Oh but it was an interesting time, the '80's. Dan White killed two men, in a government building in broad daylight, claimed junk food drove him to it, and a jury bought it. Iran took American hostages for over a year. Air Force jets patrolled over the critical military stronghold that is Marin County. Selective Service, phased out during the Nixon Administration in response to the politics of Vietnam, made a loud and controversial return. Presumably a contingency plan in the event of war, the New Drafyt became instead a shibboleth for right-thinking patriotism.
God got into the act too. After patiently waiting out thousands of years of undeniable socio-historical fact, He chose to judge homosexuality in advance of Judgment Day, presumably to trim that burgeoning agenda. In His infinite wisdom, He visited AIDS upon the world.
At the end of the 90's, the US was in the full grip of partisan politics, culminating in the impeachment of a US President, a Democrat, for behaving like a Republican. It had punished Iran's trangressions twice, first by selling weapons to them, then by pushing an Iraqi invasion out of Kuwait, effectively embarrassing their vaunted military forces on a global stage. A natural gas pipeline company, while turning itself into a global energy conglomerate, took a major role in shaping the ambitions of the next US President, apparently on the strength of money that never really existed.
God came around again, too. Co-opting the intentions of Middle East-based terrorists, he destroyed the World Trade Towers to highlight His concerns over gays, lesbians, feminists and liberals in the US.
God's role in our worldwide and national troubles, that is, as related to us by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who died this week of a heart attack.
There are already many reporters -- some even neutral in tone -- who will estimate the cultural force and political influence of Falwell's work over the last thirty years. There's little doubt that the man created a significant impact, and one that might well become a lasting legacy. But if you want to measure the effect of Jerry Falwell on the street, count how many people you find who want to celebrate this man's death -- quietly, perhaps, but celebrate nonetheless.
Count the people who want that feeling of the final word, to declare the disgust they feel for ignorance and hatred, tarted up as moral certitude and righteous conviction; for arrogance in claiming to know God's will; for showing contempt and condescension to people who do not follow at his insistence; and for using alienation and exile as tools of dialogue. This is how Jerry Falwell did business, preaching to the converted and kissing their asses relentlessly by simply dismissing everyone else.
If Don Henley's words are true for all of us -- the more I know, the less I understand -- then the Reverend Falwell knew just about everything. I look at this death as hope, a chance to discard this ridiculous machine of self-stylings of personal moral codes wrapped in religion and dressed as spiritual awakening, and ask once more what makes us all human. More about our strengths, our fallibilities, our inner workings, the means by which we can better understand each other. And less crap about turning the veneer of gospel into a cash empire of politics and so-called moral policing.
Don't just go away, Reverend. Please, stay away. You've had your turn, and we've had way too much of it.