Jesse Helms is dead

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.

  1. As for his public legacy, the better it is fought the better.
  2. As a Southerner, I can tell you good manners are nice but that wicked people can cultivate them just as easily as the good.
  3. 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.