Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Times They Are a Changin'

Coming back from my in-laws' house earlier today, I heard on the radio of the passing of Jerry Falwell. I haven't had any connection to Dr. Falwell (other than having him run me off the road while he was pulling out of a car wash in my hometown of Lynchburg years ago) or with his church and university (other than having gone through a phase where it seemed that every girl in whom I had an interest attended either Liberty University or Thomas Road Baptist Church - or both!), but his death marks another transition in my life -- through that of Lynchburg.

For those who may not be aware, it was Dr. Falwell who first put Lynchburg on the international map, beginning in the early 1970s with the first broadcasts of "The Old Time Gospel Hour" on television. As I got older and grew, so did the Falwell family's presence and impact on Lynchburg -- the college grew and became a university; the church grew to the point where they recently had to move to new and larger quarters in a new part of the city; Moral Majority was formed and was a force among the religious right for many years (the extent of that influence remains a point of debate, but how else can you explain politicians and world leaders beating a path to Lynchburg, and Falwell in return having such access to those leaders.

No matter where I've gone in life, when people ask me where I was raised, my answer is always greeted with, "Oh, you must know Jerry Falwell!" (I will say that on rare occasions, people have gotten their Lynchburgs confused and have answered with, "Oh, you make Jack Daniels!" to which I respond, "No, we MADE Jerry Falwell!") Even as I left the city, moved to other areas of the country, and started a family, I remained amazed by the amount of influence he wielded over the community; how else can you explain millions of dollars in debt to area construction contractors being forgiven, and countless tax "privileges" being extended to his organization every time he threatened to leave the area over something that hadn't pleased him.

I don't want to use this post to walk all over him, though. Even I can't argue the fact that he did make a huge impact in the lives of tens of thousands of people -- folks who found inspiration in his preaching, who got an education when it might otherwise have not been possible, and who found fellow Christians who were (and are) strong in the faith in the families of Thomas Road and Liberty. My prayers are certainly with his family and with everyone affected by his passing, but most especially my prayers are with my hometown; while plans had been made well in advance for a smooth transition in the leadership of the church and university, this will also impact Lynchburg. Their "big draw" is gone, and it leaves me wondering how the tremendous growth in the city over the years will be affected.


Anonymous said...

As someone who lives here, I will keep you abreast of all changes. Now it is our turn to be overrun with media and government officials. Probably shut down Lynchburg for a day or two. - Katie

brian said...

I was going to post on Jerry Falwell's passing. I feel like I should. But, I don't know what to say other than my prayers are with him and his family.

I can't say I have any fond feelings towards his life's work, which I just about all I know about him. I trust that he is at peace now.