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No-shows at Falwell's funeral

After all the bloviating about Jerry Falwell, the late leader of the religious right is being dissed at his funeral by not only the GOP presidential candidates, but Bush, who’s sending a low-level functionary to the event — he won’t even send Darth Cheney… (AP):

U.S. Sen. John McCain isn’t planning to attend the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s funeral Tuesday. Rival Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani can’t make it, either.

Nor can former Virginia former governor and long-shot 2008 Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore.

While some Republican figures will attend next week’s funeral in Lynchburg for the founder of the Moral Majority, many will not. Experts say that even with a presidential election looming, it’s not a must-attend event – and there likely won’t be political consequences for skipping it.

…President Bush does not plan to attend, but the White House is sending Tim Goeglein, a mid-level aide.

Rex has some of his favorite Falwell quotes, including this howler about the Teletubbie named Tinkywinky who was the the subject of the reverend’s ire and paranoia back in 1999:

“He is purple — the gay pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle — the gay pride symbol. The character, whose voice is that of a boy, has been found carrying a red purse in many episodes and has become a favorite character among gay groups worldwide. … Role modeling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children. These subtle depictions are no doubt intentional and parents are warned to be alert to these elements of the series.”
–Outing the Teletubbies’ Tinky Winky


Columnist Leonard Pitts, as usual, has a spot-on effort — today it’s on Falwell’s single dalliance into true Christian behavior — a meeting in 1999 organized by Mel White of Soulforce between Christian conservatives and LGBT people of faith.

See how it the promise of bridging the gap went horribly wrong after the jump…

As gay observers condemned the gay delegation for its involvement and his fellow Christians excoriated Falwell for his, the two groups worshipped together and talked.

Falwell and the Rev. Mel White, leader of Soulforce, a group of gay Christian activists, said they organized the meeting out of a sense that the language between them and the groups they represented had become harsh, acrid, unChristian. If they could not change one another’s minds, they reasoned, perhaps they could at least change one another’s words. In the spirit of the moment, each apologized for hateful language directed at the other. It was a brave and moral moment.

In a column I wrote at the time, I warned both sides that, while it’s easy to stigmatize anonymous others, it would become a lot more difficult after they had spent time in one another’s company, gotten to know each other a little. “How,” I asked, “do you go back to being who you were and hating as blindly as you did?” The answer, I said, is that you don’t.

Pitts goes on to say that he was way too optimistic about the sincerity of these “Christians,” because as we all know, just two years later, gays and lesbians were quickly blamed by Falwell for the terrorist attacks on home soil. It has been a downward, antagonistic spiral by the religious right ever since, fighting hate crimes legislation, anti-discrimination efforts, marriage equality, and anything that would affirm the rights of LGBT citizens. 

With Robertson and a few others, Jerry Falwell presided over the rise of a Christianity unrecognizable to many of us who were raised in that faith. This Christianity’s moral purview was reduced to two issues: abortion and homosexuality. It had nothing to say about feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, helping the helpless.

Worse it was mean, smug and self-satisfied. The language of faith, forgiveness and forebearance became the language of demonization, marginalization and objectification – the language of us against them, particularly where “them” were gay.

That’s why the 1999 meeting seemed such a hopeful – and, more to the point, such a Christian – thing, the sort of thing you should be able to expect from men and women of God.

That you can’t says much about the Christianity Falwell helped create. In girding it for political warfare, he seemed to simultaneously strip it of the revolutionary love that is supposed to be at its core.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding