Wednesday, May 16, 2007

More on Falwell-hatred

Actually, reading through this Falwell-hate post I linked to below, written by Washington Blade managing editor Kevin Naff (also available at the Blade site here), there's something in it that seems worth unpacking. It's not simply that he despises Jerry Falwell and toasts his death; it's that he indicates himself to be completely impervious to the possibility that he may be wrong to do so.

Naff begins by noting the tributes to Falwell coming in, and two of them stand out to me -- the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner.

Jackson described Falwell as having a “heart of gold,” even though Falwell was a rabid racist during the civil rights movement.
Even Tammy Faye Messner appeared by phone in an interview with CNN’s Larry King, telling him that she “broke into tears” upon hearing the news of Falwell’s death, despite years of animosity between them that began when Falwell stole the ministry founded by Tammy and Jim Bakker.
Now I am no fan of Reverend Jackson. But say everything what you want about overhyping his past glories, or his selling out of the unborn, or Hymietown, or his corruption, or his shakedown schtick, or the mistresses on the payroll -- it remains the case that Jackson saw King assassinated and he was at Selma. And even apart from those seminal moments, all black men of Jackson's age know hate from hate. Jackson has absolute legitimacy on the matter of the heart of a segregationist and Naff simply has no standing. It isn't rebutted by the fact of Falwell's having been a segregationist (which Falwell has both always admitted and always regretted since before founding the Moral Majority). And if a black man of Jesse Jackson's age and biography can find it in his soul to forgive Falwell for having been a segregationist and praise him as having "a heart of gold," then frankly who is Kevin Naff to say otherwise on those grounds, that he knows better?

I am more of a fan of Tammy Faye (see below), but some of the same points apply. Here's another part of her Larry King appearance last night.

KING: Jerry -- the surprise -- I mean, Tammy Faye, the surprising thing about that is you had some harsh things to say about Jerry Falwell. You were angry with him when he took over "The PTL Club." You have said things on this program not very nice about him. Why did his death hit you so hard?
MESSNER: I think I wish we could have cleared everything up. I wanted to talk to him and settle him -- and settle things with him. And I tried to do it many times and I tried to do it nicely. And I wanted just so badly to just give him a hug and say, hey, you know, it's all right. It's OK.
We're all human. We all make mistakes. Let's just start over again and -- and go forward from here.
Yesterday is yesterday. Today is today.
In both cases, Naff holds grudges against Falwell on grounds that the aggrieved parties themselves -- Jackson and Messner -- have put behind them and say do not matter now. If Tammy Faye can say she wanted to put the PTL brouhaha to rest, I fail to see why Naff gets to hold it against Falwell. Keep in mind who we're talking about here, in Tammy Faye. We're talking about not simply a camp icon, but a woman who has been at a half-dozen Washington Pride Parades, and a woman who said the following to Washington's gay weekly about male homosexuals:

I love them and they love me. It's just unbelievable. I've never felt such warmth in a group of people. That's the truth. ...
I feel like I'm a mom or a sister to most of those guys, I really do. They treat me like I'm family and that means more to me than anything could ever possibly mean. ...
[Y]ou've got to remember that PTL was one of the very first [Christian television shows] to help the gays. And I was probably one of the first ever to have a gay man on my show. ... We didn't turn anyone away. And I think the gays appreciated that. We accepted the gay community when most religious elements did not.
and this

MW: What would you say to the parent who does not want to accept their child as gay?
TAMMY FAYE: If they don't accept it I would say shame on them. When you're a parent you accept your child as he or she is. ... Your child is not you. ... I would tell that parent, love your child just exactly the way he or she is.
MW: What happens to the parent who won't acknowledge their child?
TAMMY FAYE: The parent loses.
You can fault Tammy Faye's lack of theological intellect, but she is about as pro-gay as a religious figure gets. Yet this gay newsman breezily blows off what she says about Falwell to indulge in his own Two Minutes of Hate.

I'm not saying that Naff or any other homosexual is somehow obliged to agree with Tammy Faye or Jackson. But one would nevertheless hope that an adult intellect would at least give a sign or two of thinking or having thought along the lines of "hmm ... maybe if Messner and Jackson are both paying tribute to Falwell despite their justified personal issues with him, I might reassess my own." In the best of circumstances, perhaps it could even occur to Naff (and I know he's not alone in having the kind of reaction he did) that Messner and Jackson are both Christians, both minister-evangelists, and yet one is a gay icon and the other has an impeccable record of progressive politics. Maybe there might be more to Christianity than right-wing "homophobia." And maybe the fact that forgiveness came to them despite the wrongs committed against them means there's more to the world that a Christian can see but I can't.

