Jerry Falwell passed away this past Tuesday, May 15th. I’ve mentioned Falwell a few times in past blog posts. More often than not, the only time I referred to Falwell was when I was explaining to someone that I was a Christian. “Yah, but not a Jerry Falwell-type of Christian…” I’m sure many have said something similar before. I know some people around the seminary have tried to figure out how to respond to the death of someone who, from our perspective, so tragically misrepresented both Christ, the gospel and much of Christianity to the world. While certainly not “glad” for his death, it does represent the potential for a certain type of Christianity to potentially have less influence (though surely people will step up to attempt to fill his shoes).
A friend of mine said that while he was not happy about Falwell’s death, he was “relieved.” I think that sentiment probably reflects how many Christians are feeling. Our prayers for the peace of Christ certainly go out to Falwell’s family and those who knew him beyond the ludicrous sound bites the rest of us heard. But, for many, there is a certain relief I think.
I’ve read a few things recently I felt were worth sharing with you. The first is actually my own transcription of an NPR commentary from today’s All Things Considered (you can listen to the three minute segment here). It was written by David Kuo, the former deputy director of the office of faith-based community initiatives in the Bush administration. Kuo discussed some of the more well-known ridiculous quotes by Falwell, but ended on this note:
“The nature of the Christian faith is hope – hope in the unseen, hope in the goodness of God, hope in resurrection. So here, now, with his passing, there is the chance to begin again the discussion of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to follow Jesus, what it means to sacrificially love others. If out of that, more people come to know the Jesus of the Gospels, rather than the Jesus of the GOP, Jerry Falwell’s ultimate legacy may be that he helped lead people back to God, and that, I want to believe, is what he wanted in the first place.”
“In so many ways, he was a cartoon of religious bigotry, promiscuously invoking God in every conceivable political dispute and demonizing his opponents in the most reckless of terms…I guess I’m more interested in discussing how we mourn and pray for those who we simply cannot find particular reasons to like. I do not have nice things to say about him in particular and yet I feel compassion for him, for his family, for his church, etc.”
Finally, John Spalding of the SoMA Review, gives a somewhat different perspective. He has a pretty satirical post about Falwell, here. While it may be a little harsh for some of you, consider it another way of dealing with the mourning:
“Now that the evangelist has finally met his maker, we pray for his sake that God is an amiable old white guy with a long grey beard, and is not, say, a big purple Teletubby with a triangle above his head and a magic bag dangling from his arm. Tinky Winky as Divine Judge might have a beef with Falwell. Having outed Tink as gay, Falwell denounced the beloved children’s TV character as ‘damaging to the moral lives of children.’ That had to hurt, considering TW’s line of work.”
Above you’ve seen a few different ways to respond to the death of fundamentalist Jerry Falwell. How have you found yourself responding? And please be honest, whatever your feelings.