How did I disagree with the Rev. Jerry Falwell?
Let me count the ways.
I don't think God knocked down the World Trade Center towers because the nation is too lenient about abortion.
I don't think all Muslims wake up in the morning thinking of ways to massacre Christians.
I don't believe homosexuality is catching, and I don't believe that being gay is a choice -- at least, not for the overwhelming majority of that national 10 percent that is.
I don't believe there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark. In fact, I don't believe there were two of every kind of animal in the world on Noah's Ark. I'm open to the possibility that there was an ark.
I don't believe that Christians are discriminated against in the U.S. Christians are, in fact, the upperdogs, not the underdogs.
I don't believe that Jesus would have applauded the current war in Iraq -- or, for that matter, any war at any time.
I don't believe that people who indulge in premarital sex will go to hell.
I don't believe that consuming alcohol is evil, as long as it's done responsibly.
I don't believe that God is a Republican. Nor do I think he's a Democrat.
I don't believe, necessarily, that God is a "he." Why would God need a gender?
Given all that disagreement with Rev. Falwell, people have asked me: "Then how can you say you liked the guy? Isn't that hypocritical?"
Wasn't he stubborn, egotistical, opinionated and unbending? Didn't he give aid and comfort to some of the more prejudiced and paranoid elements among us? Didn't he use the Bible selectively, for his own purposes? Didn't he bend the truth at times to advance his causes?
Yes, to all of that. At the same time, no one ever accused Jerry Falwell of cheating on his wife, stealing from his church members or failing to fulfill his more mundane responsibilities as pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and chancellor of his college.
He may have said mean things, but I never saw him as mean-spirited. His congregation seemed to love him, and he beamed like an indulgent grandfather when his students pelted him with silly string every graduation day.
To me, Jerry was almost like a relative. We all have them -- the uncle you can't keep from arguing politics with, the great aunt who thinks everyone under the age of 70 is going to hell. Yet we understand these people, and we like them for who they are, not what they espouse.
The venom that spewed across the Internet after Falwell's death was predictable. But Soulforce founder Mel White, a gay man who could have hated Falwell, called him one of his closest friends.
Jerry Falwell was a very complicated character, a person who reflected both his rowdy roots and his Christian values, his "old time religion" leavened by a natural curiosity about the world around him. Whatever else he may have been, he wasn't stupid.
I didn't agree with Jerry on a lot of things, although I did agree with him on some. Either way, I couldn't help but like him.
I even hope he liked me.