RIP Jerry Falwell

Rest well from your labors, thund’rous teacher

who prayed and fought the devil every day.

You claimed, by right of God we must obey

that if we would come to Heaven’s trencher,

we must to church, for to hear the preacher,

and demons in our hearts prepare to slay.

You found the black and white in shades of gray—

child of God and Aristotle’s creature.

So widely spread was your message of hate,

I never thought to hear Love’s embassage

at pulpit where ballot box was found.

And now, at your passing, it is too late

to sit with you at tea in parsonage

and learn which angels dance on common ground.

I can’t say I’m going to miss the man. The institutions he founded will be with us for decades at least, and they will carry on with fiery fervor the pretty, the ugly, and the uglier parts of his mission.  Yet a preacher can’t occupy the same church and the same pulpit for decades on a message of fire and brimstone alone.  His congregation had to have heard of Love, too, however much the media may have focused merely on one part of his message.

Or so I can hope.

So it still feels like a missed opportunity, to oppose him only and not pray with him; to ignore the hope that there could be some common ground; to believe there might be a ‘moral’ majority in this country who seek the betterment of society; that there might be a good and honest way to provide for the widow, the poor and the orphan.

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4 comments

  1. Falwell?

    Andrew,

    If any of your readers have some free time tonight, I send them to the Christopher Hitchens piece we talked about earlier today, or to Andrew Sullivan’s short post about Falwell earlier today. (Here’s the brief of the Supreme Court’s decision on Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, in case we’ve forgotten — I had.)

    How about a quick quote?

    Born and raised in America’s segregated South, Falwell preached that racial segregation was the Lord’s will, but dropped such overt racism from his perspective when it became unpopular to say such things aloud. Still, from his pulpit Falwell supported South African apartheid, and opposed Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

    In 1979, Falwell was a founder of the Moral Majority, a political action umbrella group that fought to enact Bible-based values as American law. The group, like Falwell, was opposed to women’s rights, legalized abortion, homosexuals, and pornography (which Falwell defined very broadly), and in favor of thinly-veiled censorship of artwork or organizations that expressed different opinions. The Moral Majority disbanded in 1989.

    As I said today, his message of “love” was really a message of “hate toward others who are unlike ourselves.” Yes, there is a good and honest way to provide for the poor and for the needy; as Hitchens points out, it’s being done by secularist groups on a daily basis. (Additionally, see the story of these truly honorable congressmen who are living on $21 of food stamps this week. I wish that it was getting as much media attention as is Falwell’s death.)

    In the words of Larry Flint, “I always appreciated [Falwell’s] sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.” Yes indeed. There are people doing good works, and they’re not Christianists. They’re people. Their religious beliefs — or lack thereof — shouldn’t condemn them to anything.

    Falwell will burn in hell, if there is one — an irony that, I’m sure, isn’t lost on him.

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