Thursday, May 17, 2007

On the Passing of Jerry Falwell

As a strong religious liberal and defender of gay and reproductive freedom, I'll be asked how I feel about Falwell's death. Everyone who knows me probably expects to hear my latest variations on "good riddance". Of course, I'm going to avoid the things I might say in private...

Anyway, I've been (of course) checking the gay blogs to see reactions. African-American lesbian Pam Spaulding from Pam's House Blend gave her thoughts.

I've read several editorials, headlines, quotes, and blog comments on this. There is universal acknowledgement of the fact that Falwell's work and words caused real harm to the LGBT community. He had the ear of several national leaders, including Presidents before Bush II. His university fed the legal system with Lawyers who knew how to defeat equality in the courtroom. His brand of religious teaching openly encouraged the cruel verbal condemnation and abuse that religious parents threw at their own gay or questioning children. The ex-gay movement, based on lies and scorn guised as love, was emboldened as the "solution" for parents who couldn't accept their gay children. Many have forced their kids to these places. No one heard their silent screams. While Falwell became a less prominent figure among the movement, dwarfed by the likes of Pat Robertson and others, none of these figures would have their pedastols and influence were it not for the massive infrastructure of money, political connections, and persuasive public sway that Falwell helped to create in the 80's. On the shoulders of a giant.

There is a lot to be furious for. Though many pro-gay commentors are expressing condolences. This is to be expected from those in front of the camera (no offense, my friends) but we've seen some of this in private blog comments on other people's blogs. Some of Pam's blogger's say "I would never wish death or injury on anyone, no matter who". This is understandable, and I felt inclined to join in this sentiment - at that time. I've read the more negative comments with Kevin Naff's "Good Riddance" being one of the harshest. And while many of the sympathetic pro-gays may be inclined, at least in private, to criticize people like Naff, I have to say that I'm not one of them, even while understanding that "injury and death" is always sad, no matter whom.

Perhaps the choice whether or not to write off Falwell's humanity is simply another instance of the human choice of forgiveness. I'm wondering if "forgiveness" is even the right word, because no one is excusing the actions of Falwell one bit. I just pick the word because I've thought a lot about what it means, and how we overestimate its importance.

Yes, I said overestimate. I'll probably save these thoughts for another blog, but getting back to Falwell, my personal thing is this: It's not my place to decide whether or not Falwell deserves forgiveness, or whatever word, because I'm not one of his victims. Its the thousands of people, including gay children and children of gay parents, that I described above. And I'm just scratching the surface because there are people and advocates who know far more than me. They are the collective testimony of everyone Falwell has harmed in his life's purpose. They are the ones who get to decide whether Falwell should be remembered as a human being. For the rest of us to criticize their decision, whether harsh or good, is absolutely patronizing in the most ignorant and unkind way.

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