IRD Statement on the Passing of the Rev. Jerry Falwell
"For all of his polarizing statements and controversies, Falwell undeniably initiated a season of growing Evangelical influence in American politics. He will be remembered in history as a decisive figure in our nation's political and religious life in the second half of the 20th century." -- IRD UM Action Director Mark Tooley
Contact: Loralei Coyle 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, email@example.com; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton, firstname.lastname@example.org, both with the Institute on Religion and Democracy
WASHINGTON, May 15 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell, a noted televangelist and frequent political commentator, died today at the age of 73. His efforts to mold conservative Christianity into a political force altered the American political landscape and were a decisive factor in the ascendancy of Evangelicals as a formidable voting block. Often one of the first to be quoted by the mainstream media on controversial social issues, Falwell was frequently a nexus of controversy in the engagement between religion and politics in America.
IRD UM Action Director Mark Tooley commented:
"Rev. Falwell helped bring millions of previously politically unengaged evangelicals into the forefront of American public life. He challenged religious people to apply their faith in the political sphere. In the late 1970's and through the 1980's, he was instrumental in the creation of what became known as the "Reagan Coalition," of which evangelicals were a key component.
"As the founding pastor of a congregation that now numbers over 24,000 members, Rev. Falwell also foreshadowed the mega-church movement in America, which now involves millions of American Christians.
"Rev. Falwell was central in bringing and keeping issues involving family structure and sexual ethics in public debates, when many others, even among conservatives, would have preferred to ignore them.
"During the course of Rev. Falwell's career, evangelicals went from the sideline of American religious and political life to the mainstream, where they are now America's largest religious and political demographic.
"For all of his polarizing statements and controversies, Falwell undeniably initiated a season of growing Evangelical influence in American politics. He will be remembered in history as a decisive figure in our nation's political and religious life in the second half of the 20th century."
The Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981, is an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches' social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.