Was Jerry Falwell A Christian?

I give Reverend Falwell a lot of credit. His life surely made an impact. And I am satisfied that much of what he did was good and caring and constructive. I am sure his life work has had national and international impact. And as a Virginian, I realize that he is one of our most famous and recognizable citizens. But was he a Christian? And if he was, does that mean that I am not?

I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, and the church was a refuge for me from as early as I can remember, up through high school and before I was able to leave the dysfunctional family and abuse I experienced throughout childhood. My life then was about trying to be perfect and living with the guilt of not being able to attain it. As a child I went to Sunday School, Sunday worship service, Sunday night service, Wednesday night prayer meetings – I read my Bible regularly and studied more for my Sunday school class than I did for my school subjects.

But no one really told me the truth. No one told me about how the King James version of the Bible was cobbled together from centuries of translations, (and mistranslations), whole books added and lost, a history of human intervention that applied the biases of the times to the book I was told was inerrant, was the word of God, was the only true word of God.

No one explained to the child back then of the context in which the Bible evolved and the relation it had to other religions that came before and existed along side.

So I am left with the question – was Falwell a Christian? Can a person who lives a life as a bad person and converts to Christianly at the last moment, go to Heaven? And a person who lives a good life but has skepticism about the historically evolved Christian religion, go to Hell?

I’ve often wondered that the Reverend Falwell seemed far too stuffed with church potluck fried chicken that he could hardly get up from his chair to stand at his pulpit. I wondered that he was as sensitive to the half of the world that either goes to bed hungry or doesn’t know where the next meal will come from. I wondered that as facts changed he was unable to change his mind – stuck in what would seem an arrogant assertion that he alone knew God’s will and that anyone who disputed him was dismissed offhand. I wondered that as science and medicine concluded that homosexuality was a state of being and not a moral choice, how much Reverend Falwell contributed to the estrangement of and discrimination of gays from family and community. I wondered at the anachronism of how his church maintained its older bias against mixed race relationships.

Was this man who seemed to me to be pompous and arrogant and smug within his conceit really the Christian that my childhood introduction to Jesus would suggest? And I have to come to the conclusion that he was not.

Comments

Mark said…
Bill,
I repectfully disagree with your assement of Biblical authority and its 'mistranslations'. That's another day's discussion.

Christ wants you to repent of your sins and live for Him. Living for Him includes obeying His commandments, although we all will fall short. Daily seeking Him and His will, not our own.

Can a person who lives a life as a bad person and converts to Christianly at the last moment, go to Heaven?

Yes, no sin is too great to be forgiven.

And a person who lives a good life but has skepticism about the historically evolved Christian religion, go to Hell?

Yes, becuase not one of us 'lives a good life'. not one! It has nothing to do with 'skepticism', it has everything to do with giving your life to Christ and faith till death that His blood covers your sins before our Holy God. Worship is born in repentance Bill.
CJ said…
Bill,

I never have been a fan of Jerry, even when I was a conservative. I do not appreciate his ideals or his stances, but I know I cannot be arrogant enough to ever question his salvation.

For one, the whole modern church's obsession on getting people saved so they can get to heaven and not go to hell is rediculous. That was never the point, the point was ushering in the kingdom here and now. We are to love everyone, not because their soul is headed to hell, but because they are a child of God and deserve to be loved...love with an agenda isn't really love is it?

Salvation doesn't come from saying "uh huh" to this doctrine or that...it's about loving God with all your heart soul and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself.

I think Jerry really did love Jesus and I really do believe Jerry loved his neighbor...I just think he did a pretty crappy job at it. And I think that's where grace comes in.

I can't question his "salvation" as much as I can't question your's. All I can do is live my life trying to love my neighbors as best I can, help the poor and the orphans and the widows...trying to alieviate the "hell" this world is experiencing right here and right now...and maybe that will spur others to understand this Jesus more...but maybe not...just going to love them anyway...

-cj
Bill Garnett said…
A message to Mark and CJ

TO: Mark

Sarcisim (sp) is not a gift; sarcasm is merely disguised anger. And as to your revulsion of liberals, I would suggest that Jesus was one of the most “liberal” figures in all history. He was a progressive and a liberal – he overturned the conventions of the time, he was inclusive in his gospel, he was progressive in his thinking.

TO: CJ

I agree that I should not question Jerry Falwell’s salvation. I merely question his claim to exclusive authority of the will of God. And I find no small amount of hypocrisy in his positions. I don’t believe that God’s will is the exclusive province of preachers, Popes, theologians, or ecclesiastics. History certainly supports this position.

