Say Jerry Falwell in public and you’re likely to get a very negative and a very positive response. Let’s face it, he’s a guys people either love or love to hate. Most students here on campus do not care for the man and what he stood for but there are many outside our academic setting who have no problem with him or his message. Even within my own friend group there is a sharp divide. Many of my more conservative Christian friends think highly of his school, although not all, while others of my Christian friends feel as though he portrays a very negative image of Christians. This, I suppose, is an example of the so called ‘culture wars’ which have apparently ravaged our country lo, these many decades.
Growing up, I often felt like a fish out of water when it came to religion and social issues. I am, as many of you know, a Presbyterian but in Floyd County, Virginia that counts for religious diversity. The great preponderance of people in Floyd are Baptist, Brethren, of Church of Christ. We have one Methodist, one Lutheran (both in town), and two Presbyterian Churches (one in town). The very small Catholic congregation met, until very recently, in the basement of the Lutheran Church (how’s that for an historical funny?). I knew fundamentalism and the revivalist fever existed– how could I not being so
surrounded by them?– but they were things I never actively participated in. In short, I got to be the Conservative Democrat/Southern Democrat caught between the staunchly religious conservative right and the hippie liberal left (there are a surprising number of hippies and communes in Floyd County). Most of what I had to say, when I said it, rarely endeared me to either side for too long.
I remember one day in spring, during gym, we went out to play tennis. I was and am a poor tennis player but I was having fun clumsily whacking the ball around with a friend when I overheard the most startling conversation. Three of my classmates were walking around the court allegedly looking for their missing tennis ball. I was simply shocked and disgusted. They went on about the various ills of society. I learned that everything started to go downhill after the Civil War. Black people should be back in their proper place as slaves in the field for the white man since they were inferior and stupid to the white man (really funny in hindsight considering how these three were possibly the dullest tools in my schools proverbial shed). I’m afraid they didn’t use ‘black people’ either but I’ll let you guess at what they said instead. These three went on to tackle the issue of women’s suffrage and liberation. Basically, women just needed to get back in the kitchen and keep their mouths shut. Now, these three were not what you might call religious or devout in their actions and professions but they did go to church (their family churches, that is, which is an entirely different sort of dysfunction if you ask me). Their justification for these beliefs was simply that it was surely what God intended for them (their own cultural Christianity–and yes, I mean for that to be taken diminutively). These notions serve as a personal example of what many people find so objectionable to the propositions the ‘Religious Right’ puts forward for their political platform year in and year out. And while certainly not all, perhaps not most people in the Religious Right harbor sentiments exactly like that which I related it is often what people on the Left and the Religious Left fear. Although, Jerry doesn’t really need the help of these three ‘friends’ of mine to offend:
To be fair to the other side:
Those two videos express something of the different opinions expressed by those around me in my childhood. Fortunately, we were all able to enjoy the Jamboree and our beloved Bluegrass music!
But now, to lighten the mood, a personal and very lame joke:
“You know, it’s just so difficult to talk to the Religious Right. They’re never wrong! And don’t get me started on the Religious Left. They’re never around to talk.”