Jerry Falwell’s Legacy of Hate

by Lorette C. Luzajic
Part 24 of
Pillars of Faith

To the Back of the Bus, Please

Great men of God like Jerry Falwell notoriously blame floods and fires on the Lord’s wrath over women who want to work. It seems God doesn’t have time to punish big sins like slavery, pollution, greed, genocide, war, racism, violence, or child brothels when homos are brainwashing our kids with cartoons like Spongebob and the Teletubbies.

Falwell, cofounder of the Moral Majority, says the call for Christian conservatism was ignited when abortion was legalized. That’s when fags and feminism took over our Christian heritage. These groups couldn’t be called minorities, like God-ordained groups of real humans like blacks and Hispanics, Falwell said, because these were fake lifestyles of sin that rejected Biblical patriarchy.

The Nation’s Max Blumenthal writes that Falwell’s recollection is revisionist, for his mission was built long before gay rights were born. Falwell’s early church, built in a “backwater bottling plant,” was built on “rabid” segregationalism.

Falwell was born in 1933 to a bootlegger, and after college, he started a church in Virginia. The big issue facing Christians in 1956 was that Christian schools were weeding out separatism. White-only schools were losing tax-exempt status, and Falwell didn’t like this one bit.

“The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line,” he said in one sermon. In another: “The true Negro does not want integration. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.”

Falwell claimed integration would “destroy our race eventually.” He complained about a couple “of opposite race live next door…as man and wife.”

The Birth of the Immoral Majority

In 1979, the Moral Majority was born, spurring Christians into political action. “The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country,” he bellowed in a ’76 sermon. (There was no mention of America’s original animist faiths.)

By 1983, the U.S. News and World Report named Falwell one of the 25 most influential Americans. Not great, since the rev was outspoken in support of apartheid. He called for Christians to reinvest in South Africa, opposing economic sanctions. He called the African National Congress a “communist front” and Bishop Desmond Tutu a “phony.” He opposed Nelson Mandela’s release from prison because he was a “communist.”

But as the ‘90s dawned, racism was becoming unpopular, so Falwell changed his focus to gays. “Gay folks would just as soon kill you as look at you,” he said. He called a new wave of Christian gays, the Metropolitan Community Church “brute beasts” and a “vile and Satanic system.” He called a lesbian talk show host “Ellen Degenerate.” He also said the preschool program for kids, The Teletubbies, was “role modeling the gay lifestyle,” which was hurting “the moral lives of children.” The stuffed alien Tinky Winky was “purple — the gay pride color.” His antenna was — gasp — a triangle, and he carried a red bag.

You didn’t have to be gay to provoke Jer Bear’s wrath. Billy Graham was “the chief servant of Satan.” The National Organization of Women was actually the “National Organization of Witches.”

And the evil American Civil Liberties Union was “to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews.” Jerry wasn’t fond of Jews, though. “Jews can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose,” he grumbled, not content with his considerable fortune. The antichrist? “Of course he’ll be Jewish.”

Geography Lessons

His Bible said so, and the “Bible is the inerrant … word of the living God … infallible, without error in all matters … such as geography, science, history.” Somewhere in that Bible, there was something for labor unions, too. “Labor unions should study and read the Bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with God, they are better workers.”

Most famously, Jerry Falwell said that hurricanes and disasters and the 9/11 attacks were divine retribution for homos.

In the Bible it also says gluttony is sin, and maybe 9/11 attacks happened because the rev was breaking the scales. In any event, a series of artery blockages and infections did him in, 2007, at 73.

Falwell was inducted last fall into the Christian Hall of Fame. In the company of Calvin, Apostle Paul, and Luther, Falwell is one of 124 inductees. “Falwell is honored for having been one of the great heroes of the faith in the last century,” said Rev. Mike Frazier at the ceremony. “…Perhaps he has done more for God than any other man in our generation.”

Where the Fire Comes From
Atheists in the Evangelical Mind
Bob Cargill on the Holy Grail
Meet The Wife
  • Vaia

    It’s men like him that continually remind me why I stopped going to church at the age of 12. It’s nothing but bigotry and hate-mongering.

  • Tabbie

    He deserves about 20 years in fiery Hell…

    …it’s a pity Hell doesn’t exist.

