Dear Bereft Brothers and Sisters in Mourning:
Verily, I am crying as I type. You can imagine my shock in hearing that Reverend Jerry Falwell had been found dead, lying in a pool of his own gravy. First Anna Nicole, now Jerry. Frankly, the Lord seems to be on a fat, attention-whore killing spree! I’d stay indoors if I were Rosie O’Donnell. Well, on second thought, if I looked like Rosie O'Donnell, I'd be running through the streets screaming, "Here I am Lord! Come and get me!"
Gossipy paramedics told me that Jerry died of a faulty heart. Frankly, my only surprise was that he had one at all. Nevertheless, his yammering mug finally being silenced because he had a failed heart seems marvelously fitting. After all, while he was alive, this obscenely wealthy miser's heart seemed to fail him at even the most mundane opportunities. Jerry never gave anything to anyone other than an interview. Indeed, so parsimonious was this vain, oily swindler, in the aftermath of our nation's great tragedy on September 11, 2001, the only thing Jerry thought to give those who grieved was blame.
I first met Jerry when he swooped down on Heritage USA to pick Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's bones clean of any easily-liquidated assets and studio equipment. They weren't the first people to be trampled when Jerry smelled money -- or bacon. As I told Tammy at the time, it's downright suicidal to stand between Jerry and a working television camera. After all, Jerry was most TV talk shows' go-to guy when they needed the snaggletooth-hillbilly point of view, a notoriously un-telegenic demographic.
When CNN called, Jerry would drop everything except pounds for a chance to squeeze much of his face into unforgiving aspect ratio of pre-HDTV television. With his smarmy smile and affable facility for slapping a perfunctory "but I love him in Christ" at the end of even the most vicious, artless insults, he was rather effective in putting a charming, folksy face on demeaning other human beings and their children.
To us in the booming Christianity industry, Jerry was our Bill Gates, only he made his money marketing the actual bugs instead of the patches. So fleet was his ability to turn any sorrow or situation into an opportunity to tout the politics of self-satisfaction, he never seemed to get bogged down in all those many words Jesus blathered, long before America, when Christians were surprised to have a house, not disappointed not to have a beach house.
The Gospels were written with a canny eye to a crucifixion-crazy Roman government that jealously patrolled power. As such, they are rather careful to direct Christians not to meddle in government. Before you go and accuse Mr. Falwell of intentionally disregarding these Gospels, the jury is still out on whether he ever got around to reading any of them in between the all-consuming demands of both media and meals. In any event, Reverend Falwell's legacy is the marvelously cunning idea of having a democracy run by people who think only their voices matter. Perhaps, thinking "render onto Caesar" was simply a delicious admonition to pile more anchovies on a salad, Jerry, in helping to move America from republic to theocracy, rather deftly countermanded not only those troublesome Enlightenment Founding Fathers, but also that inconveniently socialist, pacifist called Jesus.
When it comes to people who distort Jesus' message of charity and austerity to make an enormous pile of cash from credulous people with televisions, I hate to speak ill of the competition. But it takes admirable courage and nimble logic to devote your life to issues Jesus completely ignored (abortion, global warming, tax breaks and homosexuality) while completely ignoring issues Jesus told you to devote your life to (love, charity, nonmaterialism -- and not getting divorced or devoting your entire life to being judgmental prick, I mean prig). Frankly, ignoring the worshipped is a wonderfully dexterous approach to worshipping. And what a streamlined, busy-girl-on-the-go approach to Christianity it is to slough off words Jesus said in favor of simply saying the word "Jesus" as your only sign of faith!
Believe me, you get more cash stuffed in offering plates and envelopes from the "Support our Troops" crowd when you turn a blind eye to the words of Jesus than when you turn a slapped cheek to the words of enemies. And speaking of enemies, Jerry's death calls for the one thing that fell most easily from his lips: that is, blame. (And I bet you thought I was going to write something about that time he tried to eat a whole jar of pickled-pigs-feet in one gulp!)
Frankly, I blame the homosexuals, abortionists, liberals, feminists -- and Hormel -- for Mr. Falwell's death. The Lord apparently lifted His mercurial veil of protection, saw how truly hideous this obese con artist had become and slapped the self-serving glutton into a place where his self-aggrandizing wickedness would go relatively unnoticed. After all, to Jerry, Hell will be any place without media attention -- and a buffet.
After Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, Jerry Falwell and sundry other greedy frauds, it's a wonder the Lord hasn't pulled the licenses on all of His American franchises. But the 2,000-or-so-year delay in the perennially postponed Second Coming (to say nothing of sitting out that whole Holocaust thing) proves that the Lord is in no particular rush to do much of anything. Nevertheless, even the laziest deity must grow increasingly exercised (and trigger happy) in the face of someone devoting his entire life to giving that God a bad name. So, let's face it: when the Jerry said the Lord had revealed to him that he was living in the Final Days, a follow-up question for more specifics might not have been remiss.
Who knows what final straw caused the Lord to reach down and finally wipe Mr. Falwell from the airwaves. I suspect the Lord's patience reached a breaking point while eavesdropping on Jerry's recent conversation with Christiane Amanpour. Jerry told that troop-hating, Rory Gilmore-flattering, liberal pawn of the Mainstream Media: "If I have 20 more years, I will be able to accomplish my vision." I suspect that was a threat of such certain devastation even a Lord who played canasta throughout Katrina was moved to act.
As for the final destination on Jerry's journey, well, who amongst us mortals is to say for sure? Well, me, of course. Indeed, I performed a fairly reliable exercise in prognostication during lunch, almost more out of genuine curiosity than any anticipatory gloating. I had my help try squeezing a mildly anorexic camel through the eye of a generously wide needle (I am, if nothing, a fair woman when wishing ill on others). Alas, the results of this messy undertaking did not bode well for dear Jerry.
So close to Jesus, I toyed with telling Jerry, "That's enough bacon, dear" the day before,
Mrs. Betty Bowers
America's Best Christian