Jerry Falwell passed away today, May 15th, after being found unresponsive in his office at Liberty University.
While I know he was beloved and cared for by many, including his family, church, students and supporters, I have always felt he was a mixed bag of blessing and embarrassment for evangelicals.
Like any person who stands in a position of leadership, it is easy to take potshots at him. He stood out in a crowd of televangelists and Baptist preachers. He was unashamedly Republican, and a conservative one at that. He seemed to join Pat Robertson in the “GWB foot-in-mouth club” for his amazingly inept public statements. Yet at some level he was likeable and personable, like some grandfatherly relative who bumbled along and you could tolerate because it was “just how he was.”
“Jerry Falwell is a person you like immediately, up close and personal,” White says. “He doesn’t take himself seriously. He enjoys life. And even while he says some of the meanest things, it’s hard to not like him.”
As I ponder Falwell and people like him (such as the Chancellor of a certain Mideast seminary,) I truly don’t know what to think. Initially I either want to scream or throw water balloons at them…
But then I ponder and pray, and have a variety of emotions and thoughts…
As a woman called to the pastorate, they annoy me tremendously for their stuck-in-their-ways values and narrow views of ordination.
As a mother, I appreciate their concern for the rising statistics of teenage sexual experimentation, and their voice against literature and the arts which subjugate or devalue women and girls (call it porn, tweenerbopper music, or designer kiddie fashionistas, it ticks me off!)
Somehow, somewhere, I pray for a gentler, honest voice on the issues he had raised. A dialog of listening, writing and accepting that people can differ in their opinions and still respect each other. Without being cocky, self-righteous or overconfident that one is always right… that would most definitely be my desire… so the learning and the listening and the heart of prayer for God’s peace and right-ness starts with… ME!
The healing of the world does not begin in some far-off land that we must hasten to help, but in the geography of your own heart. There the sinner is washed in mercy and becomes thereby an instrument of mercy, not merely by his prayers, but in everything he does. For he is a vessel of grace. We cannot heal all the world’s problems, but we begin with our own heart if our help is to amount to anything.
I have not gotten this all figured out, but I know that I know I have much to learn…