Jerry Falwell, Rest In Peace: Part 2
“You are a more loving and forgiving person than I could ever hope to be. You’re an inspiration.”
I don’t know about that. Truth is, I’m not very loving or forgiving toward Jerry Falwell. I think he did immeasurable damage during his lifetime, and I still have a lot of resentment about that. I’m trying to rise above my lack of forgiveness – and the disappointing level of hatefulness I’ve seen from others who are rejoicing in his death – by recognizing Falwell’s humanity. When I wrote that post I was preaching to myself as well as to anyone else.
My comments about Jerry Falwell being made in the image of God are based not on his Christianity but on his simple humanity. To be honest, I don’t think of Jerry Falwell as a Christian. He claimed to be a man of God, but he consistently rejected the teachings of Jesus Christ, by his actions as well as by overt statements like this one:
“His [Jimmy Carter’s] message of peace and reconciliation under almost all circumstances is simply incompatible with Christian teachings as I interpret them. This ‘turn the other cheek’ business is all well and good but it’s not what Jesus fought and died for. What we need to do is take the battle to the Muslim heathens and do unto them before they do unto us.”
– Jerry Falwell, talking about Jimmy Carter in a radio interview on March 4, 2002
So many things are wrong about this statement, it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, the “turn the other cheek business” did not originate with Jimmy Carter – it originated, of course, with Jesus Christ. As for Jesus “fighting,” the only people Jesus fought against were the hypocritical religious leaders of his day, as well as the moneychangers in the temple who were trying to commercialize religion. In other words, the Falwells of his day. And the way Falwell subverted the golden rule to justify violence against Muslims is appallingly anti-Christian.
And this, of course, is just one quote among many that could be used as an example of how Jerry Falwell twisted the teachings of Jesus and sometimes blatantly contradicted them. Many of them, including the one cited above, are collected online at Wikiquote. Don’t click on that link if you have a weak stomach.
My point, I guess, is that I don’t have a pollyanna view of Jerry Falwell. I recognize the damage that he did and the blatant evil (there’s no other word for it) that he spread in his lifetime. But I still stand by my statement that he, like all of us, was made in the image of God, and therefore interrelated, interconnected to all of us. I think we can breathe a sigh of relief that Jerry Falwell will no longer be able to spread his twisted gospel of jingoism, hate, and fear. But we simply cannot rejoice in his death. If we do so (as I said before) we only sink down to the level of hatred and intolerance that Falwell himself displayed during his lifetime.