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Russell Shaw Headshot

Goodbye Tammy Faye, Though I Never Knew You At All

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To paraphrase Elton singing about Marilyn Monroe and Princess Di, you did have the grace to hold yourself while those around you crawled.

After a brave and very public battle with cancer, Tammy Faye Messner (formerly T.F. Baaker, of course) left her body on Saturday.

Maybe she and her erstwhile theological adversary Jerry Falwell, are squabbling on some other plane right now. Could be, but I am not wise enough to know.

I do know, however, that I place Tammy Faye on a higher, more noble level than others who chose to espouse what they would refer to as The Word.

Unlike so many intolerant evangelical preachers of Red State America- from whose pulpits spewed misinterpretations, misplaced patriotism and other mistruths about 9/11 and the Iraq War, we didn't hear an excess of bigoted, warlike, Dominionist teachings from Tammy Faye.

When they send dead boys back home from Iraq, it is often to funerals at Evangelical Churches where far more aggressively jingoistic lessons were taught than from the amusement parks, television cameras and churches where Tammy and yes, Jim, offered the world their perspective.

True, Tammy Faye was not innocent in business, but I do believe that whatever excesses she and her ex-husband Jim were guilty of in that area, it was informed by unfortunately boundless enthusiasm rather than avarice. She had a belief system that she wanted to share with the world.

I am a contemplator, not a believer. That said, even though Tammy Faye's belief system was not in synch with my own I always thought Tammy Faye was that much more a positive force on the world than those 12,000-member megachurches where Bush/Cheney stickers in the parking lots are still plentiful to the eye tomorrow morning.

And where, out back, believers who learned their belief systems from the lessons communicated via those church's clergy enlisted, and came back dead- are buried.

Go with your Lord, Tammy Faye. And if you can find Jerry, say hi to him.

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