Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rest in Peace Reverend Falwell

I received the news that Jerry Falwell had been taken to a hospital in the most modern of ways -- via a CNN Twitter alert on my cell phone. I received the news that he had died in the old fashioned way from my mother, but it was still via cell phone. I’m always sad to learn that someone has died suddenly although, as my wife said, going suddenly beats slower more painful alternatives.

I was not a fan of the Reverend. That may surprise some people because I am politically conservative and my children attend a private religious school. However, I am a small government libertarian conservative. Much of what the Reverend Falwell thought was the business of government is not the business of government in my opinion. However, I do believe he was sincere in his beliefs and not an opportunistic charlatan. I can respect those with sincerely held beliefs even if I disagree with those beliefs.

I read that in the midst of the Civil Rights struggle just ten years before he founded the Moral Majority, the Reverend was preaching that Christians should stay off the streets and out of politics.,8599,1621300,00.html Apparently his viewpoint evolved and changed over the next ten years. If the questions is “What would Jesus do?” when it comes to politics, then I know the answer because Jesus actually did it. Jesus eschewed political power to lead by example and prayer. When taken to the mountain top and tempted, Jesus declined Satan’s invitation to seize absolute control of all that he could see. He declined to impose his will through the rule of law even though, if you believe he was God incarnate as the Reverend Falwell must have believed, he could have done so. Likewise,the Founding Fathers could have established a theocracy or a national religion if they wanted to do so. Why then do the so-called Religious Right and the Religious Left (See, e.g., Martin Sheen, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton), think that they can impose their values and beliefs through the rule of law? Are they smarter than Jesus or the Founding Fathers? I think not.

Still there is no denying that a ‘great man” of many accomplishments has passed. He was a “great man” in the sense that he did what few men or women ever do --- he influenced and shaped world events through his impact on American politics. “Great men’ and “great women” can be good or evil. They are “great” by virtue of their great influence on events. Amazingly, he accomplished this from the pulpit of a single church without ever really leaving Lynchburg, Virginia, and without ever being elected to office. Yes, he will be remembered in part as the man who "outed" the Teletubby Tinky Winky as "gay", and as the man who blamed "abortionists" and others for 9/11. We should not forget that he is also the man who mobilized millions who previously avoided politics. He harnessed the power of television and the mass media early in his career to spread his views and gain influence. That makes him a technological pioneer. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that today we lost an influential man who tirelessly pursued his sincere beliefs. Rest in peace Reverend Falwell.

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