Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Farewell, Falwell

So, you're probably hoping against all possible hope that I'll say something nice about Jerry Falwell. Okay, I will. He's dead. There, that's nice, isn't it?

Okay, that was kinda cruel and mean-spirited. And I'll bet I'll have Malkin and all the other wacky wingnuts after my ass too. Yeah, go right ahead and do that, why don't you. I doubt those asshat hypocrites have ever seen the inside of a church. And perhaps they should all take a good look in the mirror at their own sorry selves. We've already seen how they reacted toward the passing of Paul Wellstone and Coretta Scott King. Or how their false idol Rush Limbaugh paid his last respects to Jerry Garcia and Kurt Cobain. So don't give me that shit.

Anyways, Falwell probably meant well in the way he lived his life. And that's about the nicest thing I could possibly say about him. Hey, even arch nemesis Larry Flynt showed some class. Sure, Falwell was a preacher of both divided politics and divided faiths. His casual condemnation of any who dare disagree with him was probably not what God had in mind. And much of what came out of his big fat mouth could honestly be construed as hate speech. But deep down, he probably did what he felt was right. Unfortunately, one could probably say the same thing about Osama bin Laden.

Quite simply, the man used faith as a cold, blunt weapon of hate. Growing up Catholic, I always felt that spirituality was about love, first and foremost. "Love thy neighbor," they taught us. "Turn the other cheek." Unfortunately, in Falwell's twisted world, if you weren't a white Christian heterosexual American Republican male, you weren't jack shit. You'd be cast to the fires. But who made Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and all those other fanatics judges of our own fates? I highly doubt the Almighty himself decreed this. I'd like to think that the Supreme Being would frown on all of this negativity delivered in His/Her name.

So, why should I take the sentimental route in praising the recently departed in this case? Of course, my condolences go out to the man's loved ones, just like anyone who's suffered a loss. But Falwell's passing should most certainly not excuse him from any criticism from the many, many people he's offended and pointed fingers at in the past. Or the many bodies he's stepped over in his fundamentalist power grab. As I said, he probably did what he felt was right. But at the same time, he became the very antithesis of a good Christian. Quite simply, he was a very cruel, hate-filled man, swallowed by his massive ego and narrow-mindedness.

For example, he certainly did not feel much sympathy for people of the Jewish faith. Sure, he'd suck up a little when there just happened to be a few in the room. Or when he wanted to bash Palestinians. Like when he said, “I believe that the people of Israel are the chosen people of God.” Good enough, but that was just one side of his mouth:

"I do not believe that God answers the prayer of any unredeemed Gentile or Jew."

"The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior."

"Is (the Antichrist) alive and here today? Probably. Because when he appears during the Tribulation period he will be a full-grown counterfeit of Christ. Of course he'll be Jewish.

"I know a few of you here today don't like Jews. And I know why. He can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose."
In general, Falwell was deep down a good 'ol Southern boy who grew up in the heart of segregated America. And much of what he spoke was deep-seeded in that perspective:
"There are almost as many alcoholics as there are negroes."

"If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision (Brown v. Board of Education) would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”

"I do question the sincerity and non-violent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations."

"I do not believe the homosexual community deserves minority status. One's misbehavior does not qualify him or her for minority status. Blacks, Hispanics, women, etc., are God-ordained minorities who do indeed deserve minority status."
If Falwell looked down upon people of different faiths, races and cultures, he was really a rube when it came to women:
"Most of these feminists are radical, frustrated lesbians, many of them, and man-haters, and failures in their relationships with men, and who have declared war on the male gender. The Biblical condemnation of feminism has to do with its radical philosophy and goals. That's the bottom line."

"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals - most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men - that's their problem.

“It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centered men's movement which may become the foundation for a desperately needed national spiritual awakening”

“Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them”
Oh, and ol' Jerry really despised homosexuals. More than anything else. I mean, he really, really hated them. So much, that he assumed that if he disliked them, then God must certainly believe likewise:
"God hates homosexuality."

"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."

"AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharoah's chariotters."

“(Homosexuals are) brute beasts...part of a vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven.”

“Homosexuality is Satan's diabolical attack upon the family that will not only have a corrupting influence upon our next generation, but it will also bring down the wrath of God upon America.”

