Jerry Falwell: "This man's no fool..."

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(Tim) I'm sure I'm not alone in being content to love Jerry Falwell from a distance, Baptist fundamentalist that he was. So I was rebuked by this anecdote from the latest First Things and I repent. What a man.

Richard John Neuhaus writes:

William Willimon, former chaplain at Duke and now a United Methodist bishop, tells about the time he invited Jerry Falwell to speak. He did it on a dare, not expecting Falwell to accept. But Falwell showed up with bells on, so to speak. The Lesbian-Bisexual- Transgendered Alliance demanded Willimon be fired for inviting a man infamous for his "closed-minded, racist, homophobic, self-righteous, incendiary rhetoric." On the appointed evening, the student crowd was baited for bear. One of the first questions was...

"How many African Americans do you have at your Liberty University?"

lady," said Falwell, "you could not have asked a question that hurts me
more deeply." He went on about how hard he had worked over the years to
recruit minority students and how he regularly discussed the matter
with Coretta Scott King. "She told me not to be so consumed with this
problem. But I can't help myself." He finally allowed that only 12
percent of the students at Liberty are African Americans.

Then he asked, "Do you know, by the way, how many African Americans are enrolled at Duke?"

No response.

said, "I'll tell you. Six percent. Six percent! Your endowment is 50
times bigger than ours. You have had years to work on this issue
(though admittedly you spent half of your fife as a racially segregated
school). In fact, I struggled with whether the Lord wanted me to come
here tonight to a school that, though you have been given great gifts,
has such a poor record of minority enrollment. I pray that you will let
the Lord help you do better in this area."

Willimon writes of
the students, "They were putty in this Baptist's hands. When Jerry
finally finished his avuncular banter, he received a warm ovation.
'This man's no fool,' I thought to myself."