By Russell Olivera Jr
It was June 2004 and I was covering Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Pride Festival.
I stood watching the parade of proud members of our GLBTI community march through the streets.
As the parade came to an end the parade watchers were invited to follow the parade down the route and into the park that was holding the festival, our festival, a safe haven for our community to be free.
As we all turned the corner to reach this beautiful park that would just let us be who we are, we were met and accosted with the reality of hate.
A group was standing there spitting words that were shaped like daggers, thrown out to hurt with no mercy and showing their narrow minded signs to evoke pain to those who read them.
At this moment in time, I walked, I looked, I heard, and sadly I lost a part of my soul, ripped out by the messages of hate being thrown at me and all who were just walking proudly to celebrate who we are as a community.
This would end up being one of the most significant moments in my time on earth.
You may ask me why and this is what I would say, I have always been aware of hate in our community and in the world.
I have read it all, seen it all, and heard it all. But this was the first time I stood only steps away from the pain of it.
People, men, women, and even some kids, people just like you and me who were taught the values and morals of life, but were also taught how to hate and how to hurt others they do not or refuse to understand.
People who were taught by someone who told them it was ok to hate, taught by someone of influence and who they admired and looked up to for guidance in life.
Someone like Jerry Falwell.
Many of us in our GLBTI community heard the news that this man who put out so much evil and painful words against us and humanity, a man who blamed gays and lesbians for what happened on September 11, died earlier this week.
This was a man who fought us for our civil rights as proud GLBTI Americans, a man who could not see the value and love of our community in this often dark world.
A man who took on a purse-carrying Tinky Winky in 1999 claiming that the children’s “Teletubbies” character was gay and promoting homosexuality.
He didn’t just create enemies with our community; in 1973 the Supreme Court ruling that established a woman’s right to an abortion got him into politics.
He founded the Moral Majority in 1979. A conservative lobbying group who just a year later, celebrated a victory of sorts, when Ronald Reagan was elected president.
Taking credit with getting millions of conservative voters registered and aiding in President Reagan’s victory while giving Republicans control of the Senate.
He had a $45 million dollar libel case against Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt over a raunchy parody advertisement.
In 1956, the preacher with his sky blue eyes, rounded face, and a voice that could command attention started a church in an old bottling plant in Lynchburg, Virginia with just 35 members.
It grew into a religious empire with 22,000 members of the Thomas Road Baptist Church.
He also created a TV show carried on stations around the country called “Old Time Gospel Hour” and in 1971 Falwell founded, Lynchburg Baptist College a 7,700-student college that is now known as Liberty University.
Liberty is where Falwell was found without a pulse.
He was pronounced dead an hour later. His physician Dr. Carl Moore said Falwell had a heart condition and presumably died of a heart rhythm abnormality.
Falwell did have a heart condition. Perhaps his was hurting for the pain he inflicted on the world, or perhaps it hurt because his godly love was not so godly, or perhaps his heart was just too small or not open.
No one understands why he was full of so much hate. Perhaps it was anger left over from his childhood. Maybe he was searching for something.
Both his father and grandfather were atheists and troubled at times. He often hung out with a gang of juvenile delinquents before becoming a born-again Christian at age 19.
He was once a big time athlete who was banned from giving his valedictorian’s speech after getting caught using counterfeit lunch tickets in high school.
Many of you are probably wondering why I am telling you so much about his life.
This is the truth as I see it. Like you and me, he had a childhood, a life and a family.
He was taught like you and me, reading, writing, morals, life lessons, and he was taught hate somewhere in his journey.
I do not celebrate him. I do not have much sympathy for him, nor do I think he deserves a pardon for what he has done, or to be forgiven of his evil.
I hope that in whatever afterlife there may be that he is faced with all he has done and that he will pay for his sins.
And though he preached that people like me and my community would burn in hell, I hope and pray that God shows him the mercy that Falwell believed my community would not have.
I am happy he is gone, but am weary and scared because I know that there are others just like him out there, others who were just like you and me but they were like him taught that hate is okay.
I hope for the day that hate lives no more, until we rid the world of hate, there will be more Jerry Falwell’s. Perhaps our lesson should be there is no place in this world or in our own hearts for hate.
Olivera Jr is the Founder, Executive Director and Editor In Chief of www.QBliss.net. You can contact him at QBliss or his personal site, www.rolivera.com.