Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell

To say I liked Jerry Falwell would be a denial of the truth. There were many things the man did and said that just rubbed me the wrong way. To be fair, I never met the man although I did see him in person from a distance of about 10 feet at the Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City in 1998.

The things I can't get out of my mind about him that left negative feelings were numerous.

1. He was an independent Baptist with a capital "I" for many years during which he criticized the SBC on many different levels. I just never got over him joining the SBC.

2. His involvment in Heritage Village during the aftermath of the Jim Bakker scandal left me very suspicious of his motives. And I'll never forget that Water Slide plunge.

3. His in your face "Moral Majority" positions made my job as a small Baptist church pastor in Wisconsin a lot harder. A lot of folks just thought he was "nuts,' and because he was a Baptist they didn't want to have anything to do with my Baptist church.

4. His most recent pronouncement that Limited Atonement is a heresy once again showed his "independent" spirit and his ignorance or disregard of Southern Baptist history.

5. To top it off, my son, when he was in the second grade, wrote Falwell a letter in response to a TV show that promised a copy of the Declaration of Independence to anyone who wrote in. My son never got his DOI and never got over his disappointment in Falwell.

Now to be fair there was a lot about Dr. Falwell to admire. Just a few thoughts are worth mentioning here.

1. He built a great Church from nothing.

2. He built a great University from nothing.

3. He entertained his enemies. I'll never forget reading where Ted Kennedy was a guest in Dr. Falwell's home and spoke at Liberty. You have to admire a man who will practice what he preaches about loving his enemies.

4. He changed the minds of a lot of independent Baptists and made a lot of enemies at the same time by joining the SBC.

5. He changed the evangelical landscape in America forever.

The King of American Fundamentalism is Dead. Perhaps it marks the beginning of the end of the fundamentalist kingdom as well.


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