Today, the Christian faith suffered the loss of a tireless servant and powerful evangelist. Even as I mourn for the loss felt by Dr. Falwell’s loved ones, I remember and celebrate the life he lived; for Jerry Falwell was not a man of empty rhetoric and few deeds. His life embodied the truth found in James 2:26: “Faith without works is dead.”
Jerry Falwell was first and foremost a man of action. While he could have contented himself with preaching and ministering to his flock, Dr. Falwell had a vision of a nation revitalized by the vibrant spirit of an active Christianity. His mission was to mobilize Christians that they might transform the social fabric of America.
It was Jerry Falwell’s conviction that this transformation could not occur without the active support and participation of young men and women, who would take the Christian message into the social and political arenas. Dr. Falwell’s legacy will not be immediately apparent, which is what he would have wanted. He established Liberty University in order to educate young men and women to be torchbearers in a dark world. This legacy will be apparent and profound in years to come, as dedicated graduates enter the workplace, driven by devotion to God and a desire to make an impact on their respective environments.
On a more personal note, Dr. Falwell’s influence has left an indelible mark upon my own life. When I ran for Congress in 2004, he publicly endorsed me as “a young Jesse Helms.” As a newcomer to the political scene, his public support was more than I could have hoped for. During the campaign, Jerry Falwell took me under his wing, introducing me to potential supporters and speaking on my behalf to fellow pastors. Far more valuable, however was the friendship Dr. Falwell offered me. His wisdom and insight lent some sanity in the midst of the turbulent campaign. I vividly recall sitting in his office, as he placed his hands on my shoulders and those of my wife, praying that God would let His will be done in our lives.
His mentoring, friendship and prayerful support are gifts I can never repay. I can however, pay tribute to his life, and his life’s work: educating and equipping Christians to spread the Christian message—not just at home and in the church, but in our communities and in our politics. When many Christians elected to duck the culture wars or took a pass on issues such as abortion, or the secularization of our children’s education, Dr. Falwell refused to budge. Even more important than his steadfastness, however, was his commitment to building a Christian Coalition which could give voice to our concerns and extend our values into the heart of the culture. Exhorting Christians to act on their beliefs, Dr. Falwell helped give new urgency and relevance to Christian values in America. This is Jerry Falwell’s legacy, and it will not soon be forgotten.