Alen Wolfe at Salon sums up my thoughts on Rev. Falwell.
One never wants to speak ill of the dead, but in the case of Jerry Falwell, how can one not? Falwell will always be remembered for his "700 Club" comment in the wake of Sept. 11: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" Even though Falwell later apologized, the damage had been done: A sacred moment had been used for profane purpose.What he said.
And that, really, is Falwell's legacy. To the religious life of the United States he made no significant contribution. But to the political life of the country, he made one: He founded the Moral Majority. In so doing, Falwell managed to take something holy — one does not have to be a Christian to admire the life and teachings of Jesus Christ — and turned it into something partisan and divisive. Falwell, the quintessential conservative Christian, was always more conservative than Christian. To the extent that history will remember him, it will be as a politician, not as a preacher.
Instead of pondering Jerry Falwell's legacy, we would be better off asking how this man ever become a public figure in the first place. America has had more than its share of religiously inspired demagogues — Dr. Fred Swartz, Billy James Hargis, Carl McIntyre come to mind — but they are forgotten figures, marginal even to the times in which lived. One would like to believe that the United States has become a bigger and better country since the days when men like them preached about captive nations and denounced the pernicious influence of rock 'n' roll. But then there is Jerry Falwell. In death, as he did in life, he reminds us that demagoguery never dies; it just changes its form. Jerry Falwell expressed great hate for a lot of his fellow Americans. It is no wonder that so many of them will greet his death with something less than love.
Oh, and a little bit of what Christopher Hitchens has to say too...
Jerry Falwell Alen Wolfe Christopher Hitchens