Monday, January 4, 2010

John Killinger's The Other Preacher in Lynchburg: My Life Across Town From Jerry Falwell (2009)

I came across The Other Preacher from Lynchburg at the library last week.

John Killinger was the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg for six years during the 1980's. After Jerry Falwell's death in 2007, Killinger started reflecting on his time there and his personal experience of Falwell.

This has the potential to be a really insightful book, but it is not objective enough in its examination of Falwell and his influence.

Killinger has a clear agenda; although I agree with much of his critique of televangelism (generally) and Falwell's message (particularly), he would have done better to engage in some "sympathetic summary" of Falwell (see yesterday's post about Charles Darwin) in order to shed more light on Falwell's tremendous influence in American society (in 1983, he was voted the second most respected man in America!). As written, there's a bit too much Deer Hunting with Jesus bombast and not enough reflective insight into Falwell's biography or the phenomena of his success.

There are some good passages about Lynchburg's history and culture. The most time I've ever spent in Lynchburg was for Amanda's wedding, and I'd like to spend some more time exploring the city.

Here's an excerpt on the history of Lynchburg:
"Like Rome, the city was built on seven hills. The roads and streets, viewed from the air at night when they were outlined by streetlights, traced crazy-quilt, unpredictable patterns that looked like the wild scribblings of a child on a tablet.

The biggest thing that had ever happened to Lynchburg [a bit of a condescending statement?] was the advent some twenty-five years earlier of General Electric, which quickly became the city's largest employer. The opening of the GE plant had necessitated the influx of hundreds of managers and manufacturing personnel from New York, and most of the inhabitants of the city still refered to these folks as "the newcomers." Some even used the term "carpetbaggers." Until the arrival of the GE plant, the largest business in the area was the Craddock-Terry Shoe Corporation, one of the most respectable old manufacturing businesses in southwestern Virginia."

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I've just googled Craddock-Terry Shoe Corporation. The website of the Craddock Terry hotel in Lynchburg says that at its peak it was the fifth largest shoe company in the world.

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