Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falwell's passing

Jerry Falwell passed away today, May 15th, after being found unresponsive in his office at Liberty University.

While I know he was beloved and cared for by many, including his family, church, students and supporters, I have always felt he was a mixed bag of blessing and embarrassment for evangelicals.

Like any person who stands in a position of leadership, it is easy to take potshots at him. He stood out in a crowd of televangelists and Baptist preachers. He was unashamedly Republican, and a conservative one at that. He seemed to join Pat Robertson in the "GWB foot-in-mouth club" for his amazingly inept public statements. Yet at some level he was likeable and personable, like some grandfatherly relative who bumbled along and you could tolerate because it was "just how he was."

Even his ghostwriter, Mel White, who came out of the closet and later founded Soulforce, admitted in an NPR interview:

"Jerry Falwell is a person you like immediately, up close and personal," White says. "He doesn't take himself seriously. He enjoys life. And even while he says some of the meanest things, it's hard to not like him."
As I ponder Falwell and people like him (such as the Chancellor of a certain Mideast seminary,) I truly don't know what to think. Initially I either want to scream or throw water balloons at them...

But then I ponder and pray, and have a variety of emotions and thoughts...

As a woman called to the pastorate, they annoy me tremendously for their stuck-in-their-ways values and narrow views of ordination.

As a mother, I appreciate their concern for the rising statistics of teenage sexual experimentation, and their voice against literature and the arts which subjugate or devalue women and girls (call it porn, tweenerbopper music, or designer kiddie fashionistas, it ticks me off!)

Somehow, somewhere, I pray for a gentler, honest voice on the issues he had raised. A dialog of listening, writing and accepting that people can differ in their opinions and still respect each other. Without being cocky, self-righteous or overconfident that one is always right... that would most definitely be my desire... so the learning and the listening and the heart of prayer for God's peace and right-ness starts with... ME!

The healing of the world does not begin in some far-off land that we must hasten to help, but in the geography of your own heart. There the sinner is washed in mercy and becomes thereby an instrument of mercy, not merely by his prayers, but in everything he does. For he is a vessel of grace. We cannot heal all the world’s problems, but we begin with our own heart if our help is to amount to anything.

— Fr. Matthew Kelty

I have not gotten this all figured out, but I know that I know I have much to learn...



mompriest said...

The quote from Kelty is spot on. What I struggle with is finger pointing, "see that, that's sin over there...". Always best to focus on oneself first.

Sally said...

well said Deb- you have presented a balanced post here- calling as we say here a spade a spade.

Singing Owl said...

I've been thinking about this, as an "evangelical" who was profoundly chagrined at Falwell, and yet found myself in agreement in many ways. I'm posting a link.

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post as usual, Deb

Anonymous said...

great post Deb - I agree with you - didn't like the patriarchal politics, but liked the way he wanted hte world to be more g-rated.

Amy said...

I'm reminded of one of the best pieces of wisdom a poet and priest shared with me: just be honest about the spiritual life.
If we're honest, black and white is less common than gray... in our expereiences of God..in how we live out our beliefs in the myriad of contexts that are life. This does not mean there is no truth, no position... but that living there with love is DIFFICULT.
My struggle with fundamentalist voices that insist there is ONLY black and white is that it does not feel like an honest expression to me. It feels like a grasping for power and iron clad answers.
I find myself thinking about me, and Falwell: Isn't God patient?

Leah said...

Wonderful, thoughtful blog, Deb--sorry I've been blogging and commenting so little lately, but you've remained in my prayers. Keep on bloggin'!