Jerry Falwell, child of God

In spite of being an evangelical Christian, I'm pretty much the opposite of Jerry Falwell. Having said that, I really really appreciate the story that one of my friends wrote for the La Crosse Tribune. It appears below.

Jerry Falwell, child of God
By Joe Orso

Besides their species, Mao Zedong, the 14th Dalai Lama, Hitler, Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Black Elk and Jerry Falwell share little in common.

They all have lived on Earth and had the qualities that make humans human. But besides that, they grew up in different times and places and have made names of their lives in very different ways.

Some we see as good, some as bad, and some as good or bad depending on our perspective.

On Tuesday, after a life that mixed religion and politics, Jerry Falwell, the television evangelist, founder of the Moral Majority, crusader against taking prayer out of schools, against homosexuality and against all things liberal, founder of Liberty University, a husband and father who said AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality, died at age 73.

Whether Falwell’s life was helpful for humanity or not, it was certainly a life that divided. He was not a peacemaker, but a man who spoke and acted on principles that offended some and inspired others.

We can argue whether Falwell’s principles were virtuous, as we argue about ideas all the time. The more useful conversation, though, is whether Falwell, our fellow human, was a child of God.

I like that phrase, “child of God.” It makes me think about a Lutheran who once told me who she saw when she looked into the eyes of a Muslim recently returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca. It makes me think about the people a Christian saw when he traveled to India and looked into the eyes of those he’d always assumed were going to hell.

But it’s a challenging phrase. Pick your favorite evil president, or the person with a morality too wide or too narrow for your liking, and place that phrase as the descriptor: George and Bill, children of God? Saddam Hussein and Paris Hilton, children of God? Jerry Falwell, child of God?

And does the phrase actually mean something as flesh means something, or is it just a cliche to be tucked into calendars with clouds and angels? I mean, do you experience what’s said by the metaphor?

And can you look into the eyes of a person who does not see you as a child of God and see him as a child of God? Did Falwell?

This prayer, posted by a reader on Beliefnet.com, might help him and us with these questions:

“It is a comfort to know that Rev. Falwell has now met his creator face to face, and has at last been brought to perfection by that Love that goes beyond the limits of our humanity. May he rest in peace, and may we all know mercy.”


David Baxley said...

Very interesting approach. The universalism isn't my thing but the love and grace side was a great challenge.

David Baxley said...

Interesting verse on the "child of God" thought.
1 John 3:10
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

David Baxley said...

and yet another one that brings more definition to the phrase...

John 1:10-13
He [Jesus] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

David Best said...

On the 1Jn 3:10 passage. "Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God"

I can think of a few things that i don't do, a few things that evangelicals don't do that are 'right'.

Scary to think about the implications of that. One of which I think I think is this: either a lot more evangelicals are going to hell than we think, or a lot more "other" people are going to heaven than we think.

It's not that I doubt what evangelicals and the bible say about salvation, it's what that might look like and the boxes we put it in that I doubt.

Sometimes I'm tempted to just pull a Falwell and say: "you evangelicals don't do what the bible says, what is 'right' as 1jn says above, therefore you are going to hell." But then I don't believe that either.