Sunday, 20 May 2007

Falwell's Legacy

There’s been a lot of talk in the past few days about the legacy of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who died last week.

Most of us have heard of Falwell – the prominent hard-right US conservative who blamed “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians – who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle – the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America” for contributing to the September 11 terror attacks. I can respect his commitment to his beliefs, even if I respect little else – Falwell once supported segregation, and said some really intelligent things like, “Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions” and, “AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals”. Like me, Falwell was passionate about the role of spirituality in politics. But his vision was frightening, and best demonstrated by this quote: “The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country”.

It got me thinking about what our role – as Christians – should be in the political forum. I found this quote by the Catholic Bishops, which to me summed it up perfectly – our faith should be “principled but not ideological, political but not partisan, engaged but not used”. If we join church and state, as Falwell would have us do, we kill grace. We become the Pharisees, we become rules and regulations. We cannot give voice to the powerless and the dispossessed, because they are now under our power and we have dispossessed them. We play politics rather than speaking truth. We give up intelligent, lively, truth-seeking debate for party lines.

The death of Falwell made me think about the other prominent hard-right public figures – Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Fred Nile – and it struck me that they’re getting older. I don’t doubt they have young men and women in the wings being groomed to take their places – but it does give me hope that maybe our generation can be engaged – really engaged – in ways that matter. I suddenly caught myself humming the John Mayer tune, “We just feel like we don't have the means/to rise above and beat it/so we keep waiting/waiting on the world to change/one day our generation/is gonna rule the population, so we keep on waiting/waiting on the world to change.”

One day our generation really will “rule the population”. Hopefully, it will be a new generation of switched-on Christians and non-Christians alike– and we have a big responsibility.


Cheryl said...

Finally a voice of reason in the Christian community. A breath of fresh air, there really are true Christians out there :-)

Emma said...

Thanks Cheryl!Glad you enjoyed the article.