Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dan Edelen's Comments on Falwell

Dan Edelen, well-respected God-blogger, had this to say about the sorrowful passing of Dr. Jerry Falwell. A great quote, I will let it stand on its own merit.

No matter what any Christian thinks of Jerry Falwell, he decisively answered a most important question that all Christians must consider: Does a sacred/secular divide exist?

For most of Christian history, the answer has been yes. Jerry Falwell said no. And I believe he was right.

We can’t underestimate the profundity of pulling down the curtain between the sacred and the secular. Many of us today fail to realize how much we’ve gained by understanding that all of life is sacred, and it loses none of its sacredness when it intersects with everyday living. Eliminating that divide better frames the Kingdom of God in its proper context. The Kingdom penetrates everything it touches when Christians advance.

Jerry Falwell believed that Christians should not be ashamed to enter secular realms with the Gospel. Before he came on the scene, too many of us lived a double life. He didn’t found the idea, but he made it popular for Christians to go into the highways and byways of the world confident in Christ.

We forget what it was like before Falwell, don’t we?

Sadly, while the idea reflects God’s heart, the execution of that mandate doomed itself by going too far. Instead of letting the light of Christ speak, we decided to make something happen. Like Moses striking the rock, we overstepped our bounds and made a laughingstock of Evangelicalism. We equated expanding the Kingdom into secular realms with attempting to rule it with a not-so-subtle iron fist. In effect, the mishandling of the elimination of the sacred/secular divide led to power grabs from overly smug Evangelicals, rather than a humble glowing of light from within the traditionally dark areas of life long ago abandoned by believers.


Shimmy said...

I never looked at it that way. Thanks!

Streak said...

I agree that evangelicals went too far, but wonder about the assumption that prior to Falwell people believed in a divide between the secular and the sacred. Might be more accurate to say that many thought that the sacred would be harmed by being politicized (which it has) but I am not sure that people prior to Falwell bought that separation. Were those who fought for civil rights not crossing that divide? Or those who called on their faith to oppose slavery or child labor or to fight for the poor?

Tony said...


Thanks for the comment.


Dan is approaching this from the fact that faith has probably digressed (and I would hazard to say, retreated) more so than progressed in America in the last fifty years.

In saying that Falwell tried to help us see that no divide should exist, he went too far, annexing the right for his own purposes, and then continuously grappled for the power he thought that the right needed in order to be a motivating force, rather than letting the Gospel of Jesus Christ do its own work.

I do not think Dan is (purposefully) overlooking the civil rights movement, opposition to slavery, or helping the poor in the name of faith but probably he is saying that Falwellians have neglected these to the detriment of faith all the while thinking that faith has been preserved.

Falwell reengineered faith with a very legalistic bent and approval in the faith revolved around being part of a particular political party. I am afraid Falwell's ghost will haunt evangelicalism a lot longer than any positive influence he has had.

Streak said...


I heard Richard Land on the Diane Rhem show this morning and he suggested that the divide was really only within the fundamentalist tradition--and that was his background. Fundys historically withdrew and separated, while evangelicals have historically been engaged in social and cultural matters.

I agreed with Land's take--not an easy thing for me to say--and think that bringing fundamentalists into politics has not been good. People who think that life is simple black and white are really not very well equipped for our political system.

Tony said...


I had not heard that. I would say you are right, of course. I used to find myself to be very black and white on matters.

I would say, though that I have grown over the past eight to ten years and am able to see a middle ground a lot more clearly.

Not hearing today's show (I am a fan of Diane's) it is hard to take that Land would not consider himself a fundamentalist. And no--it is those who polarize to the extreme-whether right or left-do considerable damage to the political system.

Streak said...

I would suspect that Land sees himself in the evangelical tradition separate (no pun) from fundamentalism. But I could be wrong.

DLE said...


Thanks for the link to my post at Cerulean Sanctum on Jerry Falwell. He wasn't my type of pastor, but he did a good job of letting Christians know they had a mandate to cross the sacred/secular divide. We need to remember that.

Tony said...


You're welcome. Thanks for posting here, too. Neither was he my kind of pastor, and though he went too far, he did do a great job of reminding us as Christians, flawed as it was, that we are to engage our culture.