And so to applaud Falwell or look to his life as example, in my mind, would denigrate the qualities of open mindedness, acceptance of revealed truth of science, humility, and inclusion.

We are born with innate curiosity, an ability to discern and an abiding sense of good and evil – I see these gifts as purposeful, and suggestive that both we are to use these gifts to find our own way and to discern false paths set by even the most seemingly pious among us.
Mark said…
I would suggest that Jesus was one of the most “liberal” figures in all history. He was a progressive and a liberal

Hence why you still do not know Him.

he overturned the conventions of the time,

No, He overturned a works based salvation Bill.

he was inclusive in his gospel, he was progressive in his thinking.


and why do people go to Hell again? Jesus, after all, could have all of us go to eternity with Him, no? why Bill, will most not go to heaven and choose the road that is Wide and well traveled?

I merely question his claim to exclusive authority of the will of God.

A claim only made by you Bill, not Falwell. But I guess that's what helps you find YOUR way and not God's. Discounting Holy scrpiture all along your merry way. It's a shame.
David said…
Mark,

It must be nice to have all the answers supplied for you.

No, Jesus overturned the conventions of his time, quite explicitly. He was very clear that the prejudices of the religious authorities were about what men wanted, not what God wanted. He was very clear that everyone was to be invited to the table. There were no exceptions for personal attributes they didn't like.

It is no different today. We have to use the power of discernment God created us with, integrate new knowledge as it becomes revealed, and apply the same principle, the rule of love. Every defender of convention in every time seems to think this does not apply to them, but it does. Living for Him means shedding your attachment to those misguided, ignorance-based conventions that burden you and keep you from the Kingdom of God here and now, as CJ said.
Mark said…
David,
No my friend, what you and cj subscribe to is quite unbiblical and I suspect you both know it but unwilling to give it to Christ.

He was very clear that the prejudices of the religious authorities were about what men wanted, not what God wanted.

I agree. What Men wanted was thier love, not God's. A 'jewish' works based salvation is exactly what Christ turned upside down! Never once did Mosaic law every say one is saved by keeping the law. Sin requires a response! Our faith in Christ is final, not washing hands or animal sacrifice. Nor is there anything wrong with that, but is does not save!

Defintions are everything David. I cannot 'love' anyone without knowing and proclaiming the truth of Christ. Godly Love never means encouraging, or celebrating that which is sin before our Holy God.

We must die to ourselves and live for Him. Repentance is daily with any follower of Christ. To do otherwise is to risk a hardend heart which results in where we will no longer know sin and be vulnerable to an eternity away from Him.

God could give a rats butt about our worldly loves, feeding or clothing the poor, if it is without the message of repentance and Christ's work on the cross. Works based salvation was never part of any OT or NT laws. God is not interested in well feed, nicely dressed folks in line for Hell. Make sense?
Bill Garnett said…
Mark,

You certainly have the right to your beliefs.

God speaks to me through the Bible and though his creation in a much different way. I certainly don’t believe the Bible is to be read literally or believe that the Bible is inerrant. And frankly, the “preachy” tone of your post suggests that it would be useless to try and engage in a conversation, as I don’t think you would be willing to examine a spiritual path that differs from your current belief system.
Mark said…
I certainly don’t believe the Bible is to be read literally or believe that the Bible is inerrant.

Then you admit, the Bible is not the error free word of God. Everybody has their own God who speaks to them differently just like He does for you Bill. Good luck with that! btw, I do not take the Bible text literal unless it is ment to be taken literal. There is much metaphor in the Bible, and is not ment to be taken literal. A child knows as much I suspect.
Bill Garnett said…
Mark, I feel we have a large area of mutual agreement. I do wonder that you could expand on something you said, “I do not take the Bible text literal unless it is meant to be taken literal.” As much of the Bible is, by intelligence and common sense, not taken as literal, but as allegory or metaphor, it would follow that intelligence and common sense work to suggest to the individual believer where that demarcation is.

I have met online those who are inerrant Bible readers and I have met those who make their best effort to see through the veil of 2000 years and make their best attempt at bringing the guidance of the Bible into their lives today, in 2007.

My knowledge of history informs me that perhaps misguided but well meaning Bible literalists have been behind some of the most atrocious human inflicted pain of all times. From the Inquisition to slavery to religiously inspired wars. We can with our perspective see this, and I think that future generations will see the intolerance and prejudice against homosexuals as fitting this same pattern – the insistence of more fundamentalist Christians to claim the high ground - in spite of science, medicine, and the social enlightenment all around them.
Mark said…
Bill,
It is either God's word, or it is not. It is either God's perfect word, or it is not. The Biblical text remain true to the original, more so than any other text known to Man, including Plato, Socrates, and Shakeshere.