"Someone must not be afraid to say, 'moral perversion is wrong.' If we do not act now, homosexuals will 'own' America!...If you and I do not speak up now, this homosexual steamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children who get in its way...and our nation will pay a terrible price!"

Falwell didn't really think much of his competition. He certainly had a 'my way or the highway' attitude toward other churches and faiths:
“Billy Graham is the chief servant of Satan in America”

“If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being”

"We must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours."

"I think the Muslim faith teaches hate."

"I think Mohammed was a terrorist. I read enough of the history of his life. He was a violent man, a man of war. Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. And I think Mohammed set an opposite example."

He also didn't like the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the American way of life crouching in on his turf. After all, that cuts in to his power:
"Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions."

"The First Amendment is not without limits."

"In other words, my First Amendment rights and yours end where the welfare of the little people begins, and there are laws about that."

"There is no separation of church and state. Modern US Supreme Courts have raped the Constitution and raped the Christian faith and raped the churches by misinterpreting what the Founders had in mind in the First Amendment to the Constitution."

“Now we're looking at what we really started on 30 years ago, reconstruction of a court system gone awry.”

"The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country."

“The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews”

"Somewhere in the past generation, we've lost our biblical mind and not arranged something better in its place. We need a spiritual brainwashing."
In Falwell's world, blind faith is an absolute. After all, it's a bit more difficult for people like him to brainwash the intelligent. Much easier with the gullible and naive:
“Textbooks are Soviet propaganda”

"I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"
Falwell found the perfect marks when he started peddling his wares to the religious right, particularly during the time of Ronald Reagan's presidency. Very ironic, given that the first lady was a hardcore fan of that pagan practice known as astrology and the Reagans themselves rarely ever stepped inside a church. Nevertheless, there was a crowd that was ripe to be taken. He immediately coddled the fundamentalist wing of the GOP, forming a sham outfit known as the Moral Majority, and bellying up to the udder of that golden calf. Hey, I'll bet a few of them even fell for it. To further sweeten the pot, he became more conservative demogogue than Baptist preacher. His true religion was conservatism. And of course, anything smacking of liberalism was deemed to be the enemy. He even accused President Clinton of "treasonous behavior." In short, he told the fundie masses everything he felt they wanted to hear:
"We're fighting against humanism, we're fighting against liberalism ... we are fighting against all the systems of Satan that are destroying our nation today ... our battle is with Satan himself."

“(Joseph Farah) hits the nail on the head on every issue. What's more, he lays the blame for America's problems right where it belongs - in the lap of liberalism.”

"Labor unions should study and read the Bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with God, they are better workers."

“Can you imagine the insolence of these protesters? ... They have the audacity to disparage and demean these courageous soldiers who are enduring great physical and emotional trauma because they believed in the effort to bring freedom to Iraq.”

“The media have a widely-held agenda (that doesn't include support of President Bush) and they are not about to tarnish the image of anti-war protesters by showing them for what they actually are, ...With this tyrannical approach to the news, it's really no wonder so many Americans don't take the networks seriously anymore. And it's no wonder that conservative Internet news sites have grown by leaps and bounds.”

"I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes on first blush."

Of course, he followed many of the tried and true right-wing talking points. Even going so far as to give carte blanche to soil and tarnish what many feel to be God's greatest creation - this very rock that you and I are living on:
"I believe that global warming is a myth. And so, therefore, I have no conscience problems at all and I'm going to buy a Suburban next time."

"(Global warming is) Satan's attempt to redirect the church's primary focus from evangelism to environmentalism."

"The whole global warming thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability."

Economic evangelism? Hmm... What would Jesus Do?

And in return for these carrots thrown at the lemmings, he injected his own brand of Bible banging. He anointed himself as the arbiter of good and evil. He developed a messiah complex. So much, that he felt it was okay to break a few commandments once in a while to keep 'em all in line:
"The message of peace and reconciliation under almost all circumstances is simply incompatible with Christian teachings as I interpret them. This 'turn the other cheek' business is all well and good but it's not what Jesus fought and died for. What we need to do is take the battle to the Muslim heathens and do unto them before they do unto us."

“...You’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops and I am for the President—chase them all over the world, if it takes ten years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.”

"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."

