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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dr. Falwell, Five Years After

May 15, 2007 I was sitting in my office in Franklin TN. I was still in the mortgage business at that point. The industry meltdown had already begun but it wouldn't hit full stride for a few more months. I had no idea what was to befall me in just a couple of months.
I was doing some paperwork at my desk and the news came over the Internet that Dr. Jerry Falwell had died.
I had to read the ticker a few times to be sure it was correct. My Dr. Falwell? It can't be.
He'd had a health scare a couple of years before and we thought we might lose him then but he'd bounced back. Now he was gone. Suddenly in his office.
I was brokenhearted at the news. I sat there in disbelief and tried imagining a world without Doc. It was a hard thing and I grieved terribly. Then I did something I had never done before or since. I called a talk show.
Sean Hannity had always treated Doc with utmost respect and admiration whenever he'd interviewed him on what was then "Hannity and Colmes" or on his radio show. Sean had spoken at LU a few times and his wife was working on a Masters through LU Online. He was a good friend to Doc and vice versa. So I called Sean.
I was the first caller that day and Sean was gracious and vocal in his praise for Dr. Falwell. I told Sean I appreciated the respect he'd always treated him with, which flew in the face of the disdain that most media held him in. I told a personal story about Doc and thanked Sean again for the chance to champion my hero one last time and said goodbye.
Hanging up, I suppose I felt a little better because talking about a hurt usually helps. But the hole I felt was growing and I had more than a few tears. I knew where Doc was, without question, and I knew he was happy. But I saw this world--and in particular my country--in a different way now. Doc was the voice of good and right and decency and now he was gone. That was inevitable I suppose, but in that moment I couldn't think of anyone who would replace him. Nobody who took his mantle on their shoulders and advanced his vision and his cause. No clarion call for righteousness in this land.
The next year Barack Obama would become president and this country would slide into a hellish morass that deepens and worsens every day. It's not just's the school of thought that chose him as a candidate, and the dark spiritual attitudes that elected him. We had no clear voice to delineate between us and them. Doc's mantle lay there on the ground and Evangelicals sidestepped it like it was radioactive.
We have plenty of voices with loud enough tone to have become what Doc was. But nobody wants the job. Instead, Evangelical Christianity has offered us a hipster preacher who writes books about sex and preaches sermons about sex and drops crude words from the pulpit and when he does touch on sin he preaches with the typical reformists attitude that "God hates you AND your sin".
Or we have a gem of a fella who takes to the roof of his church in his bed, with his wife to make a point that the ills of the world are somehow solved through a better sex life.
Or we have a smiling lawn gnome in a huge church who doles out life coaching advice and calls it a sermon and nobody ever leaves his church feeling like they need to "get right with God" because the God he preaches about wants to get right with us instead. Or we have a "bishop" in Atlanta being paraded around on the shoulders of his men and wrapped in a fraudulent Torah and declared a king. This after a hush-money scandal involving sex with boys.
We have an entire cable network devoted to prosperity gospel charlatans who keep telling us how "it's a new season" and God's blessing and prosperity always involves financial gain.
Nobody wants to talk about sin and everybody wants to be popular. Nobody wants to take a not only point to the line in the sand but to dig in and BECOME that line.
In some ways I am thankful that God called Dr. Falwell home before he could see the turn this country was about to take. Because if his heart hadn't quit in 2007, it would have broken by now for sure.
I miss that man terribly. I miss his influence on a world that needs him. I dread the America my daughter will grow up in.
But beside the rhetoric and rancor...I miss him personally. I miss his impeccable speaking voice and cantankerous smile and his amazing ability to perfectly hate sin and the effects of sin on this land and this world, and yet perfectly love the people involved in that sin. That's a hard art to practice. You can't pull that off without a pure heart.
So five years later, and there remains a hole in where Doc had touched my soul and I've never forgotten. I wish I had a "Jesus First" lapel pin to wear in his honor today.
We miss you Dr. Falwell. This country sure misses you, the church misses you, and this "Jerry's Kid" missed you a lot this past week.

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