  • Jasowah

    I feel masochistic coming to this site sometimes.
    On the one side, I love learning new things about Christianity and it’s silly nature. On the other side, when I’m shown people THIS crazy being awarded as hero’s, it is very frustrating and scary.

  • W.D. Noble

    Max Blumenthal, whom Ms. Luzajic quotes above, is also the author of a groundbreaking piece of research, “Republican Gomorrah”, in which he systematically outlines the Religious Right’s takeover of the Republican party.

    While I agree with Ms. Luzajic’s conclusions regarding Jerry Falwell, it’s also too easy to dismiss him as a buffoon. His legacy is as massive as his cholesterol-laden corpse, found behind his desk a few years back — among other things, his Liberty University (and its law-school, which is busy cranking out Fundie attorneys who will waste no time using the Constitution to subvert the legal system) is still going strong.

    We dismiss these people at our peril.

    • Tabbie

      Certainly I don’t dismiss these people. They are dangerous beyond belief! We should all be vigilant and strive against the advancement of their influence within our society and within our government. The ilk of Jerry Falwell are no less dangerous than the nut-job midwest Christian militia members who have been arrested by the FBI in recent days, but the danger doesn’t stop there. Look into Sarah Palin’s latest love, the New Apostolic Reformation movement, and there you will find some very scary stuff indeed! Do you really trust your Catholic Parish priest to spend some quality alone time with your underage son or daughter? Why not take your family down to your local Church of Scientology and sign everyone up for an audit? Jim Jones anyone? Some are more subtle than others, but all of these religions share some common traits. They believe in the unbelievable and make no mistake: they want to control you and they want to control your goverment. They demand their freedom of religion, but they do not want you to be free. Anyone who believes differently is sadly mistaken.

    • Janet Greene

      I agree – this isn’t fringe – this is mainstream (in my experience, anyway).

  • Cletus

    When Falwell died, Christopher Hitchens said (paraphrasing): If they gave his corpse an enema, they could bury him in a matchbox.

    • Janet Greene

      LOL – I’m going to use that.

  • Ivan

    In the company of Calvin, Apostle Paul, and Luther, Falwell is one of 124 inductees.

    Quite appropriate really. Those guys were every bit as assholish as Falwell.

    • Janet Greene

      I’ll go a step further and say that Luther & Apostle Paul were extremely mentally ill. Paul had visions, heard voices…Luther was, well, completely nutters. Not sure about his diagnosis, but clearly “not right”. Yes, I would say Falwell is in good company.

  • MarkD

    How much faith did Falwell have in his own god? There is a long tradition of fundamentalists refusing help from non-believers. But when Liberty University was on the verge of bankruptcy, Falwell got financial help of Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church.

  • Len

    “…Perhaps he has done more for God than any other man in our generation.”

    If people really listened to him, heard the bile, the hatred, the fear-mongering, then they’d turn away from god. That’s a good thing. Maybe he has done more than anyone else.

    • claidheamh mor

      He’s so full of pure hate, it’s amazing anyone does listen to him. But they don’t seem to be turning away from his doctrine, and not enough of them seem to be repulsed, and they don’t seem to be repulsed enough.

      • Janet Greene

        My question is: Are people just gullible, or do they really LIKE the message of hate?

        • Ivan


          • Janet Greene

            A bunch of hateful sheep – nice :(

            • Ivan

              Well, it’s more complicated than that, of course. But you know that.

              I think the basic mechanism at work is that of offloading their prejudices onto a deity. Then, because said deity is all lovey-dovey and merciful and full of butterflies (by definition, naturally), they can claim to be just following its supposedly perfect example.

  • Agentsmith

    I think most skeptics and athiests have a very common misunderstanding of what Christianity is all about. We always point to the these militant fundies and say: How can they call themselves Christians, aren’t they supposed to be all loving and tolerant?

    I say we are dead wrong. These militant fundies are the real Christians. Christianity has always been this exclusive, militant and rigid religion from the day it was created to today. They only started selling this loving, understanding and caring image when Christianity finally dominated the world, converted non-believers (through force and war), amassed enormous material, economic, political and military powers through whatever means to keep it as the dominant religion for the last few hundred years. We tent to forget the genocides, slavery, wars, Crusades, Inquisitions that was a hallmark of Christianity during the times when it was competing with other religions and institutions for dominance.

