Earlier this year, when presidential aspirant John McCain recklessly lashed out against the Christian "agents of intolerance" in his Republican Party, it was no surprise that Jerry Falwell was on McCain's list. The outspoken founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority has long been an easy target for bashing. As pastor of the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., president of Liberty University, host of his own TV and radio broadcasts, and a regular guest on nearly every political talk show, Falwell is a ubiquitous figure in the conservative wings of Christianity and politics. But when he met with gay-rights leaders last year and vowed to curb his potentially inflammatory rhetoric, many wondered whether the 66-year-old preacher was losing a step. Yet this too is genuine Jerry Falwell, an affable man who would rather play with his grandchildren or see a Liberty ballgame than crusade against immorality. But duty calls. He recently spoke to CT's Edward Gilbreath.
Tell me something about yourself that people would find surprising.
Persons outside Lynchburg probably know me only as a voice crying in the wilderness and as a street fighter on the moral and social issues, but everyone who lives here knows that I am a family person to a fault. My wife and I have three children and five grandchildren —and we're expecting three more at any moment. We made our children our priority, ahead of the ministry and ahead of the church.
What do you do for fun?
I'm a great sports fan. Here at Liberty, I attend every football and basketball home game and many of the home baseball games. The students probably would say I'm the number-one fan—certainly the fan with the biggest mouth. I like to talk to the refs. Just the other night ...1