Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What Tony Said

I was a little late in learning of Jerry Falwell's death, but when I heard the news I had mixed emotions. A little relief, a little sadness, a little nostalgia, a little shame that I had felt relief...
I recall my dear dad, lifelong Baptist deacon, theological and political conservative, perplexed-and-distressed-with-me father, teacher, kind and gracious man, but always right too. No compromise. It was his way or the wrong way.
He LOVED Jerry Falwell and was very disappointed that I did not even consider attending Liberty University. ("Trust me, Daddy, I would NOT fit in there!") and I had to confess a moment of sadness. I am fairly certain that part of my father's distress that I left the Baptist fold, and that I later went to far as to think I could preach...well, I'll just say that I think my father and Jerry Falwell were very much alike. That means, that like my beloved parent, he could make me want to yell, but it wasn't all bad. Not at all. Many of the concerns he had are concerns I have too.

We watched Jerry on television quite a bit. I'd think to myself, "Man, what a pompous guy!" (I once said that out loud to my dad. Never again did I make that mistake.) And then, he would say something that would seem right. I found it confusing. More than once, in later years, I'd hear of something the Reverend Falwell said and would think, "Jerry, for crying out loud, would you please just SHUT UP! You are giving us a bad name."

Fellow RevGal poster, Deb, over at Another Unfinished Symphony expresses my thoughts. I recommend you read the whole post, but she says, among other things, "Somehow, somewhere, I pray for a gentler, honest voice on the issues he has raised. A dialog of listening, writing and accepting that people can differ in their opinions and still respect each other. Without being cocky, self-righteous or overconfident that one is always right... that would most definitely be my desire... so the learning and the listening and the heart of prayer for God's peace and right-ness starts with... ME!" (Italics mine.)

Well said, Deb. Thanks for expressing so many things that I was just beginning to form thoughts about.

As for "what Tony said," I'm talking about Tony Campolo. I love that guy, even though he is a bit more "liberal" than I am on a few issues. Tony graciously commented, in an interview I saw yesterday on PBS, that in spite of their well-publicized differences, he and Jerry basically agreed theologically. As always, Campolo was direct and articulate. He added, and I paraphrase, "It was the working out of the theology which took us in very different directions."

But do you find it a bit frightening that this should be the case? I do, and I think that is one more reason to be...well...confident and principled and perhaps even outspoken...but never to be cocky, arrogant, or rude. No name calling. No finger pointing.

Jerry, enter in to the joy of the Lord. I hope you've met my dad. And I'd sure like to hear a bit of the conversation between you and Jesus.


LoieJ said...

My kids say I always have to be right. Nevertheless, I've run into enough examples of situations/ideas where my interpretation, even literal interpretation, of something that someone told me or something that I read, was WRONG. It is a good lesson, and humbling, to know that I'm not always right. And that makes me humble about Bible interpretation. Which doesn't mean that the Bible isn't right, but interpretations and application can vary.

There seem to be enough preachers (ie Christian radio, on TV, etc.) that I've heard who come across with this air of "I'm RIGHT" that I do wonder, do they really think they always are right or interpret rightly. OR.... is this way of speaking a kind of culture, as genre, so to speak, that doesn't really reflect their heart.

Do they ever doubt themselves? Do they really think that God speaks to them so directly? Does that mean that they think that God doesn't speak to other people too?

Some Christian acquaintances of mine often come accross as though they are "checking out" another's faith. But I been told to try to put a more positive interpretation on their expressions: they are sincerely concerned about the spiritual welfare of others and have been taught that it is their duty to evangelize.

I think Falwell was sincere. And obviously strong in his beliefs. I sincerely hope that he also didn't turn people away from Christ. I sincerely hope that he did prick the conscience of some people who needed to look in the mirror.

Iris said...

One of the many, many things that I love about RevGals is that we get to be in dialogue with women (and a few men!) across the theological spectrum. See, I love Tony Campolo, too, but he's a bit too "conservative" on a few issues for my taste. I guess that puts you and me at different places theologically (at least on a few issues,)but all that really doesn't matter to me because I have a relationship (cyber-relationship?) with you and consider you a sister in Christ.

My main sadness with those of Falwell's ilk is that any disagreement is grounds for writing another Christian off as apostate, or worse.

Thanks for this post. It is full of grace- as are you!

Anonymous said...

Well said, SingingOwl. I concur wholeheartedly.

Ruth said...

I'm grateful that Jerry is with the Lord. I didn't always agree with him but I never really doubted his love of God.

I find it interesting that various people and groups that he was quite caustic about tend to be very gracious in their word choices in extending their condolences to his family. I am quite proud of those who are doing so.

Deb said...

Found a great quote that fits BOTH sides of this discussion (for those who insist that the OTHER side is prejudiced...)

"The most prejudiced people in the world are those who think they are unprejudiced." --Peter Kreeft

Yup. Boy howdy. Gonna have to blog on that one!

Thanks for the link! Ya'll come visit! :)