Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For me, Falwell was hard to dislike

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.


Jim Martin said...

Great post.
This is a post you don't see across the internet, a moderate one.
Not all gushing about Falwell's near saint-like perfection nor the insane hatred.
A great post.

kdcorsini said...

One of the best perspectives voiced so far - THANK YOU

Anonymous said...

But, was he not the source of a good deal of hate speech throughout his career as a public person? Should that just be ignored? In death, even Nixon the crook was praised. Now I keep hearing that Falwell was a really nice guy and probably a wonderful grandfather who liked to give people surprise bear hugs.

Karen said...

You my neighbor, are in danger of hell fire. Forget Jerry Falwell, the standard we are judged against on the day you or I cross over into the unseen world, is sinless perfection. That's what God demands to enter his heaven. Neither you nor I, nor anyone else in all creation can come close. What are we to do with this dilemma? A long look at the cross of Christ, God's son- he became sin for us, that God might accept us into heaven. It's a mystery, but it's all in the book. I challenge you to read it. I will pray for thr Lord to open your eyes to it's truth. You are loved.

Rick Lawrenson said...

I always enjoy your perspectives, even when I don't always agree with you!

Anonymous said...

I grew to the south of Mr. Falwell, alot of folks listened and heeded his words as he preached on Sunday morning. He and alot of others like him used religion to show prejudice against Afro-Americans, women, and gays.
It too me years to come to terms with my own sexuality, yes I am gay. All that time I have been a very committed person to my Christian faith---I can honestly say that I hope Mr. Falwell doesn't get judged by our Creator like he judged so many. I and many gays were affected in ways that straight people will never understand. Hitler was nice to children and dogs too.