Last week I posted a video clip of Jerry Falwell in 1998 delivering a sermon about the potential apocalypse of Y2K. In the clip, Falwell tosses off a weird aside about how he used to teach billy goats to “do what they’re best at.” It was a funny clip, especially out of context. In a similar vein I had prepared another clip, from the same series of sermons. In this clip, Falwell means to be talking about natural disasters, but he goes off on a tangent about boxing:
Again, a funny clip, especially out of context.The first clip has been viewed several thousand times (helped no doubt by its mention on BoingBoing). I was pleased so many people watched the video, but I was unprepared for the kinds of comments people left on YouTube. A few were innocuous, a few were clever, but most were simply hateful. Far more hateful than anything Falwell himself ever said. And that’s saying a great deal, considering Falwell was a close-minded bigot peddling fear and willful ignorance based upon an uninspired and incompetent interpretation of the Bible.But the things you people said. They were just mean. Whereas my clips are examples of ironic juxtaposition (say, a homophobic preacher revealing that he likes to watch big sweaty men “get with it” in the boxing ring), the comments on YouTube were spiteful, vengeful, and punctuated extremely poorly. Most were gleeful that this man had died. And most wished that in death, Falwell was due for worlds of pain, usually involving hellfire, and usually involving defilement by one or more farm animals.
I deleted the offensive comments and closed off the page to any more comments.
I don’t see this as censorship so much as good taste. However poor his grasp of biblical scholarship, however provincial his worldview, Jerry Falwell was, I believe, at heart a decent man. By all accounts he was not a moral hypocrite, as so many other famous televangelists and preachers have turned out to be. So, I say, it’s a case of hate the sin (ignorance, antisemitism, xenophobia, etc.) but love the sinner.
And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t believe in either heaven or hell.