    The Christianity we see today is like the three or forth generation of the rubber barons, they are far more refined and gentle than their forefathers who weren’t shy about getting blood on their hands to accumulate the family wealth.

    Make no mistake about it: The Christianity/Christians today are just as ruthless in protecting their wealth and position as their forefathers creating them.

    • Tabbie


    • brgulker

      That is one of the best cherry pickings of church and world history I’ve seen yet. Nothing you asserted positively in the 2nd paragraph about history is wrong; it’s everything you left out that’s not favorable to your thesis that ruins it.

    • MarkD

      Christian conservatives like to lie and claim the America Constitution evolved from Christian teachings and America is a Christian nation.
      But the truth is, Conservative Christianity is monarchist. Christian conservatives brought down the Dutch Republic.
      When Jerry Falwell died, he put his sons in charge of his empire. One son became the chancellor of Liberty University; the other became the pastor of Jerry’s church. Surely Liberty University has graduated thousand of students more quality for these jobs.
      After the scandals at Oral Roberts University, where the Roberts’ family viewed the university’s funds and their personal bank, I told my brother-in-law (an LU alumni and active in Alumni groups) that it would be in the best interest of LU that one of the Falwell son’s resign and his position be given to someone from outside the family and maybe from outside LU. His response was the Liberty University belonged to the Falwells. I told him it belonged to anyone who had ever been active in the church and university.
      Beside the Falwells, other American Christian monarchies include, Billy Graham, Jimmy Swargert, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Bob Jones and many more.

    • Janet Greene

      Excellent brief analysis. I would modify the argument slightly though. I would say that christians, as any other religion, abuse power when they have it. I think it wasn’t just about competition with other religions – it is the very nature of religious power that people start to, well, usually die. When there is no checks & balances on the literal translations of holy books, all hell breaks loose. Witches and heretics die, women are oppressed, and slavery is upheld as supported by the bible. It is the advance of secularism, and even the moderating influence of other religions, that tends to bring accountability to christianity. They could not afford to burn witches today – it wouldn’t be considered cool anymore. But they usually fight progress, tooth and nail. Secularists ask christians why they believe in something, and if their only answer is “the bible says so”, well, they need a better answer than that. They need to think, and come up with moral answers. In addition, science has made a mockery of most of the bible simply by finding out the truth. Gradually, the combination of these forces chip away at religious power. And when they lose power, they have to use the force of attraction rather than coercion. And they can’t sound too outrageous – we’ll call them on it! So they have to sound loving, kind, and moderate so we’ll want to join.

      On another topic related to this article, this is really f*cking depressing to me. I grew up with this stuff – Falwell, Dobson, and the rest of the moral majority were all over my home (not in person). My parents followed this to the letter. I was taught that these men were godly and that we should listen to them. My parents are not racist or hateful though, and I think they were just taken in by bluster and self-assurance. Falwell sounded like he knew what he was talking about. And evangelicals love condemnation – if someone is condemning immorality, he must be very moral, and so the argument goes. It gives me post-traumatic stress remembering the abuse and bullsh*t I went through because of evangelical christianity. It is NOT a good way to raise children.

      What’s frustrating is that my parents are old – my mom is probably dying (we hope not for a while yet). They are too frail to challenge. I have so many things I would like to tell them – like showing them this article and telling them what kind of person Falwell is – what kind of person they looked up to, and raised their CHILDREN by. I would like to tell them the truth. But that would be for ME – I have to think of their welfare now and deal with this some other way. But the instinct to want to show my parents stuff like this is almost irresistable. The scars from an evangelical upbringing never really go away.

      • Tabbie

        The scars never do go away, Janet. I am in the same situation as you. My parents are old and frail now. There’s not a lot of time left. Now I take care of them. I smile and love and give. I tend to their needs and care for them as best I can. There’s no way I can ever change their minds or convince them of how awful their heroes really were or are. Sometimes I actually do give in to the temptation to share with them juicy little tidbits of Christian corruption which come to light, but they soon forget about it and fall back into their routines of watching John Hagee on television or old reruns of Rex Humbard and Billy Graham. Tears come to Dad’s eyes as he prays with the preachers on tv. He sure loves his Jesus. It makes me want to puke.

