Jerry Falwell, the leader of the “Moral Majority”, the leader of conservative evangelicals, a man who preached against things he considered “abominations” from his pulpit, has died at the age of 73.
His death, which was announced by persons at Liberty University, where Falwell was the Founder and Chancellor, was both shocking and refreshing. It was shocking to the people who heeded his warnings of Hell-fire and damnation and refreshing to the people who were the victim of his hate “passion-filled” teachings, preaching's, and actions. The cause of death had not been determined at this time, but Mr. Falwell was found unconscious in his office after having breakfast with another official at the University.
Jerry Falwell will go down in history as the founder of the Moral Majority. The Moral Majority, founded in 1979, is pretty self explanatory in what it attempted to accomplish. The organization was disbanded about a decade later, but even so, Falwell remained active in the political arena and was known as a familiar and powerful figure in American Conservative Politics. He is credited for helping get conservatives elected to offices of higher power including George W. Bush. He may be highly remembered for his controversial speeches including one on the 700 Club where he essentially blamed 9-11 on gays, lesbians, abortionists, and other liberals who did not feel as he did.
There is no doubt that this man has left a legacy behind. The only real question is what kind of legacy will it be. Will it be a legacy of hope and salvation, or will it be a legacy filled with hate, discrimination, and vile words and deeds?
For many people of faith, his legacy will be a bright one. His accomplishments in bringing the country, or more specifically, the conservative evangelicals of this country into power in the political arena. The voices of the moral majority, his words not mine, are being heard and felt, but the American public recently told them (conservative Christians) that they were loosing grounds and maybe over-stepping the “polite” bounds of rights and responsibilities to the people. His battles against the secularization of America are notorious and will be discussed for many generations to come. There is no denying that there is a legacy he is leaving behind. Is it this legacy or another that he will be remembered for?
For the many people who were at the receiving end of the words, actions, and politicking of Jerry Falwell, his death may be something to be celebrated. Not his actual death, but the death of his politicking and “hate-filled” antics against persons he saw as secularized liberals, heathens, and abominations. He will be remembered for blaming acts of G-d (natural disasters) on homosexuals, blaming acts of terrorism on homosexuals, and blaming the secularization of this country on homosexuals, amongst others of course. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he may have apologized for calling Muhammad a terrorist and for suggesting that the attacks had reflected G-d’s judgment on a nation spiritually weakened by the ACLU, abortion providers, and proponents of gay rights, but when questioned in an interview by a CNN reporter just this past week, he implied that the attacks were still the fault of gays and others previously named.
No matter what I personally thought of the man, his family and friends, his supporters are all mourning the loss of this man. No matter how much hate he spilled forth, no matter what his actions, he was a human being to the end, and because of that, at least has to be recognized for being passionate and motivating tens of millions of people into action. For that alone, he will go down in history as a man of legacy.
The only real question is, will his legacy be one filled with hope, or with hate?
Jason P. Ruel
BellaOnline's Gay Lesbiand and HIV/AIDS Editor