And I've been thinking of my own coming of age. More on that in a later blog though.
So little wonder then that my thoughts return to this in transference and reflection of Rev. Falwell's death last week.
I say this because I believe there to be a direct correlation between my path and Rev. Falwell's path. How so, Holy? you ask. Well, even though he was the quintessential televangelical Christian heavenbent on righting the moral wrongs of this nation, and I am not any of those things except perhaps, quintessential insofar as my maiden name begins as such and my motherly role in life dictates a few moments of the latter ~ I was, nonetheless, a product of his time.
I came of age as a mother in a Teletubbies era and as a religious studies scholar in the penultimate years of Jerry Falwell's rein in the years of our Lord circa 2001-06 AD specifically.
I never got to meet Jerry Falwell but if I had, I would have admitted to him my overt fondness for Tinky Winky. He was a newer, purpler worldlier version of Barney and for that I rejoiced. Tinky Winky was also my son's fave-ola Teletubby. Wherever my son went, so too, did his purple, purse-toting, hip swinging stuffy. And it was all good. Still is.
Of course now that all's well with Falwell in his new afterlife (trusting he hasn't ended up in Teletubby land), I would presume he also probably has a newfound omniscience about us earthling creatures. So he probably also now knows that same said son of mine likes to walk around batting his eyelashes and affecting limp wrist poses while exclaiming, "Stop. the. car!...I like think I broke a nay ull!" And thus, the late great Rev. Falwell has now concluded that it was all because of Tinky Winky and that said son is gay. And he would be right. According to the earliest roots of the word in etymology online, my son is, indeed gay - as in, "full of mirth and joy; brilliant and showy."
But alas, I know it's a week late, but I confess I owe a debt of honour to Faretheewell Falwell, because his Teletubby rant was but one of a series of religious awakening moments I had in those early motherhood years that caused me to think seriously, for perhaps the first time, about disparate worldviews....(correct reading: disparate from mine) and how one's view about God can so shape one's intolerant attitude towards others.
My first reaction when I first heard his Tinky Winky rant was incredulous laughter. I wondered about the poor souls who took his Christian esotericism seriously. I mean, seriously...I was alarmed and I remember feeling a little unsettled and thinking, paranoia self-destroyer. And then I remember feeling pity, which is kinda pitiful, I know. Pity that such an abject fixation on human sexuality would and could cloud one's interpretation of a kid's show and more to the point, what it means to be one of God's creatures. And lastly, I remember feeling intensely fascinated and morbidly curious by the nature of Falwell's God, such that he really believed only a select few are saved.
Thus began the earliest inklings of my religious studies quest at a pivotal time, actually, in the history of evangelicalism. Many historians have noted the links between turns of centuries and millenniums, and increased millennialism and apocalyptic fervor. Some, such as Richard Tarnas with his Cosmos and Psyche book go further, linking planetary positions and astronomical cycles to political and social strife.
Liberal fears and right/left contentions aside, it's actually a very exciting time in the religious history of North America. Here we are in a a post-televangelist stage - with dead Falwells and near-dead Tammy Faye Bakers, Jimmy Swaggarts, and Pat Robertsons soon to follow. I say post because Falwell's death marks a deliberate passing of sorts and dare I predict, turning point.
There is such a wealth of theological constructs in Evangelicalism that I get why most are reluctant to be painted with the generic brush. I have one relative who is Pentecostal and another who is an End Time dispentationalist. Both would call themselves evangelical yet their worldviews are monumentally different.
Falwell sat somewhere along the same E line, sharing an unwaivering conviction, as most but the most doubting Thomas' do, about the infallible word of God as revealed through Logos and Jesus as living Word.
Modern media affords a glimpse into how these worldviews play out. Movies like The Apostle are a gripping character study of what makes the Prophet archetype so charismatic and compelling. And Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a great documentary, based on the book by Randall Balmer.
Along the Balmer lines, other scholars who study the eclectic fabric of America that is Evangelicalism include Mark Noll, George Marsden and Grant Wacker. For those who dare, Salvation on Sand Mountain is an unputdownable glimpse into the minds and lives of snake handlers. And I haven't seen Jesus Camp yet but I'm guessing it is an apt if somewhat scary documentation of what is the quintessential coming-of-age rite for Christian youth and leaders.
Which brings me back to the whole coming of age notion relative to Evangelicalism. With as many next generation Evangelicals and divergent paths as history is starting to give us ~ ranging from the fundamental, anti-ecumenical types to the mainline mega Churches who use The Secret and The Da Vinci Code pop cultural stuff to reel them in ~ I can't help but question: with all this fragmentation and religious disconnect wherein so few Christians can agree on what being a Christian means, where is the train actually heading?
Is this the golden age...or to speak eschatologically, is this the penultimate days before thine kingdom come?
And what would Falwell say now about Tinky Winky? Would he he call himself a Dipsy who lived a Laa-Laa land religious life or does he fashion himself more like a Po-et now, able to now see the creative One forest through the million trees?
And by one forest, many trees I mean this:
Religious people can only learn from this kind of philosophy (ie. religion pulls us apart but spirituality brings us together in love) if they go to the basic experience of the founder of their religion. And then they'll realize that Christ wasn't a Christian and that Buddha wasn't a Buddhist and Muhammad wasn't Muslim. These people were having the experience of unity consciousnesses and universal consciousness and they spoke of it in words. So if you're a real Christian, you should be listening to what Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount and then you are expressing the universality of spiritual consciousness.
Because if you claim that your religion is exclusive and that your God is exclusive, then how can that God manage the whole universe? We are one speck of dust in probably the junkyard of infinity and there are billions of galaxies with billions of planets and billions of solar systems. We should not diminish the magnificence of God by giving him a sexist male identity, an ethnic background, squeezing him or her into the volume of a body and the span of a lifetime and a regional geography. That's really not paying a pure respect to the magnificence of the Almighty.
So long story short, Falwell that ends well. Or Falwell ends in a well. Or end Falwell's well. Or well, that Falwell ends.
I'll let you choose your own ending.
Have a nice day. Namaste.