“We visit prisoners on death row, and some of them are saved, but we believe their sentences should be carried out because they have a debt to society.”
Granted, not every conservative fell for this shuck n' jive. Perhaps the smartest of them all, the late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, said it best when he said, "Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."

Of course, with as big a mouth as Falwell's, a few gaffes were inevitable. He made a complete ass of himself when he pointed his judgemental finger at the Teletubbies, those seemingly innocent mainstays of children's television in the 1990s. He even accused the purple one of being part of some sordid plot to turn our kids gay. "He is purple - the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle - the gay-pride symbol." Oh the horror!

But that paled when he pointed the finger at us for the events of September 11, 2001:
"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"
Needless to say, that went over like the proverbial fart in church. Feeling the world turn against him, Falwell offered a feeble apology out of the other side of his mouth, tail between legs and all.

I always found it interesting at the time that he didn't lay the blame where it belonged: At the feet of al Qaeda, particularly Osama bin Laden. Perhaps the reason was that people like Falwell, Pat Robertson and bin Laden are cut almost from the same cloth. Namely they're narrow-minded religious fanatics who see the world in black and white. You're either with them or against them and God. There is no middle ground. No a la carte menu to order from. To oppose them is to oppose God. Granted, our religious wackos don't fly airplanes into skyscrapers and behead people. But the mindset is eerily similar. What if our wackos felt murder was a way of making a point?

And like many of his ilk who become drunk on power, hypocrisy reared its ugly head. For years, he blasted Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church, which many believe to be little more than an obscenely wealthy cult. But when his Liberty University was looking at complete collapse in 1994, Falwell had no problem accepting $3.5 million of Moon's tainted money to bail it out. In fact, he even lobbied the president to pardon Moon's tax evasion conviction. Well, Moon does claim to be Jesus reincarnate.

Falwell also lobbied for a pardon for traitor and convicted perjurer Oliver North. He even endorsed his run for the Senate in 1994. And he lent money and promotional support for a lie-filled smear video called "The Clinton Chronicles," the sole purpose of which was to derail Bill Clinton's presidential bid in 1992. Talk about not coveting the truth!

In addition, Falwell was fined by both the Federal Elections Commission and the Internal Revenue Service on a couple occasions for raiding his tax-exempt ministry's coffers and funneling the money into political action committees. He also exploited an organization representing mostly black churches for the benefit of his followers. What a guy!

So, Jerry's worm food now. I guess that since he's departed for whatever afterlife he deserves, people are allowed only to speak kindly of him. I had no respect for him when he was alive, and I'm sure he probably wouldn't have had much respect for my Irish-Catholic heathen ass. So what do I say in a situation like this? Well, only that I hope we all learn from the man's mistakes and turn faith back into a tool of love and compassion, rather than one of divisiveness and hate. Maybe not the best way to honor him, but it most certainly is the best way to honor all of us.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

- Matthew 6:5 and 6:6


Anonymous said...

You forgot to say "Ding Dong."

Clay said...

I take a small comfort that Jerry's in the afterlife realizing how wrong he's been about a lot of things.

I'm willing to bet that the first thing he said when he reached heaven was: Who let the Jews and Catholics in here?

Anonymous said...

Falwell "reached heaven?" I wouldn't bet the Sunday collection on that.

And LT, please don't confuse Barry Goldwater with the authoritarians and neo-cons who have co-opted the term for their own purposes. I strongly recommend Howard Dean's book "Conservatives Without Conscience." Goldwater, agree or disagree with his viewpoints, had integrity - unlike the current right-wing nut jobs. Looking back, I'd take a "conservative" like Goldwater over a "liberal" like LBJ. Or as my grandfather liked to say, "They told me if I voted for Goldwater, we'd get into a war. So, I voted for Goldwater and we got into a war."

Jill said...

This is the best damn commentary on Falwell that I've seen. Nicely done.

Oh, and emacee? The book "Conservatives Without Conscience" was written by JOHN Dean, not Howard Dean. That's John Dean of Nixon fame. Howard Dean's brother is named Jim.

Just to cover all the bases.

Anonymous said...

Typo. Sorry. Thanks, Jill.
John Dean was a fall guy for Watergate. As often happens in movies, the original was much better than the current re-make.

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