After all, it's not surprising that Naff wouldn't listen to Falwell (or me, probably), but if Jackson and Messner cannot make him reconsider his bile in the light of their contrary example and clear legitimacy ... who ever could? I know one should never write off anyone as irredeemably lost, but ...

Maybe something else Tammy Faye said in her Metro Weekly interview needs to be absorbed:

MW: So you’ve forgiven him [referring to Jim Bakker].
TAMMY FAYE: Oh, I forgave him long ago. I forgave Jim the day that our divorce became final. I forgave him for everything and went on with my life.
MW: How does one come to a state of forgiveness?
TAMMY FAYE: It's a choice. You ask God to help you and then you just make the choice. It's not worth living in unforgiveness. I have a saying that forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself. And I gave myself that gift of forgiveness with the help of God. I forgave everyone that hurt me. Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, I forgave all those people.
MW: But can gays people forgive a man like Falwell who has persecuted us so vehemently?
TAMMY FAYE: It's a choice, that's all it is. Forgiveness is a choice. And it's a choice you ask God to help you keep. It doesn't happen overnight. Forgiveness is an ongoing battle. And sometimes when I see Jerry Falwell my heart hurts. But then I say to God, “God I forgave him, I gave Jerry Falwell to you, you take care of him,” and then I'm okay again. So he's in God's hands, he's not in Tammy Faye's hands.
MW: Clearly forgiveness is an important component of your life.
TAMMY FAYE: Yes. It's the only way you can have true happiness because unforgiveness eats you up inside. It's like an acid and it will truly make you sick. I think unforgiveness has been more people's problem than anything in the world. Because when you see somebody you are angry at, your tummy tenses up, your blood pressure goes up, your fists clench, you go into a different mode. And that's not good for the body. So people should forgive just to save themselves.


Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, gays could be religious and would not be vilified by other gays. That time seems long past. There is hatred spewed by both sides, of course, both by gays who genuinely hate Christians and some putative Christians who voice real hatred for homosexuals. How have we gotten to this point? I am not sure. But it does seem that the misguided hate speech of some Christian leaders, including Falwell, led the way. And then many public gays just follow suit and return hate for hate. Somehow, the cycle has to stop.

aaronjasonsilver said...


I find it to be a very sad irony that Yolanda King, the daughter of the great late Martin Luthor King dies and gets very little press while one of the most divisive and dangerous people in our country gets praised in the news for all of his perceived achievements. You cannot find a channel that is singing his praises. I found a short paragraph announcing her death.

Yolanda King was founder of Higher Ground Productions, which was to promote peace, unity, and Global transformation. Her mission in life was to unify people by using words of inclusiveness rather than words that promoted hate and discrimination as did Jerry Falwell. Many believe as I do that his words are responsible for the justification of gay bashing, abortion clinic bombings and murders of workers within Planned Parenthood clinics and the discrimination of anyone that didn’t share his views. It is a sad commentary that most of our politicians when running for president got to him for his holy blessing as if he were Jesus Christ himself. Any perspective candidate that would show such an interest in wanting any kind of association with this devil in sheep’s clothing would certainly not be worthy of my vote. When we will begin to celebrate those that clearly indicate the desire to bring the peoples of the world together regardless of their race gender, sexual orientation, race or religious beliefs rather than those with the clear intention of disenfranchising those that don’t? Thank you, Aaron Jason Silver

CourageMan said...


I don't see the equivalence on two counts.

(1) I don't think that resisting the contemporary gay agenda is "hate speech."

(2) Christians need seriously fear legal penalty for their (let us stipulate) "anti-gay speech" under hate-crime and discrimination laws. Gays lose nothing from hating Christians.


Whatever one thinks of their respective ideas, Yolanda King had nowhere near the public prominence of Jerry Falwell. As a matter of news coverage -- minutes, inches, columns, etc. -- I think this disparity is justified. And I certainly don't think it could ever be dejustified by the notion that you (or me, in principle) may prefer the content of her teachings.

Nicole Genevieve said...

CourageMan, between this post and your earlier one, you've completely changed my point of view on Tammy Faye. I never disliked her, mind you, but was just sort of ignorant of her beyond a vague notion that she was a very silly, campy lady. I have been humbled and corrected. Thank you.