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The Falwell Factor
by James Robison

05/18/2007  

Jerry Falwell changed the way Christians view their role in politics.

Betty and I, along with all members of our staff, are praying for God's comfort and peace on behalf of the Falwell family -- Macel, Jerry, Jr., Jonathan and Jeannie -- along with other family members and students of Liberty University.

I knew Dr. Falwell and spoke annually at Thomas Road Baptist Church for many years in the 70's and 80's. He was an inspiration and made it clear that he held me in high regard. During our journey we experienced some times of disagreement. Being a strong independent Baptist and proudly wearing the label "fundamentalist," he seemed disturbed when I stretched beyond my Baptist boundaries to minister outside of our denomination. This was condemned as compromise on my part, yet I was convinced that failure to love one another across denominational lines was one of the Christian family's greatest compromises. We do not have to agree on all points to have fellowship. It is obvious through his own practices that Dr. Falwell gravitated toward bridge-building during the later years of his own life. I think this was a healthy move.

Being in the spotlight, Dr. Falwell made statements which he later regretted and, on occasion, openly apologized. Anytime you are under the constant scrutiny of the media, you can be certain they will find a phrase, sentence, or comment that they will use or misuse to create controversy and damage your reputation, especially if you are religious or conservative. Dr. Falwell was outspoken and unquestionably, unreservedly and unapologetically conservative.

We were both considered leaders of what the so-called "Religious Right." Dr. Falwell did cause me to consider the importance of "coming out of the closet when everyone else is." I encouraged church members to "get out from under the pew and take a stand for what's right."

My call to participation on the part of the faith community was broken down in a three-point outline: Be inspired, be informed, be involved. Inspired to make a difference. Informed about the belief systems of the candidates who will establish policies under which we must live and which profoundly affect our future, including our freedoms. And also be involved in the political process that freedom has afforded us. We not only have the right to vote, but the responsibility to vote. I believe Christians must be an active part of this democratic process or we will be left out and our freedoms ultimately drastically limited, if not taken away entirely.

Dr. Falwell, along with other Christians, became vitally interested in politics after the removal of school prayer and the Roe vs. Wade decision. Legalized abortion put the most innocent and helpless life on the planet at risk -- the precious, unborn child in the womb. As surely as ministers have affected history on every continent, they have affected the decisions made in this country from its foundation. Courageous men in the pulpit helped abolish of slavery as much as Abraham Lincoln in the White House. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other voices in the pulpit carried the Civil Rights movement. The right and responsibility of a minister to speak out on moral issues is incumbent upon black or white, conservative or liberal. We may find areas where we disagree with people's positions, but we must recognize the right to practice the First Amendment blessing of free speech and the right to express faith-based convictions.

At the same time, I have cautioned against the danger of the evangelical movement becoming an arm of one particular political party rather than an influence on all parties and political candidates. I chose to deliberately move out of the public arena and focus more on communicating with and directly ministering to leaders. I freely share my concerns regarding issues of importance to Christians and people who value the traditional family.

I communicated with Mr. Reagan the importance of the pro-life position and the need to stand firmly and, if necessary, forcefully against the atheist Communists of the Soviet Union. I also talked extensively with and prayed with former President Bush about his position concerning abortion and watched him make a 180 degree change and become pro-life.

I also sought to pray with President Clinton while he was going through his personal failures. I did not join the ranks of those casting stones and trying to destroy his political influence. I sought rather to try to help him rebuild his life and future, and did so through prayer and contributed, I know, as did many others with prayer. However much I may disagree with individuals, I do not think I am called to destroy them.

I have also prayed with the current president. God knows, if ever a leader needed our prayers with the issues he faces, he does. He has expressed his appreciation for our prayers. He told me personally, "There is nothing anyone can do that is more important than praying for me."

Christians should be inspired, informed and involved, but we are not "king makers." We must be a powerful influence on kings, if only through prayer. When we have occasion to communicate directly with leaders or take a public stand on important social issues, such as defining marriage, promoting life or encouraging political participation, we should do so.

Dr. Falwell helped believers understand that the effect of salt and light, if properly understood, cannot be hidden, not under a bushel, not in a closet and not in a church. It must shine! Our leaders will always be imperfect, but Christians must continue to participate in the political process. It is a God-given responsibility that shapes our nation's future.

Beware of partisanship and sectarian or denominational divide. It destroys fellowship and endangers the stability of our country. Yet, we must have the courage to stand as boldly as Dr. Falwell for what we believe while maintaining the humility to admit when we are wrong. We have much to learn and much to do if we are to be light in this dark world.

 

Publishing Information

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 998

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net