Diana Eck on Jerry Falwell
A Good Person with Bad Theology
The Reverend Jerry Falwell was apparently a warm and loving person to those who met him. He looked that way –as if one would like a big bear hug from him. But, alas, I believe he preached a divisive and even dangerous form of Christianity. From where I sit, his is a legacy of finger pointing and judgment that is not the Good News as I hear it.
I will never forget his widely publicized conversation with Pat Robertson right after the 9/11 attacks, when he said, "I really believe 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."
He went on to say that somehow these people –gays and members of the ACLU—had caused God to lift the curtain of protection to allow the enemies of America to give us "what we deserve." He later said he was just sharing his own burden and "intending to speak to a Christian audience from a theological perspective about the need for national repentance."
I'm sorry, but this is a "theological" perspective I have disagreed with for years and will go on resisting. I am a Christian woman, a feminist, a gay woman, a supporter of the ACLU and People for the American Way, and a supporter of freedom of religious conscience and practice for all people, even for pagans. Like Falwell, I'm a patriotic American and a lifelong Christian, but I do not believe for a moment that God is a God who lifted a curtain of protection, allowing the 9/11 attacks. Nor do I believe for a moment that America is or ever was somehow under the special protection and blessing of God. "God bless America" is a hope and a prayer, not a prescription for favor.
Jesus did not tell us to point the finger and judge our neighbors, but to love them. To love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Like so many, I'm sure I would have found Jerry Falwell warm and loveable as a person. I would like to have met him. That said, I have argued with his theology throughout my life, and I won't cease that argument now that he is gone.