Tuesday, May 15, 2007

As a Universalist, I believe

that the Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell is in heaven now, or wherever it is that the power commonly known as God welcomes human souls which have left their human bodies and teaches us the things we couldn't learn in our earthly life.

I'd like to think that a kind Father or nurturing Mother figure has little Jerry on his/her knee and is gently showing him how his life could have been more loving, more compassionate, less greedy, less judgmental.

But I don't have an afterlife figured out that definitively. The farthest I'm willing to go is to believe (and I could be wrong, but I won't know till I get there) that we will rise to a new level of understanding when we die. I rather imagine that I will learn that I have been both right and wrong about a few things and my understanding will be purified and expanded. Don't ask me what happens next, because I haven't gotten that far.

If I'm right about this one, I hope that one understanding I (and Mr. Falwell) receive(s) is that all of creation is good and has its reason for being. Because there are things and people I dislike as passionately as Mr. Falwell and I need to be taught that all creatures have their place in the choir. Thank you, Bill Staines, for your song, but I'm having a hard time with the porcupines in my life and I want to do better.


Anonymous said...

I attended a Baptist funeral this winter and one of the hymn selections was In the Garden. When I heard that Jerry Falwell had died today I immediately thought that he must have gone to the Garden.
Have you read Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg? It's a funny book about an older woman who passes away and her experience in Heaven. Although I have no clear notion of Heaven, I found the book to be strangely thought provoking and fun at the same time.
According to the book we each experience Heaven in a way that is unique. That's why I assume Jerry Falwell is in the Garden now, with Jesus. May he rest in Peace.

LinguistFriend said...

I find it hard to think that the memory of JF is really important.
But the general problem of death and an afterlife is an important idea. Whether or not one believes in an afterlife, the concept is powerful. When I realized that Pagels' main popular books were sequentially dealing with problematic aspects of the Christian tradition (e.g. the diversity of early Christian belief, the terrible mess that Christianity makes out of sex, the christology of John versus that of the synoptic gospels), I almost wrote her suggesting that a volume on the problem of death and how it was dealt with by Jews and early Christians would be useful, and even therapeutic for many people. But other books scooped that idea and she has abandoned the field to people such as Bart Ehrman. That book about death, more readable and less constipated than the scholarly tomes, would still be an important contribution, but maybe not a best-seller.

fausto said...

I'd like to think that, if there is indeed an afterlife, Dr. F spent much of the afternoon standing at the Pearly Gates answering St. Peter's question, "Yes, but did you ever do anything wrong?", and that after St. Peter let him in, his welcoming committee consisted of fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson, ACLU founder (and Famous UU!) Roger Baldwin, and Humanist philosopher/socialist troublemaker Corliss Lamont.

And, as an acquaintance on Beliefnet.com wrote, that of the "many mansions" in his Father's house, the one assigned to him has a Tinky Winky lawn ornament in the front yard.

ms. kitty said...

I love it, Fausto.

Thanks to all of you.

Joel said...

Yours is the first blog post by someone on the liberal side of the line that has been charitable and gracious about Falwell that I've seen yet. I wish the blogosphere had more like you.

The vast majority of them seem to be hoping that there's a hell, just for the pleasure of frying him. He irritated me too (I cringed whenever he held a press confereence), but I don't think he deserved the level of hatred directed at him by his political opponents.

Joel Monka said...

I've always thought JF to be an example of the good that religion can sometimes do. By his off-the-cuff responses, clearly his nature was nasty and vindictive- yes his reasoned responses and his church programs were not. To me, that signifies that his religion was the moderating factor in his life, that he was consciously fighting his darker nature.

As to an afterlife, I have no firm convictions- other than the utter faith that if I have made myself truly worthy of this life, I need have no fears about the next one. The Devine does not deal in small print and trick clauses!

Joel said...

By his off-the-cuff responses, clearly his nature was nasty and vindictive...

(other)Joel, I don't think he was even that. He was certainly short of tact, but he insisted on speaking what he believed were unpopular truths. When he said a particular kind of sinner was doomed to hell, he wasn't happy with the fact. he didn't gloat about it. His purpose in speaking was to try to convince such people to change their ways. It seldom worked, I'm afraid; the flies/honey thing holds true. But I think his motives were good ones.

Oh, and Sara, thanks for mentioning that book. I love Fannie Flagg, and I haven't even heard of that one. I'll have to keep an eye out.

PG said...

Joel, I never got the sense that Falwell's comments about America having lost God's protection due to the feminists and homosexuals -- and thus 9/11 could have been prevented were it not for them -- to have been a sincere attempt to get people to change their ways, or to lack a gloating tone. In my experience, a genuine Christian realizes that we all are sinners and certainly does not single out particular groups as being the ones to bring divine wrath upon all our heads. Frankly, Falwell's understanding of Christianity, at least in those off-the-cuff comments, often came across as infantile.

Chalicechick said...

I'm trying hard not to speak ill of the dead here, so I didn't respond initially, but yeah, PG's impression was also mine.

I'm fascinated by what Joel Monka had to say and am still chewing it over.