While giving him credit (or in their secularist eyes, mostly the blame) for the rebirth of Christian political activism, most of the media commentary about the late Jerry Falwell centered around his so-called “controversial” remarks.
Putting aside the fact that those remarks were solidly rooted in the Holy Bible and Judeo-Christian tradition, all of the emphasis should have been on his astonishing success in giving new meaning to that great old marching song “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” Jerry Falwell was the marchers’ chief recruiting sergeant.
I keep hearing how Jerry Falwell was instrumental in electing my dad, Ronald Reagan. My reaction to that was that it was nobody but Ronald Reagan himself and a lot of people like Jerry Falwell who were instrumental in his election victories.
Sure, the Rev. Falwell’s support was more than helpful, but his role in that election is not why he should be remembered. It makes light of his real accomplishments.
Jerry Falwell’s monumental achievement was to stir up a vast slumbering Christian community, enliven it, and make it the vibrant and powerful force in America’s political life that it remains today.
He told them that yes, you can walk out of your homes, you can get out of the pews, you can actually get involved in politics and vote for people instead of sitting back and griping about the world going to hell in a hand basket.
He said it was about time the Christian community woke up and started looking for candidates who in fact fit their Christian values and moral criteria and get out and support them for different political offices, including the presidency of the United States.
In effect, he gave Christians their marching orders to get involved in politics.
In the light of the present political climate that may not sound all that revolutionary, but when he launched that crusade it was something both previously unheard of and daring.
He caught hell, or course, from the political left who howled about keeping church and state at arm’s length. How dare he do this, they cried, knowing full well that what the Rev. Falwell was doing was threatening their stranglehold on the political life of this nation.
Christians, they believed, should neither be seen nor heard on the subject of politics. That was solely the secular left’s business – Christians should butt out.
Christians they said, should stay in the closet, keep their morals and their values and their antiquated beliefs to themselves, and above all make no attempt to influence the course of events.
In the face of this assault Jerry Falwell simply redoubled his efforts, challenging Christians to dismantle the temples of atheistic secularism and put God back in His rightful place at the center of the public square.
The result of this rebirth of the idea that Christians and other believers had a responsibility to speak out and act in behalf of Judeo-Christian principles and to elect candidates who supported them, was the success of the Reagan revolution and the elections of both Bushes.
The power he unleashed was most recently evident in 2004 when the Christian community banded together, came out in droves and won Ohio -- and thus the presidency -- for George W. Bush.
Jerry Falwell supported Ronald Reagan because he knew that my dad not only espoused Christian morals and values, but actually lived them every moment of his life.
Tragically, as Jerry Falwell departs the scene to rejoin my dad in that place a loving God reserves for those who were loyal to Him while on Earth, most of the current politicians are more apt to follow the polls than Judeo-Christian principles.
Look at the Democratic candidates, for example -- the only time you’ll see them in church is in an election year – and it’s never their own church, but always some Black church they manage to discover when they are running for office and forget as soon as election day passes.
Their religious beliefs slumber until an election nears and they then suddenly spring to life, at least temporarily, and they can conveniently store them away until the next election.
Requiescat in pacem, Jerry.