One never wants to speak ill of the dead, but in the case of Jerry Falwell, how can one not? Falwell will always be remembered for his "700 Club" comment in the wake of Sept. 11: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" Even though Falwell later apologized, the damage had been done: A sacred moment had been used for profane purpose.Thank you, Alan Wolfe of Salon.com, for capturing the essence of what I understand about Jerry Falwell, who died Tuesday. His article (see it here) says it best. I will not lament him, nor dance upon his grave. I just view with sadness the corruption of Christ's commandments for political means.
And that, really, is Falwell's legacy. To the religious life of the United States he made no significant contribution. But to the political life of the country, he made one: He founded the Moral Majority. In so doing, Falwell managed to take something holy -- one does not have to be a Christian to admire the life and teachings of Jesus Christ -- and turned it into something partisan and divisive. Falwell, the quintessential conservative Christian, was always more conservative than Christian. To the extent that history will remember him, it will be as a politician, not as a preacher.
But a slightly more upbeat version of the same topic resides here
as Tinky Winky of the Teletubbies says farewell to Falwell. Worth reading.
And now, for something completely different: if you want to wash the taste of Falwell out of your mouth (and I don't care where he got his degree from, I will not call him Reverend) check out the testimony of Sara Miles in her fantastic book Take This Bread. Much more to say about this, but I'd put your order in now. This woman knows about Christian living - you can bet your life on it.