, and pandered to the Saudi funded Council of American Islamic Relations, despite the FBI twice linking its officials to terror.
Jerry Falwell did exercise two standards. He seemed to forget the Book of Proverbs warnings about “unequal weights and measures” ; when it came to party loyalty, politics won out over ideology. He was outspokenly critical of Democrat administrations, particularly of Clinton, but when the Republicans fudged on the same issues of abortion, Israel or otherwise, Falwell was very rarely critical. Once Falwell went into party politics he was swallowed up by its pressures and he could no longer be a fair and objective voice, and his TV broadcast lost its charitable status as it was being misused for party political purposes.
On the whole, we unfortunately cannot highly esteem much of the legacy of Jerry Falwell, but we do esteem the man himself. Neither can we defend much of what he did, but we do defend his motives for doing it. We have no doubt that he always meant well. We must all learn from his errors in judgment but not judge his legacy too harshly. I myself believe he was a true brother in the faith and that he trusted Jesus for his salvation and believed the Bible as we do.
His political aims did indeed cause him to compromise on doctrinal and theological issues such as ecumenism and his jaunt with Sun Myung Moon. Neither did we agree with his cessationism concerning charismatic gifts. But we did agree with him in Christ. He tried to be a voice for righteousness in a backslidden nation and warn it of the consequences if it does not repent. He also recognized the prophetic purposes of God for Israel and the Jews and he was a staunch Christian supporter of Israel and a genuine friend to the Jewish people. We have no doubt that Jerry believed the same biblical Gospel we do and we shared as much common ground in some areas as we held stark differences in others. On this note we express our Christian condolences and best future wishes to his family.
We should also point out however, that the legacy of Jerry Falwell is very far from over; the final chapter is still being written. As Dallas Seminary moves from the strong doctrinal heritage bequeathed it by Dr. Walvoord; as Wheaton College has lost its way; and Fuller Seminary has lost its mind; Liberty University shows positive prospects of emerging as an upcoming bastion of biblically-based Evangelicism theologically and a solid bulwark of Christian higher education generally.
In our estimation, this is one area where Jerry Falwell certainly had it correct and where he understood things for what they actually are most clearly. Identical to Ian Paisley of Northern Ireland, I do not think Falwell will be remembered as the preacher he could have been had he not gone into the hybrid of Christianity and secular party politics.
At the same time, it is very much our prayer and our expectation that he will truly be remembered as a pioneer educator and as a visionary who grasped the vital need for Christ-centered biblically-based education, not only in academic theology, but in fields from law and medical sciences to the teaching profession.
It is here that Jerry Falwell had it right, and it is here that I hope his true legacy will be established by those at Liberty who follow in his footsteps.