Right generally and the right-wing evangelicals who are usually called
fundamentalists particularly, won't be be eulogizing him so much.
although they will stress his importance.
I thought that I would make these points about the founder of Liberty
University for the PA Blog, since I doubt that the general media will.
This materials comes from lecture notes that I use when I lecture
about Falwell, which are drawn from a variety of internet and print
media sources, some from Falwell himself but from sources non
establishment websites which are quite hostile to him. I consider the
factual information to be generally accurate and interpretations drawn
from them are of course mine
Jerry Falwell found God in the 1950s after attending bible colleges and
went home to Lynchburg, Va., to found a Church. With a flair for
advertising, he apparently called himself "God's right-wing man."
Although the sins of the fathers should not be visited on the sons,
Falwell may possibly have been encouraged in his mission by memory that
his Father apparently had been a white Anglo Saxon Protestant
bootlegger(actually, the prohibition amendment that right-wing
evangelicals helped pass created made bootlegging into a big business
and not rural Southern mom and pop still operation).
Falwell got his Church going and began to expand it. We started a radio
show, "The Old-Time Gospel Hour," which combined right-wing evangelical
views with open defense of segregation.
Among others, the Governor of Alabama, George Corley Wallace (the
national symbol of segregation) and the Governor of Georgia, Lester
Maddoxx, who had catapulted to fame among the racists when he gave out
axe handles to the patrons of his chicken restaurant to assault
African-Americans who tried to integrate it after the 1964 Civil Rights
Act made such segregated facilities illegal, appeared on the program.
Other members of the "Gone Are the Days" white supremacy crowd also
popped up on the show.
Falwell publicly called the Civil Rights Movement "The Civil Wrongs"
movement, as unfunny segregationists had for years called Civil Rights
legislation "civil wrongs legislation."
He also preached a the time that "If Chief Justice Warren and his
associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's
Will...the 1954 decision [Brown v. Board of Education] would never have
been made....When God has drawn a line of distinction we should not
attempt to cross that line."
Although Civil Rights activists were his primary target then, Falwell
was also no friend of trade unionism or rather saw it as a distraction
from holiness. To warm the heart and revive the faith of every employer
of wage and salary labor, he said "Labor unions should study and read
the bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with
God they are better workers."
Blacks did get the right to vote and de jure segregation did collapse
and Falwell stopped proclaiming that God was on the segregationists side
and began to look for other issues and targets in the U.S. However he
did hail the South African government in the 1980s (I guess God was on
the side of Apartheid) and call upon "Christians" to purchase the
Krugerand coins which the Apartheid government was peddling while
progressive religionists and secular people were organizing campaign
both against Krugerands and, more importantly, for divestment from South
This was more than a decade after the increasingly prosperous Falwell,
along with Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and the man who supplanted him Pat
Robertson, began to become national figures, captains of theological
industry so to speak (dare we call them ecclesiastical Robber Barons) in
the tradition of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers and Morgans.
Falwell had launched "Liberty University" in 1971 and more importantly,
"Moral Majority," as a mass coordinating organization for the religious
right in 1979. The religious right began to swing elections against
progressive pro labor Democrats in the late 1970s, as voter apathy and
the stagnation of the labor movement made prominent progressives like
George McGovern of South Dakota, Frank Church of Idaho, and Dick Clark
of Iowa particularly vulnerable. The secular right helped fund these
campaigns against women's reproductive rights, the equal rights
amendment, and most of all Gay Rights, which for Falwell and his friends
was what the Communist Movement and the Soviet Union were for Joe
McCarthy at best, and for Adolf Hitler at worst.
That is not in my opinion an exaggeration, because Falwell in the early
1980s blamed AIDS both on God's revenge against Gays and on a Gay
conspiracy to spread a horrible disease into the general population,
with the same logic that Hitler proclaimed both "irresponsible
capitalism" and Marxism to be Jewish inventions to corrupt and destroy
the non Jewish world.
One could go on and on. Like the secular Robber Barons of the late 19th
century who fought and swallowed up in monopoly each other, Falwell
gained control of Jim Bakker's multi-million dollar religious Theme
Park, Heritage USA and then joined in the attacks on Bakker's sexual
adventures to force him out.
Just as Gould and Vanderbilt were surpassed by Rockefeller and Morgan by
the end of the 19th century, Jerry Falwell was surpassed by Pat
Robertson and his Christian Coalition at the end of the 20th century.
Gay activists sued him and won, and he sued the Hustler Magazine's
publisher Larry Flynt and lost, although his was awarded $200,000 for
"emotional distress." (Can you imagine what Gay men and Lesbians
particularly, not to mention African Americans and others who have been
targets of his vilification, might deserve for emotional distress?)
There is of course more. Jerry got into some trouble in 1999 by saying
that the "Anti-Christ" would be a Jewish male and was probably alive.
At the same, he, like Robertson and others, not only supports the most
right-wing elements in Israel, but oppose any peace process for their
own reasons (those reasons being the apocalypse and with it the
conversion of the Jews and everyone else who doesn't want to be "left
behind" on the great rocket ship to heaven.
Before leaving Jerry to his whatever if anything awaits him, one has to
mention that he initially blamed the 9/11 attacks on "pagans"
feminists, abortion doctors gay men and lesbians, and the ACLU, all of
the usual suspects, but not of course, himself, even though he had much
more in common in terms of ideology, broadly speaking, with the
right-wing religious fanatics who did destroy the World World Trade
Center and kill thousands of people when it came to "pagans,"
feminists, abortion doctors, gay men and lesbians, and, if they knew
what it was, the ACLU. Falwell even at one time said "Thank God for
these Gay demonstrators. If I didn't have them I would have to invent
them" not knowing apparently that the quote concerning other groups had
been attributed in the past to many figures, most famously the Nazi
propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, about the Jewish people (I don't
think it was original with Goebbels, because nothing really was).
To conclude, Jerry Falwell's legacy lives on in the Bush administration
and his "religion" continues to give religion itself a bad name among
decent and moral religious people who believe in social equality and
justice just as the Bush administration continues to give the United
States of America as a nation and a civilization a bad name in the eyes
of decent and moral people through the world who believe in social
equality and justice, including very large numbers who believed that
Jesus of Nazareth was the Prince of Peace.