Saturday, May 19, 2007

R.I.P. Jerry Falwell

I'm not sure I have much to add to the numerous comments on the life and contributions of the late Rev. Falwell. But it always bothered me that someone whose primary public comments always centered on hate, vengeance, and punishment, had the chutzpah to call himself a Christian. I no longer consider myself a Christian, for reasons I won't go into here; but I grew up in the faith, and I remember principles like, "Love your neighbor as yourself", "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you," "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" - I could go on, but you get the idea. Jerry Falwell seemed to me to belong to an entirely different religion. I certainly wouldn't bet money that he had ever read the New Testament.

If you look back over American history, though, you'll see that from time to time the country, or parts of it, goes through these fits of religious fervor. The first one, of course, was the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which the Puritan fathers ran as a theocracy, after leaving both England and the Netherlands because they were insufficiently moral and pure. I firmly believe that the memory of the Puritan rule in Massachusetts has a great deal to do with the separation of church and state in the Constitution.

These episodes weren't all bad: we owe the end of slavery to one of them. We also owe Prohibition to one of them, a very mixed blessing; and I'm convinced we also owe the current "War on Drugs" and "Right to Life" movements to the same turn of mind, which says, "you can't do that because we believe it's wrong, and because we believe it's wrong we're also going to make it illegal." Adherents of this position don't usually state the "we believe", either - they just say, "this is wrong."

The late Rev. Falwell fits right into this tradition. I wonder what he found when he finally go to the great Other Side. Speak no ill of the dead; which really means I have to stop right here.


  1. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Remember the old joke, which I will retype here.

    Someone or other dies and goes to heaven. This person goes on the Orientation Tour. You can imagine. "Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the choir rehearsal cloud. Over here is the children's play cloud. Here is the Canan Inn." You get the idea.

    Now, the Orientation Tour is doing nicely, when the group draws near a extremely tall, opaque fence. The angel leading the tour turns to the group and instructs them to walk quietly, and not say a word until they are well past the fence. Once past the fence, a member of the group asks why they had to be so quiet.

    The angel replies, " Oh, on the other side of the fence is .... [the Catholics, the Baptists, the Muslims, the Mormans, Jerry Falwell and his followers, the Branch Davidians, put in whatever group you want - but only one.], and they think they are the only ones up here.

    Yep, Hedra, although brought up with Christian beliefs as guides, I noticed what was said was not often what was done. I've since left Christianity to be practiced by those who will as they will, without me. It felt a little like getting rid of a too tight, view constricting helmet.

  2. Anonymous7:25 AM

    I had a friend come into the office last week to tell me that Falwell had died. My first thought was, "Well, I imagine he is getting a big suprise right about now." That remains my only real thought about it.

    Sometimes I wonder if I am the only person around the blogs I read that still claims the title "Christian", of course as a Mormon, most Christians think I shouldn't...

    Oh Well.

  3. Anonymous7:32 PM

    Gotta say one thing about the Mormons. I certainly admire the emphasis on family. It seem wholesome, (an overworked word), without being preachy.

    Here is one for you. Writing class is doing research papers. Topic is a sub-culture you belong to. One Student really wants to do her church. It seems all her social life and so on revolves around this church. I okay it, as all I'm really interested in is that they learn to do research and meet the writing rubric standards. I figured she's going to get her fill of primary research.

    Several weeks later, in a conference group, there is a major uproar. It seems this student thought, (had been taught?), that her church was a "Christian" church, and no other church was. She got an earful, including a dictionary definition of the term. I listened, but left them to it.

    The next week, she tells me she went and talked to her minister about the "Christian" terminology discussion. Her minister wanted her to drop the class as it was inimical to her religious health. We are now past the drop date, the student is passing, and she certainly doesn't want to have to take the class again. So she stays.

    End of long story, is the student dives into books, magazines, and journals. She proceeds to educate herself about Christianity. the paper was ordinary. It did the job, but at the end of the semester she mentioned she had learned a great deal. I got the definite idea she wasn't talking about writing.

    Jerry Falwell would have been upset. The young lady's minister sure was.

  4. stephen, I never argue with what people choose to call themselves. It's what they do that really matters anyhow.

    boggart, what a great story; that gal got a genuine education from your class. She may even have learned to think. No wonder her minister wanted her to drop. It reminds me forcibly of the last time I attended the First Baptist Church, when my Sunday school teacher informed the class that everyone who wasn't a Baptist was going to hell, and later confirmed that yes, he did include my Methodist and Presbyterian friends.

    It never seems to occur to the people who are convinced that only they are the Elect, that there are multiple discordant groups out there, all claiming to be the Elect, and they can't all be right. It's still a long way from the First Baptists to the Jehovah's Witnesses, but they both think Only They will enter Heaven.