News is breaking today that Jerry Falwell has died (see the Fox article here). As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "For man also does not know his time" (9:12). Whatever one's take on Falwell's theology (he was outspoken in opposing Calvinism in recent years) or politics (not all Baptist evangelicals shared his views on church-state issues) one has to admire his tireless work as a Pastor (founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church) and educator (founder of Liberty University), his stand and passion for his convictions (on issues like opposition to abortion and moral decline in America), and his visionary institutional leadership (Who would have thought that Lynchburg, Va would be the lauching pad for a national religious-political figure?).
I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Jerry last December while visiting his church's annual Christmas program with some friends. He was amiable, warm, and accessible.
Let's join in lifting up his family and friends as they grieve his death.
Although Jerry was often at odds with Pagans over various issues (including perhaps that time he blamed us for 9-11), he was still a person that influenced many lives. While I can't really speak for the large Pagan community in Lynchburg, from previous conversations with them I do suspect that they are saddened by his death too. My understanding is that some did participate in a few interfaith activities with people from his church, and both sides had found it a meaningful experience. It was also my understanding that once one got past the political rhetoric that he could be a reasonable and compassionate person. In fact, at least one active member of my group attended Liberty University and values that experience.
For that matter, for as much as he represented a challenge to our community, I respect that as well. We all need to be challenged in our beliefs sometimes, and if nothing else he was often a worthy adversary.
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