I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Jerry Falwell before he died. I grew up in a Christian home and attended a non-denominational church, but I never tried to pretend I knew much about “the Church” or its leaders. Now that I’m a college student, I guess I have to start caring. But caring about a person like Jerry Falwell is quite a feat, even for a believer like me.

My biggest beef against Falwell is that he really wasn’t a Christian at all. He was a hatemonger, a hypocrite, and a terrible representation of Christ, among other things. He accused feminists, liberals, homosexuals, labor unions, and those infected with AIDS of causing the September 11th attacks instead of ministering to them as a man of God should. He gives other Christians a horrible name. In fact, the only thing he really gives the world is another reason to steer clear of church altogether, and I wouldn’t blame you if that’s exactly what you did.

A man like Falwell should not be involved with politics, because that’s the last thing Jesus would do, but of course he just had to create the “Moral Majority” to provide a safe haven for churchgoers to point their fingers at the rest of the world without even thinking of pointing it at themselves. The organization disbanded in the 80s, but the inspiration lives on through the Republican Party and current day hatemongers—I mean televangelists, like Pat Robertson and Bill Donahue.

I wish I could speak for all Christians when I say that these men do not represent Biblical teaching, but sadly, there are still many out there who insist on using the Bible as a weapon of hate rather than a tool of compassion, which is its true purpose. We live in a country where religion is thought of as a set of rules and is required if you want to get into heaven. But the truth is that religion is man-made—hence, flawed. It’s run by humans who are just as corruptible and insidious as the next guy. If you put all of your stocks into something that is going to fall away, don’t be surprised when you’re left with nothing in the end. And that’s exactly what Falwell gave us: nothing. Nothing except spiritual terrorism in the name of Christ.

To non-believers: Jesus is not a religion. Jesus, to me, represents a lifestyle that demands humility, forgiveness to all (all meaning everyone, including those who Falwell so adamantly opposed), and a charitable heart. Don’t dress up for church or put your hands up during worship just to impress God. He sees through that bullshit quite easily. Instead, talk to someone you don’t know. Make amends with your enemy, then treat him or her to Starbucks. Clean up a mess without being asked, especially if it’s not yours to clean. Make sure your tipsy friend gets home safe. Jesus befriended the lowest of lows in his time; the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors. Jerry Falwell condemns them. So much for being Christ-like.

To my fellow Christians: stop pretending to be righteous. If there is one thing that non-believers, and fellow Christians, see easiest it’s hypocrisy. Wearing a crucifix around your neck while you judge homosexuals sends a strange message to those around you. If you actually have read the Bible, you would remember that “if anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion worthless” (James 1:26). Don’t deceive yourself, and don’t make God worthless. In other words, shut up and do something. Be relevant to the lesser of this world. Do anything else and you’d just be kidding yourself.