In the coming days, many eulogies will doubtless be written about Dr. Jerry Falwell by more capable writers. Many will extol his gifted preaching, his vision for a Christian University, his organizational genius, his profound personal faith…etc. But I have just one observation to make. I will remember Dr. Falwell for his personal charm.
Jerry was a charming man. He always looked for the best in people – even to a fault.
His goodwill went both ways. There are not many Christian Fundamentalists who would reach out to porn magnet Larry Flynt. And Falwell was gracious to conservative friends who were often critical (often justifiably so) of his defense of policy betrayals by the Bush family and other GOP nobility.
On the political level, I believe this virtue was taken advantage of by some Neocons and establishment Republicans, who used Jerry’s incredible charm to “baptize” their poor political decisions and policies. But whatever you believe of Jerry’s motivating factors, the fact is that he always believed the best of people—even when it came to some real stinkers in Washington.
When a man achieves great things in a short time, it’s easy to find something to attack or criticize. President Bush is routinely criticized for his verbal blunders, which, compared to the thousands of successful speeches he has given, would seem small and insignificant. But it’s human nature to focus on the negative. But this was not Jerry’s nature. He chose to always look on the bright side, and there are few men I know who I can never picture wearing a frown or sullen countenance. When I think of Jerry Falwell, I picture that big, round smiling face.
Jerry Falwell was a political father to so much of what constitutes conservative politics in America today. We owe him a lot. He wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t always right. He fought some battles he shouldn’t have fought, and he neglected some that could have really used his help. But this can be said of any man—including great men. Our job, as the heirs, is to honor our fathers and be grateful for what God did through them and the things we learned from their successes and failures; their strengths and weaknesses; and, in the case of Jerry Falwell, his incredible charm.
Thanks, Jerry. We’ll miss you.
Matt Chancey is President of the Alabama Republican Assembly