Jerry Falwell (1933- ) is an American fundamentalist and evangelist who was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he continues to lead the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a church he founded in 1956.
Soon after starting that church, he also began to broadcast the popular "Old Time Gospel Hour" on radio and television. From a congregation of just 35, things quickly grew and within 20 years, it numbered about 16,000. In 1971 he founded the Lynchburg Baptist College, later renamed Liberty University.
In 1979 he began what would become perhaps his most famous venture, the Moral Majority. Although it is traditionally believed that he was the driving force behind it, many believe that he was more of a figurehead. Much of the ideological and political muscle seems to have come from the financial backers Bob Billings, Paul Weyrich, Ed McAteer and Howard Phillips.
The Moral Majority group took a religious and political stance against abortion, pornography, feminism, homosexuality, and a variety of other things, thus helping in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. This represented a tremendous break from his own previous beliefs - during the Civil Rights era, he sharply criticized black ministers who participated in the movement on the basis that Christian ministers should not be politically active.
When Jim Bakker was forced to resign from the PTL television ministry in 1988, Jerry Falwell took it over. In 1989 the Moral Majority was officially closed, but Falwell continues to publish and appear in the media to promote his evangelical agenda. During the Clinton presidency Falwell exhibited an incredible obsession with Bill and Hillary Clinton - every single issue of his monthly National Liberty Journal included denouncements of the Clintons for various improprieties. Falwell even promoted a video, the Clinton Chronicles, dramatizing the accusation that Clinton was involved in the death of his friend Vincent Foster.
In the end, it is uncertain just how much either Falwell or the Moral Majority has accomplished in real terms - but it is certain that he paved the way for other, more successful groups like the Christian Coalition.
Jerry Falwell has long been an opponent of public education. For Falwell, public schools are a place where children learn secularism, humanism, and atheism - all in contradiction to the fundamentalist Christian morals he believes that children should be learning instead. He doesn't believe that public schools can be changed, so he seems to have concluded that they should simply be scraped and replaced with private, church-run schools.
Unfortunately, Falwell's opposition to public education seems to have led him to spread false information about it. For example, in December, 2002, he sent out an e-mail alert alleging that public schools in Sacramento, California, had ordered teachers not to use the word "Christmas" in front of their students:
Imagine that, Christmas banned in a public school classroom. This interdiction is actually quite predictable because the word Christmas and the concept of a holiday bearing the name of Christ contradicts the situation ethics that pervades many public school classrooms. If there is no true right and wrong, there must not be a notion of a Savior or the need of a Savior.
Clearly, this claim by Falwell was designed to boost his position that there is something fundamentally anti-Christian about American public schools and that this, in turn, is a part of declining morality in the United States. This allegation will probably appear regularly in the future - even though it is completely false. There is absolutely no evidence of it happening and the Sacramento City Unified School District and specifically denied it.
If we are going to save America and evangelize the world, we cannot accommodate secular philosophies that are diametrically opposed to Christian truth...We need to pull out all the stops to recruit and train 25 million Americans to become informed pro-moral activists whose voices can be heard in the halls of Congress. I am convinced that America can be turned around if we will all get serious about the Master's business. It may be late, but it is never too late to do what is right. We need an old-fashioned, God-honoring, Christ-exalting revival to turn American back to God. America can be saved!
["Moral Majority Report", September 1984.]
I hope I live to see the day, when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!
[America Can Be Saved, (1979)]
I believe that the people of Israel are the chosen people of God.
[interview on CNN, November 21, 1982]
The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior. [Listen, America!]
You say what's going to happen on this earth when the Rapture occurs? You'll be riding along in an automobile; you'll be the driver, perhaps; you're a Christian; there'll be several people in the automobile with you, maybe someone who is not a Christian. When the trumpet sounds, you and the other born-again Christians in that automobile will be instantly caught away, you'll disappear, leaving behind only your clothing and physical things that cannot inherit eternal life. That unsaved person or persons in the automobile will suddenly be startled to find that the car is moving along without a driver, and suddenly somewhere crashes. Those saved people in the car have disappeared. Other cars on the highway driven by believers will suddenly be out of control. Stark pandemonium will occur on that highway and on every highway in the world where Christians are caught away from the world.
[quoted in Under God, Religion and American Politics, by Garry Wills.]
Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them. [CNN's Crossfire, 5/17/97]
The Bible is the inerrant...word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc.
[Finding Inner Peace and Strength, p. 26]
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