The Jerry Falwell of whom Christopher Hitchens speaks was in part responsible for the spawning of a whole school of Christian Right preachers who promote an agenda which, in our view, is antithetical to what the Christ of the Beatitudes had to say. This video site gives a good flavor.
This from the White House on the subject:
Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Jerry Falwell, a man who cherished faith, family, and freedom. As the founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, Jerry lived a life of faith and called upon men and women of all backgrounds to believe in God and serve their communities. One of his lasting contributions was the establishment of Liberty University, where he taught young people to remain true to their convictions and rely upon God's word throughout each stage of their lives. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Macel and the rest of the Falwell family.
And here's a moderate Christian take from Jim Wallis: (Read the entire post here)
Aside from President Bush, it's very hard to find anyone who has a good word to say for Falwell. Blog entries I've come across range anywhere from saying that he's having a good time in hell, to suggesting he should have been thrown under a bus years ago. The only - and I repeat the only - positive piece I've come across in a fairly thorough search is a longish eulogy by R. Albert Mohler Jr. Here's what he had to say, in part:
Falwell, in his own way, did help to teach Christians that their faith should express itself in the public square and I am grateful for that, even if the positions Falwell took were often at great variance with my own. I spent much of my early Christian life fighting the privatizing of faith, characterized by the withdrawal of any concern for the world (so as to not be “worldly”) and an exclusive focus on private matters. If God so loved the world, God must care a great deal about what happens to it and in it. Falwell agreed with that, and blew the trumpet that awakened fundamentalist Christians to engage the world with their faith and moral values. And that commitment is a good thing. Jerry and I debated often about how faith should impact public life and what all the great moral issues of our time really are.
The legacy of Dr. Jerry Falwell will be debated for decades to come. Political scientists, theologians, church leaders, and historians will all have their say. Jerry Falwell would not be threatened by this analysis. He expected that some would love him for his beliefs and others would not. He was a man in constant motion, and he seemed rarely to look back. He redefined independent fundamentalism and then led his church to associate with the Southern Baptist Convention, which had experienced its own conservative redirection. He mobilized a movement of conservative Christians in America and built a massive empire. These remain as monuments to Jerry Falwell's leadership and vision
Knowing that The Buddha Diaries has some serious and thoughtful Christian readers, we'd be interested to know what they have to say.