I am of course referring to Jerry Falwell, who shuffled off this mortal coil around noon today. And it is difficult to know how to react. Yes, he was a horrible, horrible person, the kind of so-called "Christian" who gives Christ a bad name. Nevertheless, he was a human being. There must have been some good in him, and it's really rather tragic that he somehow went so horribly astray and devoted so much of his life to profession of a faith in Christ when he clearly did not really understand Christ's teachings at all.
There have been plenty of jokes about his death already, and there will be more. Jokes in a predictable vein, like "I hope St. Peter looks like RuPaul," to the somewhat more banal revision of the lyrics to "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead" (and by the way, thanks to whoever said that for making that song run through my head).
I can understand the anger. I can understand the hatred. I can understand the savage joy. But I don't condone it, because that makes us no better than him. And I, for one, want to be a better person than Jerry Falwell. That said, while the religious right will no doubt be ready to canonize (or whatever Protestants do to people in lieu of canonization) I see no reason why we shouldn't speak candidly and critically about his legacy. There's no need to refrain from speaking ill of the dead so long as we refrain from speaking disingenuously of him.
Whatever fate awaits his immortal soul, I hope it's no more or less than what he deserves. I don't claim to know what that is; it is not my place to judge.