The Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell, RIP
Like many others, I have deeply equivocal feelings over the passing of Dr. Falwell. It will take some time for them to settle down, I'm sure, and for a clearer perspective on him to emerge.
For now, though, there are a few things I can say of which I am reasonably certain:
He was a man who felt a strong moral calling and fought tenaciously for what was right as he understood it.
In doing so, he hurt many people who did not deserve it, creating enduring feelings of outrage and resentment, and misled many more. He did wrong while trying to do right, and too often, he himself was unaware of the harm he caused. Being unable to recognize that harm, he was also unable to repent of it.
In that respect, though, he was no better and no worse than you or I. We humans are imperfect creatures, every one of us. At our best, we strive mightily for what is good, but even at our best, we see imperfectly, and often fail mightily in the endeavor.
John Donne wrote that "...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." I do not presume to know what awaits us after death, but I hope and pray, as our Universalist faith assures us, that he will be cleansed of all imperfection and impurity, and restored to complete knowledge of and perfect union with the Source of all love, life and being to which, however imperfectly, he so zealously and faithfully devoted his life. Because if we who disagreed with him cannot in all sincerity hold up that hope for Dr. Falwell, we cannot in any sincerity hold it up for ourselves, either.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. ...
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Jerry. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.