Jerry Falwell, American evangelical Southern Baptist pastor, Died at 74

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Jerry Lamon Falwell, Sr. died on May 15, 2007, at the age of 74, he was an American evangelical Southern Baptist pastor, televangelist, and a conservative political commentator.

Falwell and his twin brother Gene were born in the Fairview Heights region of Lynchburg, Virginia on August 11, 1933, the sons of Helen Virginia (Beasley) and Carey Hezekiah Falwell.

His father was an entrepreneur and one-time bootlegger who was agnostic.

His grandfather was a staunch atheist.

In 1956, at age 22, Falwell founded the Thomas Road Baptist Church, originally located at 701 Thomas Road in Lynchburg, Virginia, with 35 members.

The church went on to become a megachurch.

Also in 1956, he began the Old Time Gospel Hour, a nationally syndicated radio and television ministry.

In 1971 the Supreme Court ruled in Green v. Connally to revoke the tax-exempt status of racially discriminatory private schools.

Green v. Connally produced a ruling that any institution that practiced segregation was not, by definition, a charitable institution and, therefore, no longer qualified for tax-exempt standing, holding: “Using federal tax funds to finance private schools for purposes of segregation of students in segregation academies violates the IRS public tax fund rules, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because discrimination coupled with segregation is inherently unequal.

District of Columbia district court affirmed.”

After the September 11 attacks, for example, he apologized for calling Muhammad a terrorist and for suggesting that the attacks had reflected God’s judgment on a nation spiritually weakened by the American Civil Liberties Union, providers of abortion and supporters of gay rights.

He was ridiculed for an article in his National Liberty Journal suggesting that Tinky Winky, a character in the “Teletubbies” children’s show, could be a hidden homosexual signal because the character was purple, had a triangle on his head and carried a handbag.

Behind the controversies was a shrewd, savvy operator with an original vision for effecting political and moral change.

He rallied religious conservatives to the political arena at a time when most fundamentalists and other conservative religious leaders were inclined to stay away.

And he helped pulled off what had once seemed an impossible task: uniting religious conservatives from many faiths and doctrines by emphasizing what they had in common.

He declared his acceptance of Christ that night at the Park Avenue Baptist Church in Lynchburg, on an evening in which he also first saw the woman who would become his wife, the church pianist, Macel Pate.

The next day he bought a Bible, a Bible dictionary and James Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

Two months later, he decided he wanted to become a minister and spread the word.

Falwell set out in his Christian ministry as a Fundamentalist, having attended a conservative Bible college and following strict standards of ecclesiastical and personal separatism; he was thus known and respected in IFB circles, being praised in far-right publications such as The Sword of the Lord.

Though he never officially stated his rejection of this movement, the evidence of his life from the late 1970s onwards indicates he moved toward a conservative Evangelical standpoint to the right of mainline Protestantism or “open” Evangelicalism but to the left of traditional, separatist Fundamentalism.

It was reported that he had refused to attend parties at which alcohol was served early in his life, but relaxed this stricture as he was increasingly invited to major events through the contacts he developed in conservative politics and religion.

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