Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Death of an Evangelist...A Sign In The Sky...And Much Work To Be Done--Wednesday Journal

At hearing of the death of Oral Roberts yesterday, I was reminded of a personal anecdote.

True story, May 15, 2007. Jerry Falwell had just died.  Mark and I were driving to the store.  It was a bright early evening, with the sun bursting through a few purple clouds that had gathered in the west....It had just rained briefly....And in the sky, as though a gentle sign from somewhere...a rainbow had appeared.  It beamed like a smile, telling us that, yes, we both had a welcome place in the world.

I hope a rainbow shines soon for today's victims of hate and fear....

Falwell founded the politico-religious Moral Majority. He was an outspoken homophobe with an influential pulpit and a receptive following. He blamed the 9/11 tragedy on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians … the ACLU (and) People for the American Way" .

Falwell is credited for appealing to deep-seated, emotional, "values" issues like teaching evolution in schools, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights, and turning these into the key planks for an electorate that had once voted along more practical lines, and helped to elect George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

Roberts' homophobia seemed not as pronounced, but was nevertheless there.  A notorious video from 1986 shows Roberts trying to explain the "error" of homosexuality  from a purely biological perspective:  “Look at the orifices of the body, the openings of the body. Certainly you can’t put the male organ, or the woman's tongue in the eye. … Certainly not in the orifices of the nose, or the navel.”

There were some somber bits on fellow blogger's Blue Truck Red State page, including  a story about an emerging anti-gay law in Rwanda.  Uganda's recent law, prominent in the news of late, calling for the death sentence for gay people, has been almost universally decried by Western leaders and perhaps toned down...but it has not been eradicated.  

And yet, I have to find some positive good....Washington D.C is closer to allowing same-sex couples to marry. There is still a battle ahead, but at least the issue there has not died yet. 

To those who have devoted their livelihoods to speak out for human rights and against hate and homophobia, I applaud you.  You have a big job ahead of you...and if I can convince some to help effect positive change with my words,  I will gladly stand with you as I write...

Side Note: A documentary film version of Thomas Franks' book "What's the Matter With Kansas" is playing in Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center next week.  The book was an insightful look into the way voters, mainly in the heartland, started to support these "values" issues and vote against their own self-interests. 
It was a poignant, scary, and I think essential piece of work.  Look here for a review of the film in the weeks ahead.


  1. Nice post, Tom! It was because of people like Falwell and Roberts (and other such "religious entertainers" as televangelists basically are)that religion never took root in my life. I can't say I am sorry to see them both gone. Despite whatever good they did in their works it probably paled by comparison to what they received in return.

    You know, most people that claim to see a 900' Jesus who speaks to them and says to build a huge medical center because it will be a success (which it wasn't)get tossed in a psychiatric ward. I guess it's a good thing he didn't say it was a 1000' vision of Jesus. Some things are just too crazy, even for evangelicals.

    People will say that Robert's death is a grave loss (including my mother, who is a long-time fan) but I think it's just the end of another chapter in the long and sad history of religious persecution by right-wing religious fanatics.

  2. Tom, I'm glad you continue to visit me and follow my winding road down different paths. It is great to have your thoughts here.