Ray Garman - Written & Spoken Words

Obituary for the Reverand Jerry Falwell
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An Obituary for the Reverand Jerry Falwell
  by RF Garman
  Copyright 2007 RF Garman 

A long time ago, a friend said to me, “Everyone’s starts out a liberal until they get raped by reality.”


I hadn’t thought about this in quite a while until the other day, it came to me while reading of the passing of the Reverend Jerry Falwell.


I never met the Rev. Falwell, in fact, for the vast majority of my life, I went out of my way to avoid him.  More than just the 20 years of age difference, more than just our traveling in very different circles, the Rev. Falwell was, to me, and most of my friends and colleagues, the face of the enemy.


My reading of his departure brought up feelings and thoughts, flashbacks of marches, of arguments of protests and profundities propounded within a self-assured and smug liberal tribe filled with our own hubris and conviction.


It’s not that I have become a conservative, though I do believe I’ve had my fare share of reality raping.  But, over time, I grew to appreciate his steadfast and consistent nature.  He believed in what he felt and his faith was not skewed by fact, fiction or form of popularity.  He just was and for that, I have admiration.


In a way, my life has followed his, in oppositional step, but always through the various johnie-come-latelies, the flash-in-the-pan stars of the moment in the post-New Deal conservative uptick that has marked my experience of society, there has been the Rev Jerry Falwell, standing strong amidst the currents and flux of popular culture.  Though some point to his inflexibility and his dogmatic perspective as a negative, they do so with a qualitative sense of value and meaning.  Their reaction, determined by the disagreement, as opposed to the man himself fails to respect the commitment to perspective of the courageous.


The Rev. Falwell was a man who took a position, meant what he said, and then did what he said he would do.


And at times, I think I actually hated him for it.  Even now, my first reaction upon reading of his passing was a not so honorable flutter of my heart and a quixotic quote from the Wizard of Oz.  “Ding, Dong, the wicked witch is dead.”


The second wave, hitting me after digesting the shame of the first, the recognition of my own admiration for a man who left his mark, who showed his conviction, who led his people into the arena, rather than hiding from the engagement.  It is a conviction and belief and form of faith I could not find or learn from my own religious experience and practice. 


The Rev. Jerry Falwell was “Other”, to me, in the very real Weberian sense.  And for this, I must hold my head up high and say, there passes, a noble adversary.


Over time and consistently avoiding the jaded expectations and negative commentary, slur and supposition, he just did it, every day, and in accordance with his faith and values.  Though I did not register on his radar screen, he did on mine and every other American’s, irrespective of whether we agreed or disagreed with him.  That is true impact and worthy of a healthy dose of respect.


The Rev. Jerry Falwell made us think about our position.  He was more than just a polarizer of opinion, he was a kind of Ken Kesey “Merry Prankster” of the Right with whom we all, necessarily, had a relation.  He required us to think and answer to the hard questions asked, often though, inconvenient and unwanted as they were.


The Rev. Jerry Falwell had relevance to each American’s life, whether we wanted him in our life or not.  The Rev. Jerry Falwell was, a man of action, a man of conviction, a man of God, perhaps different from many of our own sense of God, but, nevertheless, he was a man in relation to a God.  


It’s not the rape by reality that let’s me say these things of the man I once considered the presence of the devil in religion.  But rather, the commitment with which I strive to live my own life, was lived by him.  If I am true to my own beliefs, I must therefore, respect him in his own.


The world will be slightly worse off for the loss of the Rev. Jerry Falwell.  God, whether it be my God, his God, or the God of Allah, will be slightly better of for the arguments and differences the Rev. Falwell will surely create. 


I mourn the passing of an enemy, the passing of a great man, no matter how wrong, I think he was. 


I am, and continue to be, though I don't always understand why.