Rush Limbaugh passed away today at age 70.
I spent countless hours listening to his radio show as a pre-teen, teenager, and into early adulthood, largely absorbing both his Republican political views and his cruel, snarky attitude toward those who disagreed with him. I tried calling in to the show on multiple occasions. (I remember getting through to the call screener once, but never got on the air.) I recorded some of the political spoof songs he played and memorized the lyrics because I thought they were funny. (The spoof of “Bette Davis Eyes” as “Billy Clinton Thighs” to commemorate the jogging President’s short shorts is still in my head today.) I laughed as he called people names and ridiculed people who weren’t like him: Democrats, environmentalists, feminists, immigrants, LTBTQIA people…
Rush made it easy to dismiss people who disagreed with you, and made sure you knew who those people were. I carried those views and attitudes well into adulthood. If you search back far enough you will find posts on my blog here that reflect that sort of snarky and uncaring attitude toward political opponents. I’ve spent the last decade or more regretting and repenting of those words, actions, and attitudes.
Rush caused a lot of people a lot of pain over his lifetime in talk radio. I am glad that his passing means he will stop causing people more pain. Sadly, the effects will linger far longer than his voice did on the radio waves. He had a massive amount of talent and opportunity to do a lot of good for a lot of people. It’s sad that he chose not to.
I’ve seen a lot of understandable pain and bitterness on Twitter this afternoon as people react to Rush’s passing. I don’t want to criticize those reactions. Pain has to be acknowledged to be worked through. I’ve seen a lot of comments about Rush now in eternity finding out how wrong he was and some sense of justice that he might be in hell. I get it. I do.
But I can’t gloat in his passing, and I can’t hope for his eternal torment. Rush was a human created in God’s image the same as everyone else, and he deserves that respect even if he refused it to others.
I’m hopeful of some sort of universal reconciliation through Christ. I know you can interpret the Bible to say otherwise, but after a decade of reading on the topic that’s where I land today. Does my sense of justice think Rush deserves punishment? Yep. But if I can hope for something more beautiful, it’s for a bitter old man with a lifetime of hate coming to sorrowful repentance and being eternally reconciled to Democrats, feminists, immigrants, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and everyone else he hurt through the transforming love of God.
It feels wrong somehow to say “rest in peace” for a guy who caused so much discord. Maybe instead I can wish that he will rest in a discomfort that will lead to repentance and eternal reconciliation. Then I can pray for and work toward healing for those he hurt.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.2 Corinthians 5:18-20, NRSV