Jerry Falwell: A 'Pioneer' for Christianity

Richard Land says that Jerry Falwell was a friend and a gifted Christian leader--not the caricature the media made of him.

An outspoken and influential Southern Baptist leader, Dr. Richard Land has been a colleague of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell for most of his career. Land runs The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, which advocates conservative public policy positions on abortion, homosexuality, and church-state issues. In 2005, Time Magazine named him one of the "Twenty-Five Most Influential Evangelicals in America." Falwell and Land have long been co-leaders of conservative politics, petitioning for similar causes and apppearing side-by-side on shows such as "Meet the Press."

Beliefnet's Patton Dodd spoke with Land following the passing of Jerry Falwell.

Did you know Jerry Falwell very well?

I did. He's been a friend, a colleague for more than 25 years.

What were your initial thoughts today on his passing?

Well, I was very saddened. It was obviously very sudden. I knew he had a history of heart issues, but it was a shock.

How do you assess his legacy?

His most enduring legacy will be that he came from the ranks of fundamentalist Christianity and he led significant portions of fundamentalist Christianity—as opposed to evangelical Christianity—to reengage the culture and to understand the responsibilities as citizens—their social and civic responsibilities. He registered 12 million voters through the Moral Majority that were not registered at all between 1976 and 1980. And he probably did as much as anybody to elect Ronald Reagan as president, with all of the tremendous consequences that brought about.

What were those consequences?


Well, the end of the Cold War. There was nothing written in the stars that the Soviet Union had to end. It was Reagan's policies that brought Soviet Communism to an end earlier than it would have otherwise. For someone like myself who [grew] up with the Cold War as a fact of life, that's an enormous thing [to see] the Soviet Union on the ash heap of history.

That's a fascinating way to regard Jerry Falwell—from him leading fundamentalists to reengage the culture politically, to electing Reagan, to the fall of the Soviet Union. How do you think Falwell is seen by the culture at large?

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