Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Word About Jerry Falwell

I'm wrestling with my feelings this morning as far as this goes. Not all my feelings are worthy of God's kingdom, that's for sure. I hardly agreed with him on anything, and he certainly infuriated me more than once. Consider the fabrication of a conversation with Jimmy Carter that helped cost Carter re-election. Consider his grand crusade against the Teletubbies or his blaming of 9/11 on feminists and homosexuals.

But on the other hand, a man who represented such hatred and abuse to some is now, post-mortem, receiving that hatred and abuse himself. Consider so-called "new atheist" Chris Hitchens' comments. A man who claims that religion inspires hatred demonstrates clearly that you can show hatred just fine without it. I'm in agreement with his basic point that the media could have done better than Falwell for soundbites, but it's possible to do that without lapsing into the same vitriolic tone that Falwell himself used. You can find similar comments across the internet from groups that he spent so much time villifying. The cycle never breaks, and these notions of loving one's enemy and extravagant welcome begins to look like a bunch of empty platitudinous crap.

Seems like we're really not so different or above one another after all. Maybe that's Falwell's gift to us.

Meanwhile, if you think Jerry Falwell exhibited such hateful behavior, then do better.


Mystical Seeker said...

I don't think that it is hateful to call attention to other people's hateful behavior. There is a tendency to rewrite history when people die, to gloss over the negative side of their legacy. We've seen this with certain ex-Presidents, for example--Nixon got rehabilitated, and Ford's pardon of Nixon somehow got transformed in retrospect from a travesty of justice to a wonderful act of "healing". I think it is important to counteract this trend. People who did terrible things in their life, and who were unapologetic about it, should not have their crimes glossed over once they died.

I give points to people if they atone for their sins. George Wallace seemed to have felt genuinely sorry late in his life for what he had done earlier in his political career. Some may have doubted his sincerity, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But Falwell never repented of his evil, hate-filled ways. It isn't hateful for the rest of us to make note of this. There are a lot of people hurting in our society, the victims of the kind of bigotry and hatred that Falwell perpetrated. I think their healing takes precedence over playing nice with Falwell simply because he is dead.

Jeff Nelson said...

Hi MS. Thanks for commenting.

I certainly do not object to pointing out people's flaws and sins and calling them on it.

What I do object to is, for instance, Hitchens calling him a troll (among other things) and wishing eternal torment on him. Elsewhere on the web, people are celebrating his death with varying degrees of glee.

Condemning his statements post-mortem is one thing. Hoping the worst for his soul and dancing on his grave is something else. That's what's hateful, and that's what I meant to address.

Anonymous said...

Amen Jeff. And Amen as well to your response to mystical seeker.

We can all do better. Why don't we?