Monday, May 21, 2007

Reactions to Reactions to Falwell

Everyone, it seems, either loved him or hated him. On the fundamentalist side, there are tributes in a predictably hagiographical mode, along with complaints about the vitriol spewed by "liberal blogs". While some of the comments I've seen in such circles go beyond my personal comfort level, considering some of the things Falwell said when he was alive, I have to say: "What goes around comes around". Or, as Falwell's favorite book puts it: "....for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." For myself, due to some combination of principle and temperament, I cannot work up much of either a "dancing in the streets" attitude, nor a sense of great tragedy. We all die eventually, and if 73 is about ten years less than the lifespan we in the medically-advanced West have come to expect, it's not all that short either -- Falwell did, at least, make the Biblical threescore years and ten. But more to the point, he lived long enough to have done most of the damage he was ever likely to do, and to leave behind influence and institutions to carry on his "good work". So I don't see that his death does anyone much good (so to speak).

Meanwhile, on the "Christian Left", Jim Wallis gives an oddly ambivalent "tribute". To me, it reads like Wallis is doing his Christian duty to be charitable to Falwell, by finding something positive to say. He acknowledges what the two of them had in common: they both tried to bring evangelical faith out of the privacy of home and church; to get Christians to apply their values to the larger issues of the day. Where they differed is on exactly which issues, and on which side, they thought those values applied -- a fact that I think tells us something about the reliability of "Biblical faith" as a consistent or clear moral guide. Frankly, given the specific advocacies that Falwell took up, I'd just as soon he had remained cloistered.

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