Why would God allow His word to be changed? Chist confirmend the text and fullfilled it. The fact that Christians, and others have gone against Christ's teachings to further their own goals, makes the text no less Perfect.

It is either God's word or it is not. You can't logically say a perfect God has an imperfect word. Unless you think a perfect God allows His word to be changed? and if so why would He?
Anonymous said…
Just read this about Falwell:
Dr. Falwell guided his church to invest millions of dollars in helping the underprivileged. He helped found the Elim home for alcoholics, the Center for Tutoring for inner city children, the Hope Aglow ministry for prisoners, and the Liberty Godparent Home for unwed mothers, just to name a few. His commitment to service in the name of Jesus dominated his life.

Perhaps you just bought into the caricature that the media made of Falwell ONLY pursuing right-wing politics. Unless you did as much as he for the poor, perhaps an apology is in order.
Bill Garnett said…
TO: Anonymous

I began my post by saying, “I give Reverend Falwell a lot of credit. His life surely made an impact. And I am satisfied that much of what he did was good and caring and constructive. I am sure his life work has had national and international impact.” Surely this is sufficient to mute your argument that, “Perhaps you just bought into the caricature that the media made of Falwell ONLY pursuing right-wing politics.”

We are all a mix of qualities. What I wrote is from my own personal experience growing up around devout Baptists in Virginia, that Falwell’s position of placing himself in secular politics based on his religious beliefs trumping mine, and his insistence that his interpretation of God’s will towards homosexuality trumps that of science and medicine and enlightened governments and states.

And your assertion that I compare my good works against the good works of Falwell is both a logical fallacy and an example of how you, so quick to take offence, will leave your judgmental innuendo. Sir, it is neither you nor I who judge, but God alone. But to speak fact to ignorance, superstition, and prejudice, is to be more on God’s side that you seem to accept.
Anonymous said…
I haven't judged anyone nor doubted his or her Christianity... I believe that was you. And your initial token remarks were overwhelmed by these words:
"I wondered that he was as sensitive to the half of the world that either goes to bed hungry or doesn’t know where the next meal will come from" and "

Again, just because you grew up in the same denomination and somewhat near him doesn't mean you knew the man. Your description of him is a mirror image of CNN's portrayal. Did you know of any of the charitable organizations I mentioned? Or did you let the talking heads lull you into believing JF existed to bloviate on political issues? I suggest you re-read your post and see if an outsider would actually think your attitude was nonjudgmental.

BTW, I am neither Baptist, evangelical, nor fundamentalist. I get the impression that my simple offering that Falwell spent alot of his time and money to help suffering people meant (to you) I am one of his cronies. But hey, this is your blog and you can write and think what you want. But don't pretend to be non-judgmental when you write vitriol questioning another man's religion.
Bill Garnett said…
TO: Anonymous,

A have no doubt that most of the Spanish Inquisitors were pious men who felt in their hearts that they were doing God’s work. It was left to courageous men like Martin Luther to expose the excesses of the Catholic Church and evolve Christianity towards Protestantism.

I don’t doubt that Jerry Falwell considered himself a pious man doing the work of God.

He took pride in his accomplishments and considered his interpretation of the Bible to trump others. Both of which he acknowledged over and over on TV and off.

Science reveals the truth and wonder of God’s creation. Ignorance is excusable more than the dogged resistance to the discoveries of science and medicine. And Falwell's position on homosexuality was in opposition to the facts and to the currently widely accepted conclusions of science and medicine. The result, is that a person of Falwell's influence, has added unwarranted prejudice, bias, and discrimination onto 300,000 gay Virginians and vastly more nationally and worldwide.

In our Jeffersonian democracy we agree as citizens to govern ourselves on the basis of reasonable and rational debate and NOT by the religious beliefs of any one or group. We are a secular society. And Falwell crossed that bright line more than just about any American opinion leader. In doing that he has weakened our democracy and set back the ideals of inclusion and personal freedom.

And as to your choice to post anonymously. It feels too close to the hooded anonymity of the KKK; even Jesus in the Garden refused to hide and faced the crucifixion.

I am open and in the phone book. You seem to not have the courage to even step out from the shadows before you post your accusations.

Popular posts from this blog

A Fun Test - Are You Liberal Or Conservative?

How Would Jesus Vote On the Virginia Marriage Amendment?

Dan Gecker – A Ray of Sunshine In Chesterfield County