Thursday, May 17, 2007

Conversations: The Death of Jerry Falwell

We've been thinking at The Buddha Diaries about the death of Jerry Falwell. Certainly, there was little affection for the man or his ravings here, but the Buddha's teachings require compassion, even for those we do not like or disagree with. That said, it's instructive to take a look at what others say. Here's one that is decidedly less charitable than ourselves.

The Jerry Falwell of whom Christopher Hitchens speaks was in part responsible for the spawning of a whole school of Christian Right preachers who promote an agenda which, in our view, is antithetical to what the Christ of the Beatitudes had to say. This video site gives a good flavor.

This from the White House on the subject:
Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Jerry Falwell, a man who cherished faith, family, and freedom. As the founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, Jerry lived a life of faith and called upon men and women of all backgrounds to believe in God and serve their communities. One of his lasting contributions was the establishment of Liberty University, where he taught young people to remain true to their convictions and rely upon God's word throughout each stage of their lives. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Macel and the rest of the Falwell family.
And here's a moderate Christian take from Jim Wallis: (Read the entire post here)

Falwell, in his own way, did help to teach Christians that their faith should express itself in the public square and I am grateful for that, even if the positions Falwell took were often at great variance with my own. I spent much of my early Christian life fighting the privatizing of faith, characterized by the withdrawal of any concern for the world (so as to not be “worldly”) and an exclusive focus on private matters. If God so loved the world, God must care a great deal about what happens to it and in it. Falwell agreed with that, and blew the trumpet that awakened fundamentalist Christians to engage the world with their faith and moral values. And that commitment is a good thing. Jerry and I debated often about how faith should impact public life and what all the great moral issues of our time really are.
Aside from President Bush, it's very hard to find anyone who has a good word to say for Falwell. Blog entries I've come across range anywhere from saying that he's having a good time in hell, to suggesting he should have been thrown under a bus years ago. The only - and I repeat the only - positive piece I've come across in a fairly thorough search is a longish eulogy by R. Albert Mohler Jr. Here's what he had to say, in part:
The legacy of Dr. Jerry Falwell will be debated for decades to come. Political scientists, theologians, church leaders, and historians will all have their say. Jerry Falwell would not be threatened by this analysis. He expected that some would love him for his beliefs and others would not. He was a man in constant motion, and he seemed rarely to look back. He redefined independent fundamentalism and then led his church to associate with the Southern Baptist Convention, which had experienced its own conservative redirection. He mobilized a movement of conservative Christians in America and built a massive empire. These remain as monuments to Jerry Falwell's leadership and vision

Knowing that The Buddha Diaries has some serious and thoughtful Christian readers, we'd be interested to know what they have to say.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I don't keep up with the news as often as I ought to, so I know little more about Falwell than what I've learned from the videos in the post. That being said, I'm not in support of fundamentalists in any religion (something I hope I've made clear by my commentary on the blog thus far), and though I try to practice metta as often as possible, I have a hard time feeling anything but relief that a voice as influential as Falwell's is out of the equation, regardless of how he has come to be silenced. I try to look at Fundamentalists as a way of God showing people the wrong way to go about things and the wrong message to listen to, but some people are drawn to that sort of unquestionable confidence.

I feel that there's a lesson to be learned in everything, and while I'm sad that so many are twisted into believing things like the quotes in that montage, I'm grateful that I have the desire to practice a much more benevolent, tolerant world view.

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cali_P said...

When first reading of Falwell's passing I caught my self with a bit of a grin. Then quickly criticized myself for I am one to remember to try to tolerate the intolerant.

I believe it is not my place to judge, but that of a higher power.

Falwell preached hate and fear. I can only believe the balance of the universe will bring him ( or the spititual essence of him)the same lesson in a future life.

I continue to struggle to except his followers who consider themselves closer to god by teaching others to hate.

lindsey said...

I'm ashamed to admit it but I, like cali_p rejoiced a little when I heard the news. But I quickly realized it wasn't the man himself I had a problem with, but rather the message.

(Love the sinner, hate the sin perhaps?)

Unfortunately Falwell didn't take the message to his grave with him, I'm sure someone will step up to carry his torch of hate.

In my opinion it's imperative that Christians take a good long look at what is being done in the name of Christianity and take steps to counter-act it. Ours should be a religion of love and acceptance, not hate. I always wonder how Jesus would react to Christianity and televangelists if he were around today.

I'm pretty sure we'd see another "pissed off Jesus in the temple" moment.

Peter- I'm very much enjoying your blog entries...I'll have to thank Mark for getting me hooked! :-)

carly said...

One would do well to remember the original man which became the myth, Jesus, probably had cancerous sores and walked in dirt in worn-out sandals.

The fat American with the big mouth in the media flew around in private corporate jets.

Mark said...

For me, the most important thing to remember is that people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and George Bush don't represent Christianity. I remember having this conversation on this blog a while back with Carly, Eli, and you, Peter. I believe the term used for people like Falwell was that they were wearing Christianity as a "cheap costume" to pawn off their beliefs. I even have a post on my own blog about it ("Evangelical???").

There was a middle-eastern medieval philosopher named Algazali who gave me a really important idea I like to keep in mind when I think about religions. He says something to the effect of, "You really have to study something entirely for years before you can debate it or argue with it." I think a lot of people today want to throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak with Christianity because of people like Falwell, and it really makes me sad. They get a false sense of what Christianity is about and become vocally anti-Christian. There's little Christianity left in Falwell's messages, only hatred and fear. Maybe I have a "pie in the sky" ideal of what Christianity should look like, but I hope people realize that whatever is going on today (especially fundamentalism) is not it at all.

That's just my two cents, which come at one in the morning and I'm sure aren't well synthesized.

PK said...

:D... I was told many years ago that if I didn't have anything nice to say about someone not to speek:). I'll leave it at that...