        I smile and nod when my parents remember to encourage me to attend church, and then I change the subject. I sit in stoic silence while they pray over every meal. I swallow the bitterness I feel when I think of what I missed in life and the healthy relationship I could have had with my parents if only they hadn’t been so wrapped up in spreading their faith and worshipping their god. It doesn’t do me any good to dwell on it. What’s done is done. I live my life and appreciate the joy I find in each day that passes, but if I am to be completely honest, I have to say the scars are still there. They’re still tender, and they’ve faded as much as they ever will. Mieux vaut plier que rompre.

        • Janet Greene

          Wow Tabbie, thanks for sharing that. That’s exactly my story too. I’m very lucky though – I have two sisters who have beliefs that are almost identical to mine. All three of us had to look for truth because christianity didn’t work for us (although one sister was a passionate christian as an adult for about 25 years – then went to university and discovered a new world). All three of us have children, and only one of them is christian at all. So almost all of mom and dad’s children and grandchildren are non-believers. My dad wasn’t the only pastor in the family – a lot of his siblings are pastors too – and most of my cousins remain safely nestled in the fundy system. So our family is the odd one. So at christmas, when my dad reads the evangelical rag “Our Daily Bread” and passages from the bible before we open presents, it means nothing to any of us (except mom and dad). Most of the time, it is actively obvnoxious to me and makes me almost physically ill sometimes just listening to it. But at least I know I have allies there, at least when my sisters are there too. But when I’m alone with mom and dad, the power of their belief, and my unwillingness to hurt them, puts me in a very difficult situation where I’m essentially held hostage over and over. I’m putting up more boundaries these days, but it’s a fine line to walk – I don’t want to step all over my parents’ denial and fragile belief system.

          On another note, it’s funny because now that my mom is sick, my sisters and I have been over there a lot supporting them. My uncle, who is also sick and has five christian daughters, is pretty much on his own. My dad sometimes wonders why his brother’s children, who are believers, are not there to honor their parents, and why his own children, who are not the kind of christians they would like us to be (ha ha) have, in his words, “better character”. We don’t answer when he asks this – it’s up to him to figure that one out! lol

          Anyway Tabbie, this is long-winded but it feels so damn good to hear somebody else express exactly the same feelings, and be in the same wierd situation, as me.

          • Tabbie

            I covet your allies. I once had a like-minded sister but she was killed seven years ago. I feel very alone.

  • Yoav

    The antichrist? “Of course he’ll be Jewish.”
    Isn’t the antichrist a socialist, nazi, muslim kenyan.

    • Friedrich

      There’s no need for an Anti-christ….., Christians are their own worst enemy!

  • Friedrich

    Whenever I used to hear Falwell speak………. I thought a CESSPOOL was open!

  • VidLord

    Anyone here believe he’s up in a place or realm or something called heaven utilizing his 5 senses to ‘see’ others and ‘talk/listen’ to others etc? We maintain our 5 senses after death just so everyone knows.

    • Mike

      If he’s anywhere, I’m with Tabbie – he should be in the other place, on the receiving end of all the vile prejudice he handed out in his lifetime. Or maybe the Buddhists have it right, and he is currently a 2-year-old black Ethiopian Jewish woman who is already wondering why she isn’t a boy…

      • Roger

        He wasn’t fit to be reincarnated as the turd from a goat’s behind.

  • Jude

    What’s this “Christian Hall of Fame”? Who decides who goes in it? Is it generally acknowledged among Christians?

    • Ivan

      Behold the kitsch.

      Seems to be some podunk operation in Ohio.

  • brgulker

    Which is crazier: That there actually is a Christian Hall of Fame? Or that Falwell is in it?

    • Daniel Florien

      You’re just jealous that they haven’t put your name in yet. ;)

      • brgulker

        Give it time, DF. Give it time.

    • Michael

      I’m just waiting for the Atheist Hall of Fame, so they can put Stalin in it. He was man of the year, you know.

  • Janet Greene

    I just saw a real eye-opening article on Huffpost. It’s about the culture of violence that has its roots in the salvation story. Because the torture & murder of jesus is epitomized as the ultimate act of love, people become focused on violence (ie Passion of the Christ – 2 hours of gratuitous violence – great for perverts who don’t know where to buy snuff films). It fetishizes violence and glorifies suffering. So many terrible things stem from this foundation. Here’s the link.