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The Movement That Left Jerry Falwell Behind.

Many, but certainly not all, of the church-going folk that I know use their religion as a justification for their bigotry, hatred and intolerance. They go to prayer breakfasts and volunteer at their churches which is admirable. But in the next sentence after talking of these deeds, they use racial slurs to ridicule the many people who couldn't evacuate during the Katrina madness, make jokes about running over the numerous Latino immigrants here to work in the reconstruction efforts and denigrate gays and lesbians. These people do vote regularly and support conservative candidates who are against immigration reform, abortion, gay marriage and tax increases that might fund programs to give help to the needy.

I tried several different denominations after I left the Catholic Church. I went to churches recommended by friends and family but I stopped going to any church after a few of these Sundays because I don't agree with the "us versus them" mentality that's so prevalent in the sermons, at least here in the South. How are we loving our neighbors as ourselves when we are so quick to point out our differences and so eager to pass judgment on those who don't agree with us? This is the legacy I see from Jerry Falwell and his ilk.

I agree with the idea in bold below (my emphasis) that God is bigger than we realize, more mysterious, more forgiving and more embracing. I hope this truly is the legacy from the next generation of Christian leaders.

"Maybe it was inevitable that the movement he had done so much to create would grow up, stretch out, even rebel against his strong paternal supervision. Part of this was the much chronicled disillusionment of some Christian soldiers who had duly marched onto the field, gone door to door and pew to pew in search of new voters, placed their faith in politics and politicians to promote their most precious values, only to find those values were a currency that could be traded away behind closed doors. After six years with a born-again evangelical in the White House and the GOP dominant on Capitol Hill and spreading through the judiciary, the religious voters who believed they exalted these leaders for a purpose had reason to believe they'd been betrayed. It was a bitter irony to see the bookstores filling with accounts of the rise of a new American Theocracy: what many conservative Christians saw was that the boardroom, not the sanctuary, was Republican hallowed ground. When their interests clashed with the GOP business wing, the money talked: concerns about persecution of Christians in China, disgust with internet pornography, alarms about global warming, respect for workers' right to wear religious clothing, would not translate into policies that might inconvenience American business.

But even more important was a spiritual and generational change that was occurring that made Falwell a less representative voice of people of faith in public life. The path twists and widens: It was not just his tactics the next generation rejects, but his political theology as well. Today's young evangelicals on campus still have their heroes and their causes, but it's less likely to be Falwell and James Dobson fighting abortion and gay marriage than Bono and Rick Warren leading the way on addressing poverty and "creation care" and AIDS in Africa. When Falwell talked of AIDS, it was about God's punishment of homosexuals. When Rick Warren, who also views homosexuality as a sin, talks about AIDS, he's talking about how to stop its spread and minister to the suffering. When he hosts a global AIDS Summit, he invites both Barack Obama and Sam Brownback.

It will be tempting to call Falwell's passing the end of an era, but that risks missing the larger point. The movement he helped lead was never monolithic, or as tidy as its critics imagine — or obedient to earthly powers. In every generation, Christians have wrestled with the question of whether their efforts are better spent changing laws or changing hearts, and how to proceed when those goals seem to conflict. Falwell enthusiastically practiced the politics of division, flinging damnation at those who disagreed with his vision of a Godly America. Now a rising generation of Christian leaders is looking for ways to bring people together: the politics of division may be a shrewd electoral strategy, but it's a shallow spiritual one. Their God is bigger than their party, more mysterious, more forgiving and more embracing. It is only partly wishful thinking when a progressive evangelical counterforce to Falwell like Jim Wallis declares, 'The Evangelicals have left the Right. They now reside with Jesus.'"

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
weelisa
May. 16th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
Wow - I really hope that is true - that Christians are smartening up and leaving some of that ugly hate behind.

I've always thought that Jesus, in reality, was probably a very cool but highly radical guy. From what scant evidence we have, he appeared to be constantly flying in the face of orthodoxy of any kind. That's why I've never believed, for a moment, that he'd ever get along with someone like Falwell.
silverdee
May. 16th, 2007 07:03 pm (UTC)
"I've always thought that Jesus, in reality, was probably a very cool but highly radical guy. From what scant evidence we have, he appeared to be constantly flying in the face of orthodoxy of any kind. That's why I've never believed, for a moment, that he'd ever get along with someone like Falwell."

Amen! I often wonder how Jesus would react to the fact that his grassroots radicalism has "progressed" to now include mega-churches and the Catholic Church having such obscene wealth.
miz_landry
May. 17th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
I came back to Catholicism after 15 years of militant atheism. I still struggle with some of the magic and anti gay stuff. Luckily, many churches in the Bay Area are not like the ones in the South. when I go home to my home town church, I swear, it's a completely different religion! Catholicism is fucked up and all. I chose to embrace it in my own terms and doubt the Pope will track me down for it. Luck for me, digging through the piles of jackasses who claim to have the lock on what you need to do in the secular world as a Catholic, I always find people of different walks of life who embody what the faith aspires to be, not what it is, and I'm always grateful. That said, I don't hink you need to belong to any organized religion if you don't want to. Or believe in God to be a good person. We all need to stop being so silly.
silverdee
May. 17th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
There are things I miss about church: singing, the feeling of community, checking out people's clothes. But the hypocrisy and negativity were too hard to overlook after a while.

I did go to a few services when I lived in the Bay Area and the vibe there is much more positive and nurturing than here in the South.
miz_landry
May. 17th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
all that's still there, but I just decided to be a problem cafeteria catholic. it's my little way of doing my part. ha. i figure there are a lot of negative church goers out there and it would be nice to work hard not to be one of them. I am amazed how much time and energy people spend on the judgment crap. It's really sad.
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