Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell (1933-2007): His Pro-Life Valor and Friendship With Jesse Jackson

One of the most hated men in America . . . (which of course, virtually proves that the man must have done a lot of good things). May he rest in peace. Some articles:


ABC News

Reuters UK

As with most folks on the political right, or in pro-life and/or traditional Christian circles (whether Protestant or Catholic), Rev. Falwell was subject to massive slanders and mis- and disinformation. For example, how well known is it that he was good friends with Jesse Jackson? The two worked jointly on projects to help the underprivileged.

One can see the good-natured (but very serious at bottom) ribbing between the two (and see which one was truly more "progressive") in the following exchange (CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer, 24 October 2004):

JACKSON: I respect women's right to self-determinance. And most women choose to have their children. There may be circumstances where they choose not to, and I respect women's rights to make that judgment.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Reverend Falwell.

FALWELL: Wolf, may I say that Jesse Jackson is a great preacher. I'm mediocre, but he's a great preacher. And he has preached for me. He and I are good friends. He just happens to be wrong about everything now.

I have a copy of a printed sermon that Jesse preached, a pro-life sermon, that is as strong as anything I've ever preached. Then he got mixed up with the Democrats. They perverted his theology.


But Jesse loves people, just like I love people.

But I want to tell you that life begins at conception. And embryonic research on stem cells, very frankly, is wrong, because when the egg is fertilized it becomes a living person. That is the fundamental belief of Christians and, by the way, Pope John Paul II.

I have no problem with John Kerry being Catholic. Pope John Paul II is pro-life, and if John Kerry agreed with his pope and many of his fellow Catholic priests and so forth, he and I would get along fine. I have no problem with him being Catholic. He's just wrong on the life issue, wrong on stem cell, wrong on... and shouldn't be president.

[ . . . ]

BLITZER: Maybe, Reverend Jackson, you want to respond to the specific charge that was made by Reverend Falwell that you changed your position on abortion rights for women as you became more politically active.

JACKSON: No, I expanded my position to include the reality that women have the right to self-determination. I mean, people who...

FALWELL: I'll put a copy of his sermon on my Web site, if you want to read it.

JACKSON: When you grow, you change. I mean, I grew up with a lot of beliefs that were limited and archaic.

But I submit to you that I respect a woman's right of choice. I've seen women who faced incest, who've faced rape, who have had weak bodies who could not go on. And when those women made the choice to abort, I respected that right. And I stand on that position. I feel very morally secure in it.
A similar exchange occurred on CNN Crossfire (17 January 2005), with Paul Begala and Joe Watkins:
FALWELL: Most people, Jesse, do not know that you and I have been longtime friends and that I have preached for you and you have preached for me. And when we are not on television fighting, we are probably drinking coffee together somewhere. Most people don't know that.


FALWELL: We agree on motherhood and one or two other things.


FALWELL: But what I do remember, as a young preacher -- and you were and are a good one -- you preached a great, great pro-life sermon. I have a printed copy of it. You were as strongly pro-life as I and as Paul's holy father is. And somewhere along the way, you let the Democrats somehow decimate your faith.

And today, you are pro-choice. Now, if we are talking civil rights, the last disenfranchised minority in America and the world for that matter are the voiceless, defenseless unborn.

WATKINS: Absolutely.

FALWELL: And I want to call you back to where you started. I would love to fight with you up and down the streets of America for the sake of the unborn.



JACKSON: But, Jerry, people -- I believe that women are intelligent enough to make choices of their own. But, further, Jerry, you seem to fight for the fetus and then abandon them and then abandon the babies.

JACKSON: Jerry, 45 million Americans have no health insurance. The working poor cannot get minimum wage. They cannot afford to send their children to college. Can we not challenge the rich to reinvest and put America back to work? If you love me, then feed my sheep. That's Bible. if you love me, then study war no more.

FALWELL: Now, Jesse, you are the richest person on this program.


[ . . . ]

FALWELL: I'm not saying that abortion is the only issue, but it certainly is a front-burner fundamental issue. The right to life, I think there's probably...

BEGALA: But why don't Christian conservative ministers preach against materialism and greed and poverty and injustice, the way Dr. King did?

FALWELL: Oh, I think they do. I think they do. I know we do.

And we have a home for unwed mothers. We have a home for alcoholics and drug addicts. We support a hospice for AIDS victims. We -- and evangelical church[es] all over the nation give hundreds of millions of dollars. But that's not our main thing. Our main thing is preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified and winning people to salvation through Christ. That's our -- we're the light of the world, as well as the salt of the earth.

But . . . I have had Jesse in my pulpit. . . . we are friends. But on this issue, he's let the Democrats just sidetrack him and get him away from the main thing. He's -- I really -- I believe he's sincere, but I think he's sincerely wrong. I think we need to help the poor. I think we need to work very hard to -- in this country, God knows, the tsunami reaction response, who could criticize this country?

[ . . . ]

FALWELL: Jesse, Jesse, you have got a voice. You have got a platform. You need to get off the hobbyhorse of just taking care of the poor. You need to get them alive first and do both at the same time. And God bless you. Come see me.

BEGALA: That will have to be the last word.

JACKSON: I will say to you that you're obsessed with the fetus. Let's try to save the children.
One article noted an example of their joint efforts:
In September 1998, Jesse Jackson and Jerry Falwell, two Baptist ministers at polar ends of the political spectrum, joined forces to lead a march of 2,500 people in Nelsonville, Ohio. Their shared cause: persistent poverty in Appalachia.
So we see who was more progressive, in comparing Jesse Jackson's approach and Jerry Falwell's. Falwell was concerned for poor and underprivileged people, as well as for the rights of preborn human beings to be born in the first place and not mercilessly butchered, whereas Jackson has concern for the poor who managed to make it out of the womb in one piece and with a heartbeat but not for preborn human beings (the most defenseless and innocent of all victims). Which is more Christian and consistent? Is not the answer utterly obvious? And Jackson used to know this, which is what is so sad. He sold his soul on abortion for a mess of pottage.

So when you read all the stereotyped nonsense about Jerry Falwell as a "right-wing extremist" blah blah blah (and I cut through false stereotypes at every opportunity), please keep in mind his consistency regarding oppressed or underprivileged victims and his friendship with someone like Jesse Jackson, who vigorously disagreed with him politically, and their work together when they agreed. May he rest in peace.

No comments: