Compassion for Falwell?

May 20, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Posted in America, conservatism, culture, gay, hate crimes, Jerry Falwell, moral majority, politics, religion, religious right, society, terrorism | 3 Comments

This blog post resulted from my response to a friend/reader’s comments on my “good riddance” to Jerry Falwell. Initially, I was just going to reply in the comment thread for that post. But then I thought that the explanation of my previous and inadequate post deserved its own space. This post should have been my original one. Read Bill’s comment below and please continue on to read my response. I welcome further discussion…

Is that a really a humane response to the death of someone, even if they oppose the lifestyle you embrace? When Graham Chapman of Monty Python died, I did not wish him good riddance. Even when Rock Hudson died of AIDS, I did not wish him good riddance. Justin, you are better than that. Cannot your compassion extend to someone you disagree with?

Certainly I do not agree with some things that Jerry did or said, and that can be said of everyone, straight or gay. If you find someone that shares all your hopes, fears, feelings and convictions, then you are probably looking in the mirror.

That I do not embrace homosexuality as a lifestyle does not mean that I have lost my compassion for them. NOR DO I HATE GAYS/HOMOSEXUALS. I am deeply troubled by folks that find it necessary to belittle gays or worse, harm them. I am truly sad to say that even as a Christian, I know there are Christians that would not miss one more gay man or woman. In the Bible, hating someone is as bad as killing them. I have worked in an environment where gays were taunted. Unless you are heartless, such lack of compassion or even care is unconscionable. I have seen the hurt in their eyes.

Justin, I am indeed fortunate in that I know you and can call you friend and cannot imagine ever hating you I hope you see me as a friend. I have seen the way you interact with people. I have seen the incredible intelligence you have. I have intelligence, but not like yours (and probably not like anyone elses!!). I hope you don’t become too educated and lose your humanity. I sincerely believe you have greatness within you and that there is nothing you could not accomplish if you wanted.

Just something to think about…
Your friend Bill

To be sure, I don’t hate Jerry Falwell – I wouldn’t waste my time or energy. Like you, I have seen what hatred can do to others and have witnessed the hurt in others’ eyes, not to mention felt it myself. Hate has no place in my heart or in my life. I welcome your objection to my opinions, however, and am grateful for the opportunity to elaborate. Read on…

Compassion is a far different emotion than hatred. The American Heritage Dictionary defines compassion as the “Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” I would not consider Falwell’s death suffering and I certainly do not possess any desire to undo his death. I don’t hesitate to assume that you and I share different perspectives and different views on varying subjects. We don’t necessarily agree on everything, but I can say that for you I have compassion; I would neither wish nor hope for any ill to befall you or anyone you love or care about.

For Jerry Falwell, however, and those that supported and furthered his “cause”, I could not care less. I consider Falwell’s propagation of religion, the moral right, or the moral majority as gross crimes against society and against humanity. But this aside, I consider his advocation of hatred and intolerance abhorrent, inhuman, disgusting, loathsome, despicable, abominable, revolting, horrifying, reprehensible, offensive, and contemptible – just to use a few adjectives.

I value freedom of speech and freedom of ideas just as much as the next American. However, I also value human life. I personally hold Jerry Falwell and others like him responsible for the suffering and untimely deaths of persons resulting from hate crimes. While those that preach religion and promote intolerance may not have landed a blow, swung a bat, kicked someone in the ribs, called someone a dyke or a faggot, raped, beaten, mutilated, punched, cut, dragged, or otherwise inflicted suffering on another person due to differences in race, gender, class, or sexual orientation, they are just as much to blame as the perpetrator. Why? Because those with power and influence should be held responsible for the social and cultural climates that they help to create and/or foster.

