Falwell was an infuriating character, and I think a lot of the anger that is coming out now from the gay and/or progressive community is a logical extension of that. He had an amazing, homogenous stupidity: there were very few surprises that came out of him. It’s not like he had a good side, an endearing, kind, warm, charitable side. If he did, then these sides were certainly kept out of the “public discourse,” and the most that can be said of him is that he gave a face and distinctively repugnant voice to what a lot of close-minded Americans were thinking—that they had the answers, and the answers were simple, stupid, and usually what they had, too, had been taught by their families and parents.
But I think that there is another facet to the anger that is coming from Falwell’s death: that he actually instilled fear into the minds of a lot of gay men and women. That under that chubby, down-home, Ya’ll comeexterior was a really vicious man, and he could get away with that viciousness in ways that someone like the current Pope, Benedict XVI, can not. Pope Benedict is too transparently rigid, cold, and uningratiating. People may love him because he’s the Pope, but he’s not fooling anyone when he rails against homosexuality, birth control, freedom of choice, and all the other ills of “secularism.” But Falwell, whom one progessive said should go straight to Heaven, where he’ll be found lying between Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, could come off on TV as the cuddly uncle, the country uncle who told it like it was: and that was scary. That was worse than the skinny man in a dress leading the flock. This country is filled with anti-Catholic people who would still swallow every word Falwell said; they’d never believe the Pope, but they would “Amen” with Falwell all the way to the Inquisition.