Jerry Falwell Deconverted on Deathbed!
While I was in the Galapagos the Rev. Jerry Falwell, as you know, walked into the funhouse mirror. (If you’re a Cocteau fan, you get this).
I was on the slower of the ship library's two incredibly slow computers when I saw the news. With my characteristic retraint and decorum, I turned to Richard Dawkins who was seated nearby and blared, "Jerry Falwell is dead!" As I've said before, I can be rather demonstrative - I get excited - and I meant to register surprise, not joy. Richard, however, glanced up from his laptop and gave me an incredulous look of gentlemanly astonishment, but merely asked, “What did he die of?”
Well, by now I was dying (if you’ll pardon me) to find out, but that wretched computer was so slow that I started shaking my head and laughing in frustration. I wanted to answer Richard’s question (let’s be honest, I wanted to be the one to answer before anyone else did), and here I was, still waiting for AOL News to load as if it were Godot. Richard, misinterpreting my reaction, leaned forward and teased, “And you’re not sorry? You’re not a very nice girl, are you?” That did it – I just cracked up, and I must have blushed right down to my fingertips.
“I am sorry,” I insisted. “I mean, I’m sorry that he was who he was, that he spent his life in this meaningless pursuit of nothing, and that there was no awakening or resolution – ”
“Precisely,” said Richard. “Well, I heard that he deconverted on his deathbed.” We both chuckled, and at this point, someone entered the library and announced the news. “Yes, Kristine just told me,” Richard continued to prod me, “with tears in her eyes!”
Well, let me say that I did shed some tears later – not for the man, Jerry Falwell, but for the person that he could have been. How dare he outlive the people that I care about who thought he was so wonderful. How dare he prey on gullible people who cannot see how dangerous this nutjob was and remains even in death. How dare he polarize this nation in such a disgraceful manner and push creationism in our schools and paranoia in our society. How dare he condemn to hell - and he did do so - anyone, including people of faith, who didn't believe his cartoonish superstitions. How dare he tell lies to children! Sean Hannity notwithstanding, someday this nation's grandchildren will ask their grandparents what anyone could have seen in this repulsive huckster.
Later that night, I was at Richard’s table [Edit: now I think this was wrong; I had dinner at Richard's table on Sunday night, and Falwell died on Tuesday. My memory is waterlogged, but at any rate, I was somewhere with a group including Richard] when someone asked how Jerry Falwell died. And if there was one moment in my life when I was ready with a clever answer, this was it.
“He had an attack where his heart should have been,” I replied.
I think that’s as good a diagnosis as any.
UPDATED: People forget Falwell’s legacy, the Moral Majority, who opposed women’s rights and equality, child abuse laws, and universal sufferage, and advocated the death penalty for homosexuality, and burned books and records. Want me to shed crocodile tears for Falwell? Sorry! Watch this video if you think that I should - it will show you of the birth of Christian fascism in America. I always knew Falwell would die; he is the one who didn’t think that he would, but he thought he would be snatched into heaven in the Rapture. I knew death would come for Jerry Falwell, since it comes to us all. May it come to Falwell’s dreams as well! May Falwell's movement die with him!