Jerry Falwell is gone, leaving a troubled legacy, and with him goes an era of monolithic fundamentalist influence on American politics.
The Reverend was a reliable foe of protecting the Creation. Just recently, he famously railed against the growing concern among evangelicals about global warming and environmental issues as a distraction from the “real” issues important to Christians like, you guessed it, homosexual marriage and abortion:
“It is Satan’s attempt to redirect the church’s primary focus . . . the idea is to divert your energies from the message and the mission and the vision of the church, to something less.”
Or, alternatively, one might interpret Falwell’s statement as an attempt to redirect Christians’ focus from an increasingly obvious problem that most everyone except he and others of like mind recognizes. Evidently, liberals like me are not the only ones who won’t miss his characteristically divisive message. In an interview with National Public Radio, one of the emerging leaders of the “new” religious right, Reverend Joel Hunter of the Northland mega-church in Longwood, Florida, tried to bring evangelical attention back to basics:
“The problem has become that we have paid so much attention to the human being in the womb that we have forgotten about the human being out of the womb . . . It’s become such a focus for some leaders that they don’t want to address the other pro-life issues, such as climate change, such as poverty, such as AIDS.”
To that I say: Amen brother. It reminds me of Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank’s statement some years ago that the policies and priorities of religious Conservatives suggest that they believe that “life begins at conception and ends at birth.”
It’s a relief to hear an evangelical leader — for a change — refocusing attention on the broader issues that any compassionate person, and certainly any thoughtful reader of the Bible, should be concerned about. Being “pro-life” should mean exactly that — concerned about protecting life in general. Pro-life should include protection for the diverse species that we share the earth with, and that support our own well-being. Protecting that life, the Creation generally, was, in the words of Reverend Hunter, “the first order we had when we got put into the garden: Cultivate it and keep it.” And pro-life should also mean protecting the quality of human life everywhere. By that definition, you can count me staunchly pro-life. And I vote my values.