Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Didn't Know Jerry Falwell; He Didn't Know Me

I honestly don't know what to think about Reverend Jerry Falwell dying. I didn't know him. He didn't know me.

I tend to avoid extremes - being the bridge builder that I try to be, my conversations don't tend to be in those circles. In fact, most of the people in my local circles probably know as much as I do about Jerry Falwell. Hearing the kinds of things that ultra-extreme people say just makes me want to change the subject because it seems so narrow-minded. I'd rather talk about broader more important things above political and controversial issues. In my opinion, that's what Jesus did. He changed the subject and reframed the issue.

Gosh though. I feel weird calling him "Jerry". A super awesome friend of mine calls him "Jerry". He attended Liberty University - the conservative school that Jerry Falwell founded. He even has friends that went to the school or are still there. Even several of the online articles reporting about his death referred to him as "Jerry". But I can't really do that. It just seems odd to me to refer to him on a first name basis when all I know of him is that I don't know him . . . .

I know what i've heard. I heard that he blamed homosexuals and a slew of other "sinners" for the tragedies of 9/11 and the hurricanes. I heard that he confronted practically everyone about moral issues. I heard that he was devoted to advocating for a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I suppose this all means he probably wouldn't like me very much if he knew me and that I'm one of "them".

But then I think of my super awesome friend who I'm sure saw a different perspective of him. Having gone to the conservative school, i'm sure my friend and his friends would have seen him in a positive light. There's so much about Jerry Falwell that I don't know. Who was he married to? Did he have children? Grandchildren? What was his family like? Did he love them as much as I love my family? Was he friendly to people on the Liberty U. campus? Was he friendly to guests? Did he ever cry about anything? Did he ever cry when looking in the mirror like I have? Was he aware of his shortcomings and did he daily turn to the Lord for grace and forgiveness like I do? Did he ever know what it's like to be misunderstood? Did he know what it's like to be hated? What else could he and I have related with?

So I kinda feel weird thinking anything negative about Jerry Falwell because I respect my friend so much and I'd hate to offend him. It's not that he agrees with everything that Jerry Falwell advocated for/against. In fact, I know that my friend doesn't. But my friend knew Jerry Falwell alot more than I did so I don't feel right judging Jerry Falwell since I didn't know him.

And he didn't know me.

He didn't know my love for Jesus, my Savior and Lord. He didn't know my heart for those God loves. He didn't know my passion for the community and for connecting the disconnected. He didn't know that I actually do bear the fruits of the Spirit because I actually do have the Spirit of the living God in me. He didn't know that I was his brother. Yet he probably would have judged me for what he saw (assumed) on my outside - being gay - rather than recognizing that same spirit from my inside - being Christian.

So I kinda have mixed feelings about his passing away. Jerry Falwell was a man. Regardless of whether he loved or hated people, God loved Jerry Falwell nonetheless. Even as much as God loves me.

I wish that in his lifetime Jerry would have realized that.


Mark said...

Apparently he apologised for the 9/11 comment.

He's one of the few right-wing, conservative figures who has actually met with gay and lesbian people though he's backtracked a bit on that.

It'll be interesting to hear what Mel White says at his passing since Mel and his partner attended JF's church.

Anonymous said...

Eric-Great post. I love your passion to strive to be the person God created you to be. This post makes me think of embracing someone who I do not agree with.

Thanks and Love ya


Anonymous said...

There have been a lot of reactions about Falwell’s passing. One thing that is certain, his anti-gay voice is no more and people just want to move on with their lives. That seemed pretty evident this past weekend, since I didn’t see any mention about Falwell’s death at the Long Beach Pride Fest.

Life will go on and eventually the anti-gay voices will be consumed and reduced a small footnote in history!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Eric. He was a good man, flawed just like the rest of us. He had an amazing wife, children and grandchildren, all of whom are grieving tremendously. The students on the campus of LU fondly refer to him as, "Uncle Jerry," "Jer-Bear," and a slew of other pet names ... and we all have fond memories of him driving around campus in his large black Suburban or Denali, driving up onto the sidewalk as though he was going to run us over ... he was such a kid at heart, and will be greatly missed.

We all wish he would have lived a little longer and been able to repent of his opposition to the LGBTIQ community, just as he and many others did of his/their racism many years ago.