May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, one of the founders of the Christian right movement, died Tuesday, May 15, 2007. The Pew Forum has assembled a variety of resources on Falwell’s passing, including news articles and reflections on his life. Also see a Pew Forum Q&A with Senior Fellow John Green about the future of the Christian right.

News Articles and Obituaries

Analysis: Falwell Left Mark on American Politics (AP, May 16, 2007)
Falwell was a Uniter and a Divider (USA Today, May 16, 2007)
Jerry Falwell, Political Innovator (TIME, May 15, 2007)
Rev. Jerry Falwell: 1933-2007 (Chicago Tribune, May 15, 2007)
Falwell Said He Was at Peace with Death (AP, May 16, 2007)
Harnessed the Political Power of Evangelicals (The Washington Post, May 16, 2007)
Falwell’s Legacy in the Pulpit and Politics (The New York Times, May 16, 2007)
Jerry Falwell, Leading Religious Conservative, Dies (The New York Times, May 15, 2007)
Falwell: A Trailblazer for Evangelical Christianity (The Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2007)
Falwell Brought Politics to the Pulpit (The Toronto Star, May 16, 2007)
Jerry Falwell: 1933-2007 (The San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 2007)
Christian Right Looking Beyond Falwell (AP, May 16, 2007)
Preacher Built Religious Right into a Political Force (Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2007)
Falwell was ‘Old Guard’ of Religious Right (CBS News, May 16, 2007)
Jerry Falwell, Architect of the Religious Right, Dies at 73 (Religion News Service, May 15, 2007)

Articles from the Religious Press

Call Me Jerry: Students Remember Falwell (Christian Broadcasting Network, May 16, 2007)
Jerry Falwell: A ‘Pioneer’ for Christianity (Beliefnet.com)
Jerry Falwell: Bringing God into the Public Square (Beliefnet.com)
Falwell, Megachurch Pastor Who Organized the Religious Right, Dead at 73 (Christianity Today, May 16, 2007)

 

News Release

Falwell, Founder of Liberty University, Dies (Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Ministries)

Reactions

Pew Forum | Religious Leaders | Political Leaders | Advocacy Groups | Others

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

“Jerry Falwell was a pivotal figure in the political awakening and mobilization of American evangelicals. He was a major catalyst in pushing cultural issues to the forefront of American politics. … It’s a very different game [now]. [Falwell’s] relative importance declined. He might say that’s a sign of his success, that others are carrying the burden. …They’re beyond tokenism. They’re at the table.”
— Luis Lugo, Director, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

“He will be remembered as one of the originators of the movement of conservative Christians, especially evangelical Protestants, to bring traditional values back into public policy by means of politics. … Historically, the fundamentalists feuded with Roman Catholics, with people outside the Christian faith. They feuded with other evangelicals, and they feuded with each other. For Falwell to come along and argue that people of different religious faiths should set aside their theological differences to cooperate in politics because they had common values was an extraordinary idea.”
— John Green, Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Also see a Q&A with John Green about the post-Falwell future of the Christian right.

Religious Leaders

“Jerry Falwell was a close personal friend for many years. We did not always agree on everything, but I knew him to be a man of God. His accomplishments went beyond most clergy of his generation. … He leaves a gigantic vacuum in the evangelical world.”
— Evangelist Billy Graham

“Jerry has been a tower of strength on many of the moral issues which have confronted our nation. Liberty University is a magnificent accomplishment and will prove a lasting legacy. Jerry’s courage and strength of convictions will be sadly missed in this time of increasing moral relativism.”
— Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson

“I admired Rev. Falwell’s understanding that, despite our differences, there were areas of agreement between us, above all our deep and profound commitment to the safety and well-being of the State of Israel. It took courage for him to invite me to speak directly to Liberty University’s 9,000 students; he introduced me to his students with real excitement, and, when it seemed to him that they were acting inappropriately, he stood up and defended my right to speak, even when I was saying things with which I knew he would disagree. I deeply appreciate the genuine warmth and respect the he demonstrated for me.”
— Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who was invited to speak at Liberty University a year ago

“Some media pundits tended to think of Falwell as representative of American Christianity, but most church leaders, while claiming him as a ‘brother in Christ,’ strongly differed with many of his outspoken views, including his puzzling denunciation of the Teletubbies children’s TV program. He did perform the valuable contribution of taking stands that forced mainstream Christians to re-examine their positions and test their convictions.”
— The Rev. Bob Edgar, the general secretary of the New York-based National Council of Churches

“As a 16-year-old boy, I was in the crowd at the convention center in Miami Beach when Dr. Falwell joined singer Anita Bryant in holding a rally to involve Christians in the struggle against a gay rights ordinance adopted by Dade County. I had never heard of Jerry Falwell until that night — and after that experience I would never forget him.”
— R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“Dr. Falwell’s shadow falls across the face of the rebirth of conservative values in our nation, in the Southern Baptist Convention, and in the entire evangelical world. Only once in a generation will a man of his stature arise. We all owe him a debt of eternal gratitude.”
— Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas

