Jerry Falwell: Quotes & Biography

Instructor: James Moeller
Few public figures elicited stronger responses from the media than the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Founder of both the Moral Majority and Liberty University, Rev. Falwell was a pastor and evangelist who was most active during the 1980's and the presidential administration of Ronald Reagan. Read on to learn more about this controversial figure.

Inflammatory, Outspoken and Christian

'AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it's God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.'

It was well-publicized statements like these that made the Reverend Jerry Falwell a lightning rod for criticism. He was a man who would not back down from making controversial statements or compromise on anything he believed violated God's commandments, as written in the Holy Scriptures.

He was a major leader of what was called The Christian Right, a term best defined as a grassroots group of conservative, Bible-believing Christians. He also was unusual as an evangelical figure as he openly called for Christians to get involved in politics, even to the point of sponsoring church voter registration drives in order to make the Christian Right a force to be reckoned with in presidential elections. Who was the Reverend Jerry Falwell? Read on to find out.

The Reverend Jerry Falwell, 2007

Early Life & Ministry

Jerry Falwell's birth would hardly have predicted his life as an evangelist & pastor. He and his twin brother Gene were born on August 11, 1933, to an agnostic father who was a successful businessman in Lynchburg, VA. During Prohibition, his father spent some time as a Bootlegger. His mother, however, was a Bible-believing Baptist who ended up being a huge influence on her son.

In 1951, the young Jerry Falwell graduated valedictorian from Lynchburg high school and began to attend Lynchburg College. While a freshman, he listened to the radio one night and heard a Gospel message from Charles E. Fuller's 'Old Fashioned Revival Hour' and had a conversion experience. Later in life, Falwell would create his own radio/TV program and would call it 'The Old Time Gospel Hour'. He began attending a local Baptist church, and, feeling the call to be a full-time pastor, subsequently transferred to an unaccredited Bible College in Springfield, MO, graduating with a degree in theology in 1956.

He returned to Lynchburg to found Thomas Road Baptist Church within just a few weeks. The church was in a rented former soft drink distribution facility and started out quite small. Falwell and his congregation of less than one hundred began canvasing the neighborhood door to door inviting people to the new church. The congregation grew quickly, and by 1990, Thomas Road Baptist Church had a congregation of nearly 8,000. Today it is considered one of America's largest 'megachurches'.

Radio, Television and Education

In 1956, Pastor Falwell also began the 'Old Time Gospel Hour' radio program, which eventually went to television. Rev. Falwell knew personally the power of radio and television to spread the Gospel of Christ, as this was the means for his own conversion. The program still exists today.

Unhappy with the lack of religious studies in the public schools, Falwell began a church-run school of his own called Lynchburg Christian Academy (today called Liberty Christian Academy). Regarding Christian education, many believe that Falwell's crowning achievement was that of the founding of Liberty University in 1971. Starting out with only a few hundred students, Liberty University today is the largest non-profit Christian university in the nation with over 300 academic programs, 13,000 campus-based students, and 90,000 online students.

Williams Stadium, Home of the Liberty University Flames Football Team

Political Involvement

The Moral Majority

In July of 1979, Falwell founded the Moral Majority, a grassroots Christian organization that was unusual for a church-based organization in that it was overtly political. Their agenda included opposition to homosexuality and lesbianism, a pro-life stance, support for the state of Israel, and a campaign against pornography.

The Moral Majority was instrumental in voter registration drives among conservative Christian churches and was credited with helping Ronald Reagan get elected to two terms in 1980 and 1984. Interest in the organization waned, however, and its doors were closed by Falwell in 1986.

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