This morning I was greeted by a headline that the porn star, Marilyn Chambers (56), was found dead on Easter Sunday. Her obituary was written as if she had actually accomplished something. She was, of course, in her own way a “community organizer.” So much so that ten years ago then-mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown, declared a "Marilyn Chambers day." But compare her obituary to any mainstream media obituary of the late Jerry Falwell, a person who, I must confess, would sometimes annoy me to no end. He was not my kind of guy. He was a rural, white, Southern Baptist, who was sometimes embarrassingly uncharitable and not careful with his words when addressing issues with which many other Christians would be sympathetic (but who would nevertheless cringe upon hearing the Rev.'s less than measured presentation). And, most importantly, he was not on the right side in the Civil Rights struggle when it really counted (something, by the way, for which he would later repent). For someone like me--an ethnic, urban, Yankee, cradle Catholic who grew up in a liberal Democratic household--I could not imagine ever hanging with him.
And yet, the Rev. Falwell founded a university, started a social movement of great influence, pastored a church of several thousand for several decades, led many, many people to Christ, and as far as we know was a loving and devoted husband and father. (He was a person that even Larry Flynt called "friend"!) On the other hand, Ms. Chambers, who died young (as is the case with virtually everyone in her “profession”), is portrayed as a cultural trailblazer who enlightened our culture to the “blessings” of anonymous, promiscuous, widely diverse, and videotaped, copulation. For this reason, you will hear no lamenting of the innumerable lives on which her example made chic the infliction of countless miseries. You will not hear of the unborn children killed, the addictions borne and nurtured, the marriages decimated, the offspring abandoned, the spouses betrayed, or even the diseases contracted—spiritual, mental and physical—that her “trailblazing” facilitated.
We live in an age in which we know precisely what recycle bin our newsprint and soda bottles belong. But we have no idea what a human being is, what it’s supposed to do, or who or what it is permissible to sleep with. So, this is the lesson of our time: the "good" man is the one who treats his garbage with greater care than his own soul. This is why, for our cultural gatekeepers, Ms. Chambers is an icon and the Rev. Falwell did not die soon enough.