Tuesday, May 15, 2007

a better place

Jerry Falwell left us without ceremony today, his rapture didn't come as he constantly predicted it would. He lived his life as though it was happening already, looking downwards from his grand perspective on the feminists and faggots and heathens who ignorantly walked this world oblivious to the wrath and pain our almighty father, the creator, the infinite forgiver had in mind for us.

Shall I wax poetic on the blustery and impotent libel case brought against the wheelchaired pornographer? Should I recall the beautiful, inspiring words brought forth from him after the attack of September 11th? These were the public squalls of a spoiled child too sure that the other kids and most of the teachers were already on his side. Before that he was more inside, more insidious than that.

My argument with him goes back to my childhood when Reagan was running the states and Mulroney was coming to power up here. I followed the elections avidly at that age, though I admit I didn't understand most of the jargon used to pose arguments. It seemed strange to me that our conservatives were talking free-trade and fiscal responsibility and these other people, whoever they were, sounded like gospel preachers on the street corners who kept assuring me I was only going to heaven by taking their pamphlets and attending their dim sermons. The only regular type church I was ever exposed to was the anglican one my grandmother always made us go to around christmas time. I didn't ever hear much about politics there and to me they always seemed like separate types of organizations. You went to church at christmas and you yelled about the government for the rest of the year.

Falwell changed all that. I say changed, naturally the pulpit was a huge centre for political posturing right up until the industrial revolution, before that the pocket of history known as the Renaissance, before that the first Greek democracies, etc. There have always been ebbs and tides in the power of the church (of any denomination) mostly because the main centre of communication was the church and then the people. And then the church again. and then the people. then the church, I think, then after, the people were probably next...

Falwell changed how it was done in modern democracy. The evangelical christian movement stayed largely out of the political arena for most of it's existence. There were always deals to be made and done with landowners like the Catholic and Protestant church, the largest unions, the democratic and republican parties. Born-agains tended to stay out of it and left the world to it's own devices until Falwell activated a huge untapped base for Ronald Reagan. All of a sudden, the people most convinced that the End of Days will happen in their lifetime, most convinced that Pro-life means bomb a clinic or batter a doctor, the people who see the death penalty as reasonable all voted together in a spectacular bid to take the white house and the senate in one fell swoop. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but in fact it had been nascent for many years.

Falwell began his ministry in a small-time abandoned warehouse and used the medium of television for the first time to preach to many people at once across the country. Without him as a unifying force, evangelicals would likely have remained convinced of their own isolation and never come together in the political arena as they did under his leadership.

And here we are thirty years later. The FBI actually takes advice from abortion groups because they are so used to dealing with bomb threats and actual bombs. The climate crisis is a debate taking place instead of an action being undertaken because "god" has a plan. The world is supposed to be prepared for the final moments of humanity when all those who are righteous will be taken up into the sky and given popcorn and easy-chairs to sit in while they watch the slow burning and death of hundreds of millions of those who didn't know better. Will it remind them of Fox? Is perhaps Rupert Murdoch's true calling the desensitization of millions to violence so they will be able to stomach God's wrath taken out on their brothers? I don't know.

Falwell left a legacy, an uncertified university, a huge ministry, many lieutenants and Newt Gingrich. Can Ted Haggart take his place as a reformed gay meth-user? Hardly. Will James Dobson of Focus on the Family reign in the headless church under his own? Perhaps. Dobson is the most likely candidate, though Falwell's sons are certainly not immune to speculation about their current roles. (Daughters don't play well in these circles)

Today an unraptured man rejoins (hopefully) a loving maker who he genuinely thought was looking out for him and guiding him his entire life. I can't help but smile, certain that the angel relieving St. Peter at the gates bears a striking resemblance to Freddie Mercury, and that god is the single most compassionate, exhalted woman he has ever met.

Who shall it be to sail the christian ship towards the censorious and violent apex it so desires? We soon will see. The king is dead, long live the king.

1 comment:

Craig Sauvé said...

Fantastic post, a pithy eulogy.

'Tis true, Falwell's Moral Majority movement, which rallied all conservative religious movements together to lobby Washington, has changed the face of American politics. Think: the evangelical movement had very little say thirty years ago, now they decide the president.

I'm glad Falwell's gone.