Years ago, when I was a younger gay man in the deep South and had to deal with Jesse Helms’s racist and gay-hating power and influence, I thought how I would smile and be glad when the menace died. Guess what: I did. Allow me the moment of candor, if not the sentiment.
Yet when I heard the news, I wondered how long it would be before centrist and even liberal persons would “play nice” (as when Reagan died) and apologize for Helms, saying how he was a loyal American and so very police and other nonsense. Or there would be public sympathy for his family or other considerations. I don’t accept a word of it.
- As for his public legacy, the better it is fought the better.
- As a Southerner, I can tell you good manners are nice but that wicked people can cultivate them just as easily as the good.
- As for his family, they can mark their own loss and I won’t meddle, but God knows his political heirs think it is their business to meddle in my family business.
But what about God? How will God deal with Jesse Helms?
I’m still a Universalist and believe that he will be saved effectively and eventually. (I wouldn’t be too sad to know he had a long wait on the platform, though.) I don’t have to look at Helms’s record, but instead rely on God’s character. But Helms and his kith should be glad I’m not the one making the decision. God is. A chastening though, that, and at the heart of Jesus’ injunction of forgiving one’s enemies.
And as a Universalist, I believe — depend on, really — God being better than I am. My thoughts, hopes and plans are not more comprehensive, compassionate or glorious than God’s. I mention this because too much of American religion — Evangelical particularly, and Wesleyan especially; but some New Age thought popular in the Left is guilty too — is based on cultural biases being attributed to God, giving them the power of holiness. I’m enough of a Calvinist to know how dangerous and misleading that is.
It also reminds me that I’m not responsible — manipulated, misused — for forgiving the late senator from North Carolina. And as I have no reason to believe he amended his ways, I have no intention of forgiving him. I can (rather than I must; a valuable distinction for those who have been harmed) put Jesse Helms behind me and work without bitterness to dismantle what he made.