The Rev. Jerry Falwell — longtime foe of GLBT people, women, and those who thirst for justice and equality — died today.
When I heard the breaking news, my reaction shocked me. I wept.
I met the man. (Read about it here.) Saw him preach from the pulpit of his magnificent Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. Talked with him. Found him funny, interestingly enough. I never approved of his positions, his statements, his actions, what he did to the American political landscape. I am well aware of the human cost much of his ministry caused — and told him so to his face. We were able to disagree without being disagreeable, which I see as a good thing.
This does not change the fact that the right-wing televangelist and Moral Majority founder disappointed me on a human level numerous times. Neither do his unchristian activities erase the fact that his ministry has done good as well. A fair person must note that too.
And now, suddenly, he’s dead. How could anyone with a heart not react with sadness on some level?
In various places on the net, I’ve been reading people’s reactions to the news. Won’t link to them — I don’t want to call anyone out or make them feel bad or attract people to come and bash me for daring to feel sadness.
So I’ll just say this and then go sit quietly for a while: Yeah, Jerry Falwell did some fucked-up, downright evil things in the name of Jesus. Enormously hideous and horrible things. He was virulently homophobic, a onetime (?) segregationist, a proponent of the traditional man-in-charge relationship model, and more. All true. All terrible. This should not, must not be forgotten.
Still, that’s no justification for dancing on his grave. ANY death is a diminishment of the human family. We debase ourselves when we engage in hideous schadenfreude, and I’m seeing way too much of it today. It’s devastating. And it’s wrong.
Why are humans so damned cruel?
Rest in peace, Rev. Falwell. May your successor achieve more success than you did in embracing all of God’s children. May those you harmed, if they still live, find healing and justice. And may the rest of us remember this:
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Seven times seven times…