Theology Thursdays: Falwell’s Legacy by Armstrong Williams
I arrived in Washington, DC during the 80's and quickly found myself aligned with the conservative-Christian movement. Obviously this was a natural attraction given my strict moral striving upbringing and my Pentecostal faith. There were many names during that era of former President Ronald Reagan that had shaped and were shaping the clout of Christian conservatives in the United States and abroad. Some would be hard pressed to argue that no one more than the Rev. Falwell with his Liberty Broadcast, monthly newspaper that reaches 300,000 Christian pastors (National Liberty Journal) has had more of a universal impact than any. I met Rev. Falwell in the late 80's and thus began a friendship that has endured until his recent passing. Our syndicated television show the Right Side has been carried on the Liberty television network since its inception and my column has been a monthly feature in his newspapers for years. Rev. Falwell honored me years ago as a keynote speaker at Liberty University which many politicians coveted. We would often visit his Liberty campus where I was his interview subject and he would oblige me in the same way by visiting DC and being a guest on our show. I recall at the height of the suicide bombings in Israel which was having a devastating impact on their economy, I received a call from Rev. Falwell while he was in Israel encouraging me to come and broadcast and lend support to the Holy Land and reassure the region that we will never abandon them. It was that conversation that began my visits to Israel on four different occasions for approximately one month stays. Rev. Falwell understood the importance of the State of Israel and how special it was to Christians and their history. We would speak periodically via telephone about the moral issues of the day and strategize on how to make sure our messages were heard throughout the world. We were always together during the Republican National conventions and never let an opportunity pass without breaking bread just to pray together and reflect on God's goodness.
Contrary to popular belief he was one of the humblest, kindest and most courageous people I've ever met. Like all of us, he made mistakes, he made some inflammatory statements about segregation and about feminists and homosexuals, but he later apologized for his remarks. I remember years ago encouraging him to meet and get to know the Rev. Al Sharpton which eventually happened and they developed a friendship of respect and honor. Always kind and reassuring, Rev. Falwell was a giant at his University. You could tell from his interactions with the students that there was a special bond of trust, respect, and admiration from students, parents, faculty and administration. He was always the best at adding levity to the conversation. When he would speak of his wife and family he would glow like a ray of sunlight beaming from the sky. There was no doubt that former President Ronald Reagan, was his hero in terms of men who have occupied the white House during his life. Rev. Falwell was a leading and motivating force of Christianity and exemplified Christ's teachings about walking humbly before men. People would have been shocked at the number of American blacks matriculating at Liberty University and their glowing respect for the good reverend and the institution he built. Liberty University will probably be Dr. Falwell's greatest legacy and contribution. It is an awe-inspiring place where students and faculty must adhere to a moral code established by the University, the ' Liberty way.' This Christian focus, however, does not prohibit other development, as the school is accredited, students are required to listen to speakers from the public arena three times a week and some may recall that in 2005 their women's basketball team made it to the sweet sixteen. It is a competitive school in all aspects, and one of the few liberal arts schools that isn't liberal.
We knew that Rev. Falwell's health was failing and that his heart was weakening. Those who knew him well, however, were not shocked by his sudden passing due to heart failure. Dr. Falwell was ready to meet his savior and had always made it clear that his life was a preparation to spend eternity with God. Growing up in S.C and attending church regularly, we would often sing a song "May the works I've done speak for me"; well, indubitably the works of the Rev. Jerry Falwell speak loudly and boldly about this man. Men like the reverend are rare; they are difficult to find in this world today. He clearly showed what he believed, where he stood, what his values were, and who he served in life (God not man). Whatever one's course in life we know as human beings they are due respect in death, and a man who lived according to his beliefs, as did Reverend Falwell, is deserving of praise.
Armstrong Williams can be contacted via e-mail at:firstname.lastname@example.org His website is www.armstrongwilliams.com
Thursday, May 17, 2007