“Over the years we became friends; sometimes we had polar opposite points of view. … I have many fond memories of him. He leaves a great legacy of service and a great university behind. He’s left his footprints in the sands of time.”
— The Rev. Jesse Jackson

Political Leaders

“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Jerry Falwell, a man who cherished faith, family and freedom. As the founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, Jerry lived a life of faith and called upon men and women of all backgrounds to believe in God and serve their communities. One of his lasting contributions was the establishment of Liberty University, where he taught young people to remain true to their convictions and rely upon God’s word throughout each stage of their lives.”
— President George W. Bush

“Today, America has lost a true spiritual leader and a man of great faith in Jerry Falwell. His great words and actions will never be forgotten by the hundreds of thousands of people around the world that his life has touched. Jerry’s moral character and principle will forever be remembered deep within my heart and those whose lives were so blessed to be touched by him.”
— Republican presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback

“He was a man who set a direction. He was someone who was not afraid to speak his mind. We all have great respect for him, whether you agree with him or disagree with him. He was a person who told you what he thought, and you knew where he stood.”
— Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani

“The thing people probably didn’t know about him was the incredible sense of humor he had, a big practical joker. He loved people. Often misunderstood, but he was a guy who truly had a tremendous passion for other people, all walks of life. Coming himself from very humble opinions, and never a person who took himself all that seriously, he took his calls and his mission and his commitment to Christ very seriously.”
— Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee

I’ve known him over the years. I’ve known him as a great voice for values, for morality. A real sense of goodness exuded from Jerry Falwell. I think Americans will remember him.”
— Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter

“Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Falwell’s family at this difficult time.”
“I’m particularly grateful personally [that] Rev. Falwell reached out to me in [the] spirit of Christian reconciliation. We healed our past differences and we worked together for the good of the country.”
— Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain

“An American who built and led a movement based on strong principles and strong faith has left us. He will be greatly missed, but the legacy of his important work will continue through his many ministries where he put his faith into action. … He will be forever remembered.”
— Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney

“His life is a testament not only to the power of faith to move hearts, but to the strength of the American ethos that stresses the importance of citizenship … He was a great leader, a person totally sustained by his faith but able to work with many people from many different backgrounds without imposing rigidity on anyone else.”
— Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Advocacy Groups

“For all his critics, he was the most instrumental person in getting a heretofore apolitical group to become politically engaged. And that’s no small accomplishment.”
— Michael Cromartie, the vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center

“A true giant of the faith has gone on to his heavenly reward. Our grief at our loss of his witness, energy and giftedness for the kingdom is mitigated by the fact that he is now with his Savior for eternity. Dr. Falwell’s home-going leaves an enormous gap in the leadership ranks of evangelical Christianity in America and around the world.”
— Richard Land, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

“Falwell manipulated a powerful pulpit in exchange for access to political power and promotion of a narrow range of moral concerns. I appeared with him on news programs dozens of times over the years and, while I disagreed with just about everything Falwell stood for, he was a determined advocate for what he believed.”
— The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State

“Dr. Falwell made big dreams reality — by inspiring millions to political involvement, by dedicating himself to higher education, and most importantly, by fostering Christian outreach to the spiritually and physically needy through Thomas Road Baptist Church and its myriad ministries.”
— Beverly LaHaye, founder and chairman of the Washington-based Concerned Women for America

“Jerry was a great fighter in the culture wars. He was both an exemplary evangelical and a renowned social activist, always exuding the kind of moral courage so often lacking in religious leaders of all faiths. He will be sorely missed.”
— Bill Donohue, the president of the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

“Dr. Jerry Falwell motivated millions of Christian conservatives to engage the cultural and political issues of the day through politics. With his leadership and vision, he changed the landscape of American politics. As a pastor and a patriot, Dr. Falwell loved Jesus Christ and he loved America.”
— Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice

“In life we all have allies and opponents, and we can learn from both. Rev. Falwell challenged my beliefs and forced me to re-evaluate and reaffirm them. Though we often disagreed, I never wished to silence his voice.”
— The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, the president of The Interfaith Alliance, based in Washington

“Dr. Falwell was a great Christian statesman, a visionary who recognized decades ago that Christians had the moral duty to be involved in our culture and that included the political arena. Rev. Falwell’s creation of the Moral Majority was a turning point in history for the church in America, and his legacy will last for decades to come.”
— The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, the chairman of the Washington-based Traditional Values Coalition

“Despite our many disagreements through the years, we were saddened to learn of the loss of the Rev. Jerry Falwell. He was a passionate leader of Christianity in America and a dear friend of Israel. Rev. Falwell will always be remembered as one of the most influential leaders on the American religious scene.”
— Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League

“The death of a family member or friend is always a sad occasion and we express our condolences to all those who were close to the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America’s anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation’s appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation.”
— Matt Foreman, the executive director of the Washington-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Other

“My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. … I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.”
Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who was sued by Falwell and eventually won a Supreme Court decision that made parody protected speech

Sources for Quotes: Associated Press, McClatchy Newspapers, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today