Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Jerry Falwell - Preacher and Patriot
As you know by now, the Rev. Jerry Falwell has died, at the age of 73.
Ron Godwin, executive vice president of Liberty University, said Falwell was found unresponsive about 10:45 a.m. and taken to Lynchburg General Hospital where he was pronounced dead about an hour later. His physician, Dr. Carl Moore, said the evangelist had a heart rhythm abnormality; was found without a pulse and never regained consciousness.
The Rev. had made preparations for a transition of his leadership to his two sons, Jerry Falwell, Jr., vice-chancellor of Liberty University, and Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church.
In 1956, Jerry Falwell, a 22-year-old minister started Thomas Road Baptist Church with just 35 members. Today, the church has more than 24,000 members. Shortly after starting the church, Falwell began broadcasting the "Old Time Gospel Hour" radio and television shows. Then he founded Liberty University in 1971, and the Moral Majority to engage the religious right in the political process, which was credited with getting millions of voters registered and electing Ronald Reagan. (I remember this, and together with Dr. D. James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell was instrumental in raising my awareness to the importance of the responsibilities of American citizens).
His final column before he died:
Entitled, “Boldly Live Your Faith!” Falwell talked about the true story of Megan Chapman, who last year was told not to mention her faith in her valedictorian speech at her high school’s commencement ceremony.
More than 3,000 people packed her school's gymnasium, members of the press were in attendance, and as the principal of the school was making his opening remarks, the senior class stood together and recited "The Lord's Prayer." When Megan walked to the platform, prepared to read the poem, "The Road Less Traveled" only, she said when she looked out over the audience, she put away the poem and began speaking from her heart about how God is real in her life and the peace she has had since giving her heart to Jesus Christ, and wished that same for her classmates. Reporters said that her speech was interrupted with cheers several times.
Falwell ended his column telling high school students to “Boldly live their faith!” Something he did throughout his life as a minister.