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Dancing on the deadman’s grave

I generally dislike politics intruding on the important and fundamental  events of our shared human existence, i.e. birth, marriage, death to name just a few.  To me, it seems like mercenary exploitation to further a personal political agenda of what should be a profoundly personal, even private occasion.

The death of Jerry Falwell sparked the most recent political machinations before his corpse had barely cooled. Dancing on the graves of dead men for political gain has become so commonplace that we expect it:

Like everything else that happens over the next eight months, the death of Jerry Falwell is the perfect opportunity for Republican presidential candidates to demonstrate their conservative bona fides and score a few sympathy points. Source

The various and sundry Republican presidential contenders will be stumbling over one another tonight — as they debate in South Carolina — and in the days ahead to curry favor with the religious right by expressing their sorrow at the passing of the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Source

I anticipated the South Carolina Republican Debates with dread.  Jerry Falwell’s death and the eulogies to his life in politics were going to dominate at least part of the debates, I just knew it. I was pleasantly surprised to hear moderator Brit Hume acknowledge that since the candidates had all released condolence statements earlier in the day, the debates that evening would not include any mention of Mr. Falwell’s passing. Halleluia!  I could kiss Brit Hume!

When I use the phrase, “dancing on a deadman’s grave”, it was meant in the figurative sense to describe an attitude of smug celebration at the death of an adversary.  One thing about my association with EtiquetteHell is that I’ve become immune to being surprised at the gauche antics springing forth from a base human nature. Who knew someone was politically stupid enough to organize an “anti-memorial” to Falwell complete with representative grave site upon which very stupid people danced?

A makeshift grave was surrounded by an assortment of signs, rainbow flags and teletubbies dolls at Castro and 18th streets.One signed read, “Falwell dies, but the rainbow lives.”At least one person danced on the makeshift grave. Source

Why are they stupid?  If you are going to politicize the death of someone, at least have the political savvy to not do something completely antithetical to your position thus undermining your political message and agenda.
And the “dancing” wasn’t limited to public demonstrations but also included many gleeful references to Falwell going to hell.

Atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of the new book, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night he wishes there were a Hell just for Jerry Falwell.  Source

Google “Falwell in Hell” and you’ll get over 60,000 pages including a new domain of the same name.

Hmm, sounds very…Fred Phelpsian to me.

Mr. Falwell’s funeral will be picketed by the members of Westboro Baptist Church whose leader, the “Reverend” Fred Phelps, condemned Falwell as a “corpulent, false prophet” who was surely burning in Hell.  WBC members have a nasty inclination to protest at the funerals of anyone famous including Coretta Scott King and Ronald Reagan but also any US soldier killed in the line of duty.  Waving signs and chanting of the deceased residing in hell, they are an abominably rude blot on civilized society.

A large part of my personal disdain of the WBC is their gross misinterpretation of Biblical scripture to justify their actions.  Hell, as Christians understand it, is a heinous final destination characterized by eternal damnation.  It won’t be fun in Hell at all.  The thought that anyone can end up in Hell should elicit profound grief and gravitas.  The woman in the photo below apparently thinks it’s great fun and humorous that people will end up in Hell.  I have to suppress a desire to slap that grin right off her face.  If she *really* believed someone were either going to Hell or was already there, there would be a grim face and tears streaking her face.  Going to Hell is no laughing matter.

Even worse, assuming to know who is destined for Hell demonstrates an arrogance as if one were in communication with God who is willing to share His information regarding the hearts of men.

So, if I despise the WBC for their mocking, politicized dancing on the graves of the dead, it’s consistent and logical that I will despise the mocking politicization of anyone’s death, Jerry Falwell no exception.

Michael Rogers wrote recently of his dismay at the stupid, rude, mockery of Falwell’s death he has been asked to participate in:

Within hours of his death, folks were saying “this is god’s punishment,” asked me to help publicize an “anti-memorial,” and one invited me to a “death celebration.” Forgive me for not jumping on the bandwagon, but these things sound too similar to the late evangelist’s tactics to be anything I care to be involved in.

God’s punishment? Isn’t that exactly the kind of posturing people slammed Falwell for? An anti-memorial? That sounds more like a Phelps reaction to the death of Matthew Shepard than one from progressive people.

A party to celebrate someone’s death?

I can’t believe some of the things I’m reading.

At times like this, why do people turn to the very tactics they are so swift to condemn in others? Isn’t this time to show how we are better than they are?

In light of our condemnation of Phelps’s funeral protests, I think we can do better here than predictable gloating.


Well said, Mr. Rogers.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Missy November 14, 2012, 3:52 am

    While I am not a fan of televangelists, I would never say or do anything as vulgar as that. A lot of people grieved for the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. WBC should be ashamed of themselves.

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