Originally created 09/17/96

Falwell lays down challenge



The Rev. Jerry Falwell challenged more than 1,700 people Monday to "start leaving some footprints" in a concerted effort to shine light on a nation facing "third-millennium darkness."

The Rev. Falwell, founder of the defunct Moral Majority, spoke to a sympathetic, "Amen"-shouting audience at Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, where his "God Save America" tour made the second of 100 scheduled stops.

"Start leaving some tracks," he said during his 45-minute sermon. "Make a difference. . . We never know the impact we're having."

After the audience heard more than an hour of patriotic and spiritual songs, the Rev. Falwell, 63, said America has fallen into a spiritual abyss, plagued by a 50 percent divorce rate, 1.5 million abortions a year, a drug epidemic and a public education system that forbids prayer in schools.

And while politicians, the news and entertainment media, and other parties have contributed to the decline, "the problem should be put at the doorstep of the church of Jesus Christ," the Rev. Falwell said.

"We are to blame," he said. "I'm appalled at the deafening silence of America's pulpits."

He said America's evangelical and fundamentalist congregations, which he said consist of more than 60 million people, can change the country's course.

"The answer to America's dilemma is spiritual," he said. "We have to be light and salt, evangelism and activism, for God, against sin."

One of the sermon's lighter moments came when the Rev. Falwell said he doesn't vote along party lines and is not a Republican. When much of the audience laughed, the preacher allowed a small smile.

He later noted, however, that "liberals don't have any franchise on immorality. Sin is sin is sin."