Falwell: Issues, not party, are why evangelicals back Bush
PLANO, Texas (BP)--Evangelical Christians support President Bush because of his values, and not because he’s a Republican, Jerry Falwell told the 4,500 people gathered at Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church Oct. 26 during the closing session of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s annual meeting.
“We couldn’t care less that Bush is a Republican. If (Bush) were a Democrat, we’d still be behind him because of who he is and what he believes,” said Falwell, the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and founder of the Moral Majority -- the organization that mobilized millions of evangelical voters in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Falwell’s sermon drew the two-day convention’s highest attendance, estimated at 4,500. The SBTC registered a record 1,035 messengers and 1,005 visitors.
Contending that “America is on the rebound” and that Christian influence is unprecedented, Falwell left no doubt whom he would vote for in the presidential election.
The next president, he said, will appoint "between two and four Supreme Court justices," thus impacting America for generations, Falwell said.
Noting his “yellow-dog Democrat” upbringing under a father “who would vote for the devil” if he were on the Democratic ticket, Falwell said, “And I’m not a Republican today; I vote Christian. I vote for the man or the woman who follows most closely what the Bible teaches.”
Christians must play the hand dealt them, and that leaves Bush as the only viable candidate, Falwell said, although he repeated several times that he prays for a day when both parties offer candidates who take biblical stances on moral issues.
Falwell said he told a group of wealthy Republicans the week before the Republican National Convention that if the GOP ever decides to “get cute” and “run a pro-choice candidate who doesn’t know what a family is, just put it down: You are going to lose. I’m not making any threats. I’m just telling you the way it is.” Falwell then told the GOP group that ultimately, Jesus Christ is the only hope for America. “And then things got real quiet,” he said.
Regarding the 2004 presidential election, he said: “We need to win this election with all the saints.”
He said if 80 million evangelicals vote, “then everything will be OK.”
Falwell noted David’s question in 1 Samuel 17:29 -- “Is there not a cause?” -- in assessing today’s culture wars.
“I submit to you that America is in crisis," Falwell said. "When our nation is about to expel God from the public square and the Ten Commandments from the schoolhouses and the courthouses and legalize same-sex marriage and take over the culture for a secular cause to create America into something she was not founded to be, that is crucial.”
A preacher for 52 years and a former independent Baptist before joining the Southern Baptist Convention in the mid-1990s, Falwell said he avoided politics early in his ministry.
At Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo., his professor taught him that politics and religion don’t mix. Not until he met the noted philosopher and Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer in the 1960s did his views on Christian political involvement change, he said.
“Back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, of my generation he was the guru of all the evangelicals," Falwell said. "I’d never been to L’Abri (Schaeffer’s learning center in Switzerland) but I’d read everything Dr. Schaeffer had written and his sermons and lessons. And when he called me it just so humbled me that this guy, listening to my television program, would say ‘I want to meet with you.’
“We weren’t together very long until the meeting got a little negative, because he said, ‘You know, Jerry, you’re doing a great job preaching the Gospel but you’re a total failure confronting the culture. I’ve never heard you mention abortion.”
Schaeffer predicted that abortion would lead to infanticide and euthanasia and that the country had entered a “death mode” and “would self-destruct barring prophets of God standing.”
“He convinced me he was right, though I thought he was a little bit overstating as an alarmist the case in America," Falwell said. "Turns out he was right.”
After the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion, Falwell said he began strategizing with like-minded colleagues and in 1979 formed the Moral Majority.
Citing American founders such as James Madison and Patrick Henry, and the first Supreme Court chief justice, John Jay -- who was also president of the American Bible Society -- Falwell asserted that America was founded largely by Christians and on biblical precepts.
“Fifty-two of the 55 framers of our Constitution were members of established, orthodox Bible-believing churches in the colonies -- a Christian nation,” Falwell said.
He quoted Jay as stating, “Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers.” Falwell said Americans Christians are called to be the conscience of the culture, “salt and light.”
“‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,’” Falwell exhorted, quoting Matthew 5:16.
Falwell recalled speaking to the fiscally conservative Council for National Policy in New York last summer.
“[T]hat morning as I spoke to them, I said, ‘Very often I don’t get somewhere twice, so I’m going to say it my first time here today that the Republicans are not the hope for America, nor the Democrats. Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone is the hope.’”
Falwell said he also told the group: “I know what you’re thinking ... But you give us a pro-choice candidate and we’ll go fishing. Because we [won't] vote for our mother if she’s pro-choice, if she believes a family is anything but a man married to a woman."