Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Goodbye, Reverend Falwell

With the news of Reverend Falwell’s death, I was shocked and dismayed. A plethora of strong feelings came abruptly to the surface as a result of the time I spent in my college years at Liberty University. As I scoured the net, I read many, many things about Jerry that were not very pleasant. That he and his entourage refused to tip waitresses in restaurants in Lynchburg. That he was a divisive force for doubt, grief and pain to many people. That he encouraged hatred towards others in one respect or another. That he bilked millions out of his followers to establish for himself and his family a lavish lifestyle. That he set himself and his followers up as a group which represented judgment rather than love.

I don’t know. Perhaps these things are true, perhaps not. I guess some of it depends on your own personal perspective of the man. One thing I did realize was that those who passed judgment upon him in their posts (on the ABC news message boards) did the very same thing that they accused him of doing. With that in mind, I posted the following message on those boards:

I attended Liberty University in the early 1980's. After I left, I was, in retrospect, disillusioned with my faith. I felt let down by what I thought would be an incredible faith-building experience which instead turned out to be (in my own opinion) an experience involving the rules of and traditions of men. I have been trying to work this out since I left- I still get the heebie-jeebies in large churches. I had hoped at some time to contact Rev. Falwell to clear the air. When I heard of his death, I prayed asking God to let Jerry know that I forgive him, and to gather, bless and love him wherever he may be. Jerry, I forgive you. Glenn Houtchens

The time has come for judgmentalism to end. One does not need to hold to Christian fundamentalism in order for God’s love to be shed abroad, like a candle on a lamp stand. One does not need to hold to certain denominational (Baptist) theological viewpoints in order to be able to tell right from wrong. Frankly, I have enough issues on my own plate (and I DO have issues) without having to worry about setting other people straight. There is a place for correction; a place for acceptance and love. Are these not both really different aspects of the same thing? May wisdom, discernment and humility guide our actions by the leading of the Holy Spirit of God.

Rest in Peace, Jerry. For good or ill, you have affected us all, and that’s something that not many people often do. I ask God’s blessing upon you as you continue your journey.

Glenn Houtchens

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