The hardest thing about the death of Jerry Falwell is that my initial gut reaction was one I'm absolutely not proud of. The first thought that went through my mind was, "And don't let the doors of hell slap you on your way in."
As Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen said, "While our hearts go out to his family. we can't help but to reflect on his life and think about all of the families he's torn apart and teenagers that committed suicide because he made them feel inferior. He never missed an opportunity to kick our better angels to the curb and capitalize on our lesser demons to advance his career."
The gay and lesbian people in this country, in Jerry Falwell, had a vicious opponent who claimed that AIDS was "God's punishment," who fought vigorously to make sure we were denied any kind of legal standing with our loved ones, and who betrayed us when we approached him for a face to face meeting in Lynchburg -- withholding a promised meal (because he decided he couldn't eat with "sinners") and shoving the hateful Michael Johnston in our faces, the so-called exgay who was having unsafe gay sex orgies on the side despite his HIV+ status.
And yet, people who I respect, who were close to him, said he was actually a man of strong principles who did what he genuinely thought was right, and who wasn't simply a hypocritical shill. At the very least, I can hold some respect for people who say what they mean and mean what they say.
Sadly, from his beginnings as a confirmed segregationist (who later recanted) to the man who bitterly tried to cheat us of our civil rights before the law, Rev. Falwell mixed politics and religion and created a nasty stew of homophobic bigotry and hate.
Their side always said that they could "love the sinner but hate the sin." The question that I confront, as a person dedicated to non-violence of thought, word or deed, is whether I can do the same to a man I've alternately despised and outright loathed during his time here on earth.
I don't know if I can. And that's my burden to bear.
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