Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jerry Falwell (1933-2007)

There are three events that got Christians involved in national politics and handed the South to the GOP. The first was Nixon's decision in 1968 (the so called Southern strategy) to woo disaffected (and racist) Southern whites after the Democrats passed through the Civil Rights Bill and the Great Society Reforms in the 1960s, the second was the passing of Roe vs. Wade in 1973 by the US Supreme Court and the third was the creation of the Moral Majority by Jerry Fallwell and Paul Weyrich in 1979 to organize religious voters.

In my opinion the organized entry of evangelicals into national politics completely changed the political game in the United States and so in that sense Jerry Falwell is one of the most important politicians (although he never held public office) in the history of the United States.

I think that Jerry Falwell represented sometimes the best that America has to offer (private enterprise, faith, charity, education and dialog across the aisle) but most times represented an unforgiving hard heartedness that would likely have made the founder of his religion very unhappy with him.

His statements the day after 9/11 to Pat Roberston that the US deserved the attack (because of our support for Abortionists and gays) was particularly galling. To his credit he apologized the very next day and blamed "fatigue" for the mis-statement. His fight throughout his life to cast the first stone on issues like gay rights (not marriage just simple gay rights) also was troubling while his stand on desegregation and civil rights (he initially opposed it) in the 60s and his opposition to sanctions against the apartheid government in South Africa in the 80s was downright shameful.

He was a humble country pastor who through force of will and conviction of his ideas rose to the national stage. Once he grabbed the national microphone, he used it to lower the wall between church and state and make other Christians like him realize the awful power of their voting franchise and their voting bloc. His movement definitely elected Reagan in 1980 and probably elected Bush 41.

In that sense he acted as an innovative capitalist in our marketplace of ideas. He debated his ideas publicly and allowed people to make up their minds (of course he also threatened them that God would eternally damn them should they not see it exactly his way).

I disagreed strongly with almost every thing he stood for, but the addition of his voice to the national dialog showed that Democracy and the First Amendment still work in this country.

Rest in Peace.


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