Friday, May 18, 2007

birthday parties, films, the troops and falwell

Today is our younger daughter Abby's 18th birthday. Happy birthday, Abby! We had the family meal on Wednesday, at a superb restaurant in Statesville, North Carolina (Mayo's). She had the party/meal with friends (15 of them) last night. And tonight she took her birthday balloon to the spring youth retreat. Abby has successfully turned her birthday into the great three days!

Our older daughter and I attended a Carolinas Showcase Filmmakers Evening at the Light Factory in Charlotte last night. We saw approximately two hours of short films, ranging from three minutes to fifteen. My favorite was one made here in Charlotte, entitled The Great Pumpkin Wall. It was about ritual, friendships, community, having fun, and having a hopeful vision. I enjoy attending events like this on occasion, in part because of the amazing creativity that people invest in their projects. And I often consider how I can follow their examples in the weekly creation of the sermon.

My insight today, about the war. Based on my conversations with a number of military families, and their contact with their loved ones serving in the military, I think the message most of them want to be sent to them is that 1) there is a timeline to end the war and 2) there should be benchmarks to show progress.

Jerry Falwell died this week. He was my brother in Christ, and we probably shared more Christian beliefs--including the main one, the bodily resurrection of Jesus--- than he might have imagined, not that he would have been interested, and not that he would have necessarily included me in the One Body. Falwell did have a poisonous effect on American political life, and as a fundamentalist he shared many of the same traits that fundamentalists of other religious traditions espouse: a hardened edge toward those who are different, an unwillingness to learn from others, and a sharp critique that generalizes and stereotypes people into categories, with an absence of humility or accountability to others.

Having lived between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, Virginia, I understand something of Falwell's vision of Liberty University, and assume that a part of that institution's birth was the exclusion of his constituency from the old schools of that area (William and Mary, UVa, Hampton-Sydney, Randolph Macon, Sweetbriar).
I asked the noted journalist Edwin Yoder of the Washington Post about this one time, and he did not disagree.

Sadly, Falwell assumed an almost total identification of Christian identity with conservative political affiliation. That he gave his support to a presidential candidate who had little interest in attending church, and not the other candidate, who has taught Sunday School every Sunday for the past few decades, is an indication that the matter might be more political than religious, more Caesar than Christ. Readers of this blog will know that I am all for Christian participation in politics, but I am convinced that following Jesus puts at us odds, at times, with views on both sides of the aisle.


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