Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Falwell Legacy

Jerry Falwell died this week. He leaves behind quite a wake. Depending upon whom you ask he might be God’s finest emissary or just a caricature of the quintessential radio evangelist raising money on one hand and hell on the other. There is no doubt about one legacy he leaves, though. It’s not entirely of his making, but he has certainly had a hand in maintaining one of the world’s oldest prejudices – homophobia.

Locally, a private university just this morning announced that it would allow same-sex domestic partners of its professors access to health care and other fringe benefits. As part of the announcement, they mentioned that they would not make the same concession for unmarried heterosexual partners. As this town is also the home of Central Baptist College – Jerry Falwell’s alma mater – Bible Baptist College, Evangel College and the national headquarters of the Assembly of God, there will no doubt be much hullaballou about the “gay agenda” and the issuance of “special privileges” for gay and lesbian partners. (Never mind that the straight couples could be married if they so chose, but that the gays couldn’t.)

Nationally, the news is that the issue is heating up again in Massachusetts because two judges there ruled that as the state has a civil union law for gays, it must also recognize the New York marriages of gays who might chose to move to Boston. Even in Massachusetts, the home of the Kennedys and one of the last strongholds of Democratic sway, people have a hard time accepting that their gay friends and neighbors ought to have the right to the same quality of life that they enjoy.

This is largely thanks to the kind of religion that the Right Reverend Falwell and his ilk preach. (I almost said practice, but the fact is, of course, that homosexuality is just as common in those circles as it is anywhere else. It’s just more stringently repressed and denied.)

It will be a bright day for all religions and all peoples of the earth if the strict interpreters of the Bible and other such holy texts ever decide to pay attention to everything their manuals say instead of picking and choosing the verses they choose to use against their fellow man as Falwell and his sort do. If the church had had its way, we would all still believe that the universe revolves around the earth and the earth is flat. Such assertions are dropped because our evolved body of knowledge leads us to understand that conservative authorities often strive to maintain control by denying progress. It is high time that we recognized the effect of that process on our thinking with regard to sexuality.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. – M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored. But
in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace - BR

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