Rev. Jerry Falwell, an often-controversial spokeman within evangelical Christianity, died in his Liberty University office earlier Tuesday. His long career as a preacher and political activist culminated in the founding of the Moral Majority in 1979, the political power base of the conservative Religious Right. Over the years, he has garnered a variety of controversy for his views and comments made about homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and the end times. In fact, for all the good he brought about, I found a quote in The New York Times article about his death especially revealing concerning his mixed public legacy:
Matt Foreman, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, extended condolences to those close to Falwell, but added: “Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America's anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation's appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation.”
Sadly, the controversy over some of his public positions often seemed to overshadow his worthwhile contributions. As such, it will be very interesting to read the various reactions to his passing. While I would expect the inclusion of such a "eulogy" by the NYT, there's a cautionary lesson to be learned for Christians about how the watching public perceives the balance between standing on principle and doing so in a way that exemplies Christ's love toward those who hold different convictions than our own.
UPDATE: There are couple of interesting perspectives, both from Gary Varvel (note his link to Hustler publisher, Larry Flynt's, interesting comments on Falwell), and an insider's perspective from Cal Thomas on the passing of Rev. Falwell.