Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Eulogy for Jerry Falwell

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My good friends, today I want us all to remember the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who died Tuesday at the age of 73.

But let us not spend our time dwelling upon the tragedy of his death. Rather, friends, let us remember the way he lived, and the things he stood for. Let us speak, good people, of the legacy left by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

You can tell a lot about a man and his life by the way he deals with those with whom he disagrees. This was the Rev. Mr. Falwell on those who believed differently from him: "If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being." And as to those of different political beliefs: "We're fighting against humanism, we're fighting against liberalism. We are fighting against all the systems of Satan that are destroying our nation today. Our battle is with Satan himself."

The Rev. Mr. Falwell spent much of his life equating those with whom he differed on political philosophy with the Prince of Darkness himself. He taught his followers to regard political opponents as not just mistaken, but eeeeeevil. And that legacy lives on today.

He didn't spare Christians with whom he disagreed: "Look at the Metropolitan Community Church today, the gay church, almost accepted into the World Council of Churches. Thank God this vile and satanic system will one day be utterly annihilated, and there'll be a celebration in heaven!" When we remember the Rev. Mr. Falwell, let's never forget him calling for the "annihilation" of another church.

Here's the Rev. Mr. Falwell on the subject of women: "I listen to feminists and all these radical gals -- most of them are failures. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it, and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men -- that's their problem."

Who can forget his madcap sense of humor? This is a man, after all, who said, apparently with a straight face, that one of the Teletubbies was gay because he was purple and had a triangle on his head. I don't think I'll ever forget that.

One of the true measures of a man, of course, is how he deals with crisis. I, for one, can never forget the comfort and unifying calm that the Rev. Mr. Falwell and his friend Pat Robertson gave to us in the dark days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he said that he really believed 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.'"

When the country was whining like a bunch of babies about needing unity and healing, the Rev. Mr. Falwell took his own path. Just when it seemed that unity was about to break out, he made it OK for us to hate and fear each other again. That, too, is part of his legacy.

Falwell and others like him constantly exhorted his followers to wage "culture war," during which he assured his terrified flock that it was they who were on the verge of annihilation and that they must go to the grimmest extremes to survive.

"The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews," he once asserted, thus equating things like the removal of forced prayer from classrooms with gassing people to death and burning them in ovens. That paranoia and eternal sense of victimhood is one of the legacies he left his followers.

In the final analysis, the legacy for which Jerry Falwell will be most remembered is the political movement that he helped found. It was a movement that took differences of opinion, of philosophy, and of religion, and turned them into reasons to hate and fear other Americans. It was a movement that pits us against each other for others' political gain.

With his so-called "Moral Majority," Jerry Falwell created the concept that later evolved into the idea of the so-called "Republican Base," that hard core of True Believers who, if properly motivated, can put you just over the 51 percent you need to win an election. And once you're in, you're in. You can tell that other 49 percent -- millions of Americans -- to go, quite literally, to hell. Jerry Falwell helped create modern American political discourse.

So let's not dwell on the tragedy of Jerry Falwell's death. Let us remember the legacy that he left behind. And let us pray that somehow, someday, we can recover from it.

5 comments:

Celine said...

Dusty, you ROCK.

When are you going to publish the book edition of your collected columns?

JD Rhoades said...

Soon as somone offers to pay me for it, luv.

Frigne said...

Searing eulogy ... thoroughly enjoyable :)

You might like my cartoon in honour of Jerry's passing which is at www.kadaitcha.com

You're linked.

Cheers from Oz


Fringe

Kristy said...

As brilliant as I think you are, as funny, and however much I admire and adore you, I will never read more than four words about Falwell again in my life. It's simply to short.

(Oh all right, I admit it, I read it. You're brilliant and funny and I admire and adore you. And my husband thinks you're funny. Note the startling lack of the other three superlatives ;-) )

BTW, e me a jpeg of the new one so I can News Flash ya this weekend?

JD Rhoades said...

You're brilliant and funny and I admire and adore you. And my husband thinks you're funny. Note the startling lack of the other three superlatives ;-)

I can live with that.