Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life"

People sometimes write this quote on sympathy cards thinking that it is the title of a 1997 song by Green Day. What most don't realize, however, is that the actual name of the song is "Good Riddance."

The Reverend Jerry Falwell passed away today. How you feel about it probably depends on what you think of the man and his impact on American culture.

While I would not be so cavalier as to dismiss anyone's death with a good riddance, I do believe that it is appropriate to look at what he stood for. Sadly, for a man who claimed to follow the teachings of Jesus, his life was frankly a pale emulation. Here are but a few examples:

• On September 15, 2001, he had this to say about the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

"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."

• In an October 2002 interview on 60 minutes and he said about Islam:

"I think Muhammad was a terrorist."

• In January of 1999, he characterized his views on the Anti-Christ:

"Is he alive and here today? Probably. Because when he appears during the Tribulation period he will be a full-grown counterfeit of Christ. Of course he'll be Jewish. Of course he'll pretend to be Christ. And if in fact the Lord is coming soon, and he'll be an adult at the presentation of himself, he must be alive somewhere today."

• On July 5, 1983 he said:

"Herpes, AIDS, venereal diseases ... are a definite form of the judgment of God upon a society."

And in 1987 followed it up with:

"AIDS could be God's judgment against a nation that choses to live immorally."

There is very little on which Dr. Falwell and I agreed.

He represented a religion tradition founded on the philosophy of peace, social justice and love, yet so often preached ideals that were in direct contrast. But there is one thing that he was right about . . .

Upon leaving the Moral Majority he commented:

"I shudder to think where the country would be right now if the religious right had not evolved."

Had the religious right not mobilized as a political force we might well have a cure for AIDS, peace in Iraq, energy independence and civil rights for all people. It was Falwellian Republicans such as Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott and George W. Bush who most benefited from the rise of the religious right. They were also the Republicans who most stridently stood in opposition to these issues.

In the end analysis, I hope that Jerry Falwell had the time of his life, because it's going to take the rest of mine for us to undo the mess that he helped sow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey John;

Another excellent commentary. Rev. Falwell used Christianity in a way I don't believe it was ever meant to be- the accumulation of political clout. Sure there is a long history of religion intersecting with politics which generally ends as well as a knife intersecting with a live body: THat is to say in bloodshed.

To my fellow Christians- your personal walk with Jesus is just that YOUR PERSONAL walk with Jesus.

TO try to influance a county to walk that journey in the way YOU see fit is folly and will not end well.

9:47 PM  

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