Freedom of speech, ideas, and even press comes with its own responsibility. One cannot blithely give a voice to every thought that comes into their mind. I cannot speak to someone any way that I wish no more than I can scream, holler, and use explicatives in a government court. I can choose to exercise my freedom and perform the above actions nonetheless, but there are consequences for my actions, whether that be my imprisonment, some monetary fine, or a punch in the mouth. Unfortunately for America, Jerry Falwell did exactly as he wished – all in the name of religion. I would be willing to bet that a history book 1000 years from now would be perplexed by two significant groups in today’s world; terrorists and the “religious right” or “moral majority” make about as much sense as the gods quibbling about the outcome of the Trojan war.

To breathe a sigh of relief at the news of his death, to wish “good riddance to bad rubbish” is comparable to the passing of a kidney stone. As I’m sure you can relate, a kidney stone can cause severe pain, nausea, and discomfort. One is likely to be extremely relieved at the passing of a kidney stone. In fact, one may look to the future with positive thoughts and expectations to know what was once so painful and discomforting is now gone. Sure you might get another kidney stone, just like someone else may try to pick up where Falwell left off. But in the meantime we can all be relieved that Jerry Falwell’s toxicity is a thing of the past. If we’re lucky, his polluting college will just fade away into the background. If we’re lucky, today’s children and tomorrow’s leaders will be little or unaffected by the hatred that he infused into this world whether it be through television, his college, or his ministry.

Yes, May 15th, 2007 was a wonderful day. Every day since then has been a good day too. One down, but admittedly, many more to go. I didn’t wish anything bad to happen to Jerry Falwell while he was alive, nor do I wish anything bad to happen to those who will inevitably attempt to fill the filthy role he has left behind. In his death, however, I do find comfort and relief. I bid him farewell and say “good riddance”.



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  1. Interesting Justin. I can “feel” the emotion in your words. Perhaps in this context, compassion was not the right word to use.

    I am indeed sorry you and those you love have been harmed or mistreated, either physically or emotionally, especially when done by fellow Christians. Names like dyke and faggot are not in my personal vocabulary and I treat them like the 4-letter words I get on to you about.

    That IS not what Christianity is about. As Christians, we are to love the sinner and hate the sin. We see the two as seperate. We see Homosexuality as sin, just as we see adultery, murder, theft..etc as sin.

    I must now do an indepth study of the work of Jerry Falwell to see what it is about him that bothers you (besides the obvious…). I personally have not examined or otherwise studied all he has said and done. Do you know of an instance where he advocated violence or hatred against gays?

    Thanks for the explanation.

    Bill G

  2. Well, I certainly don’t want to get into a discussion about “homosexuality as sin”, but if you’re looking for Falwell’s viewpoint on homosexuality, you don’t have to look far. Try searching for “9/11” and “Falwell” or some similar combination thereof. I certainly have no desire to re-hash all of his past deeds just so they can be documented somewhere else, so good luck with your research.

    Keep in mind, however, when reading other blog posts of mine, that anyone who “sells” or otherwise promotes religion falls short on my list. In my opinion, religion has had it’s chance and it’s time for a change. Perhaps Falwell is the beginning of that change, most likely not.

    Either way, someday we (humans) will evolve beyond the need to justify our existence in this universe by worshiping some external (or internal) deity. Someday we’ll collectively remove the notion from our minds that our lives and subsequent daily activities are of interest or concern to God or gods. Someday we’ll stop acting like children and cease to presume that we are the center of the universe and some “God” intercedes to answer our daily prayers and tweak the outcomes of our lives based on good/bad behavior. Someday the rest of the world will come to the natural conclusion that physical and emotional sexual activity don’t have eternal consequences. If not, well, the future looks pretty grim – Falwell or no Falwell.

  3. I like your post. I’ve written a couple on Falwell at my trying to make sense of his death. He brought a new kind of hate into U.S. politics. Hard to not get snippy at his death, as you know he’s done too many times about high-profile lefty people.

    I can’t tell if Falwell and friends are the last gasp of religion in the U.S. or a reinvention that makes them only more sinister. We shall see. In the end, most Americans, I think, do in fact act as if they as humans are the center of the universe. Then they go find a church that nicely fit their personal worldview.

    One step forward, one step back.

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