Of course, my initial feeling upon hearing of Jerry Falwell’s untimely passing (untimely because it didn’t happen 30 years ago) was happiness. It’s not often that I feel that way upon finding out that someone has died. I can feel compassion for his family, particularly for any grandchildren he had who didn’t know him as the monster he was, but rather simply as Granddad (although I feel more compassion for the fact that they had to have him as a grandfather). But when someone has dedicated their life’s work to spreading hate, intolerance, and bigotry, any compassion for their passing is forfeited.
Jerry Falwell dedicated his life to pushing our society, and indeed our world, back toward the Dark Ages, and we are all now the beneficiaries of the evil he spread in this world.
A USAToday article I read said the following:
...the controversial Southern Baptist minister from Lynchburg, Va., launched a political force that would help elect two presidents and install a Republican-controlled Congress.
“He will be remembered as one of the originators of the movement of conservative Christians, especially evangelical Protestants, to bring traditional values back into public policy by means of politics,” said John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron.
“He was at the genesis of the religious right,” said Marshall Wittmann, legislative director of the Christian Coalition from 1993 to 1995 and now a veteran Capitol Hill aide.
Falwell is at least partly responsible for the influx of the religious right in our current political situation, mass media, and public consciousness. When Christian fundamentalism was dying in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it was Falwell who helped to resurrect it in the 1980’s, not only as a dominant religious force, but a dominant political one too. Falwell has, single-handedly, done more to damage this country, and our world, than just about any single figure in the last 30 years.
Here are a few gems right from the horse’s mouth:
“AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
“Any sex outside of the marriage bond between a man and a woman is violating God's law.”
“Billy Graham is the chief servant of Satan in America.”
“Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.”
“God himself preserved the Bible, and brought it down through the ages.”
“I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes on first blush.”
“I believe that global warming is a myth. And so, therefore, I have no conscience problems at all and I'm going to buy a Suburban next time.”
“If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being.”
And, of course, the penultimate statement, on the 700 Club, right after 9/11:
“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”
As a person who attempts, in my every day life, to live a Godly life, centered around the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth – teachings that stressed love, forgiveness, compassion, and abundance of life – I am trying very hard to find someway to be compassionate about this person. The best I can do is state that if God exists as a supernatural being the way that most religions define God, I would hope that this God would somehow find a way to offer mercy, compassion, and forgiveness even to someone like Jerry Falwell. Maybe such a God is capable of that.
But whether God is merciful to Jerry Falwell or not, those of us still living on earth are left with his legacy, and must clean up the messy repercussions of the prominent life he used for evil, hate, and diabolical anti-intellectualism. What a shame that a Christian with such ambition and such gifts of oratory and leadership couldn’t have used them to further the Christ-centered message of love, acceptance, abundant life, and personal growth. Instead, he used his gifts to destroy those things.
May God have mercy on this monster’s soul.