As of this writing, there are 1,928 news articles on Reverend Jerry Falwell’s death. No surprise there – the Evangelical changed the course of American politics. His Moral Majority helped lead the Christian right into office, his sermons regularly pushed anti-gay agenda and the abortion debate drips in his righteous venom.
On the other hand, however, he gave millions of people hope, founded a university dedicated to educating his followers and donated to charity. Falwell’s politics may have been evil, but as Al Sharpton remarked last night on Larry King Live, Falwell had some good in his heart, however misguided. Needless to say, the reactions to his death have been mixed.
Conservative Family Research Council released a statement mourning Falwell’s passing:
With heavy hearts, believers from across America are stunned and saddened by the passing of the Reverend Jerry Falwell. A man of conviction, he will be missed for his unique ability to speak the truth even in the face of great opposition. He stood stalwartly for the sanctity of life, marriage, faith, and family.
Some gay activists, however, are singing a different tune. As we mentioned in yesterday’s happy endings, a group of San Franciscan gays have organized an anti-memorial.
Of the sacrilegious send-off, blogger Michael Petrelis remarks:
I remember Falwell’s hatred of people with AIDS and gay people at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It was so un-religious. I feel it’s important that we speak out as gay people on the day that Falwell has died. We have to remind people of the hatred he spewed against gays and people with AIDS.
Meanwhile, a slew of gay blog headlines equate Falwell’s death with that of the wicked witch. Speaking of witches, a group calling itself the “Lesbian Death Angels” claim they hexed Falwell to death…
Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task force, however, takes a more balanced approach:
The death of a family member or friend is always a sad occasion and we express our condolences to all those who were close to the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America’s anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation’s appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation.
Lesbian journalist Joan Garry feels no remorse when she blasts Falwell’s politics. She’s rather worry over the future:
I realize the anger I feel should be directed to all those Mr. Falwell leaves behind — all of you who created this demagogue. To all those who booked him on a TV or radio show, to all those who put money in his coffers, to all of you who followed him blindly. You gave Falwell the opportunity, the platform, the microphone and the money. He couldn’t have done it all without you.
The world lost a powerful bigot today. The question ahead is not who will take his place. Someone will. The question is did you learn anything? Will you recognize that with power comes responsibility. When the next one asks for money or a microphone, maybe you’ll think twice. Maybe you’ll consider what it really means to be Christian.
She does admit, however, that she learned some tricks from Falwell, including how to pace your breathing to stop reporters from cutting you off.
Falwell made an appearance on Meet The Press a few weeks ago and we remember thinking about how he exemplified the right’s eloquence in debating controversial issues. Unlike some of his counterparts, Falwell remained calm. Yes, he had his moments of insane roaring, but for the most part, the late reverend took a measured approach to his bigotry. He may not have been the most progressive figure, but he’s certainly someone who should be remembered as an effective leader, intelligent politician and, most of all, someone who made the country debate some seriously heavy issues. And our nation’s nothing without debate…