I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good....Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism.
Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, in the News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 8/16/93
The calls to nuke Afghanistan were scary enough, but this may have been worse. From the Washington Post, 9/13/01:
God gave U.S. 'What We Deserve,' Falwell says
WASHINGTON -- Television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the most prominent voices of the religious right, said liberal civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuals and abortion rights supporters bear partial responsibility for Tuesday's terrorist attacks because their actions have turned God's anger against America.
"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," said Falwell, appearing today on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," hosted by Robertson.
"Jerry, that's my feeling," Robertson responded. "I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."
Falwell said the American Civil Liberties Union has "got to take a lot of blame for this," again winning Robertson's agreement: "Well, yes."
Then Falwell broadened his blast to include the federal courts and others who he said were "throwing God out of the public square." He added: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. 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.' "
People for the American Way transcribed the broadcast and denounced the comments as running directly counter to President Bush's call for national unity. Ralph Neas, the liberal group's president, called the remarks "absolutely inappropriate and irresponsible."
Robertson and others on the religious right gave critical backing to Bush last year when he was battling for the GOP presidential nomination. A White House official called the remarks "inappropriate" and added, "The president does not share those views."
Falwell was unrepentant, saying in an interview that he was "making a theological statement, not a legal statement."
"I put all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist," he said. But he said America's "secular and anti-Christian environment left us open to our Lord's (decision) not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture ... the result is not good."
Robertson was not available for comment, a spokeswoman said. But she released a statement echoing the remarks he made on his show. An ACLU spokeswoman said the group "will not dignify the Falwell-Robertson remarks with a comment."
Falwell's treason against America
I'll "dignify" their remarks with a response.
Falwell and Robertson are saying they condone terrorism against America. They agree with Islamic fundamentalists that "the Great Satan" should die. There's a word for that kind of utterance in a time of "war": treason. Perhaps these Benedict Arnolds should be the first to go on trial.
Also note Bush's tepid response. He "does not share those views"...but he doesn't denounce them as the most divisive, disgusting words uttered in the days after the holocaust, either. His near-neutrality only encourages more Anglo-Christian hatred against Arabs and Muslims.
A reader responds
>> It's no worse than what the Berkeley leftists are saying, that we brought it on ourselves with our capitalism, failure to prosecute conservatives under Federal Hate Crime laws for what they say and past racism. <<
Bull. You can prove "leftist" claims or argue them logically—or *I* can. There's no proof or logic in claiming you know God's motivations. None whatsoever.
And it's pretty silly to identify "Berkeley leftists" as the source of liberal claims. I've never been to Berkeley, for starters. A critique of capitalism's faults and our racist predilections is common among liberals, whether they've been to Berkeley or not.
>> Falwell's and Robertson's remarks were taken out of context. <<
In other words, you're about to try spinning their treasonous comments into something less treasonous. Okay, go ahead.
>> I get their point as follows: That by neglecting our own spiritual lives and by allowing bad things to become accepted as good <<
Millions of moderates and liberals haven't neglected their spiritual lives. They're exactly as faithful as your fundamentalists and far closer to living Jesus's philosophy. Moreover, Falwell and Robertson made themselves clear by calling liberal Christians, Jews, and others who disagree with them "pagans." That's irrational, hateful bigotry at its best.
>> Certainly not as irresponsible as what certain leftists said in the wake of the Rodney King riots/Anti-Korean Krystallnacht: violence is OK in the face of perceived injustice and politically incorrect verdicts. <<
No, Falwell was far more irresponsible. How does explaining—not condoning—the actions of a few hundred rioters compare to blaming half of America for the deaths of 3,000? These two commentaries aren't even on the same scale. Falwell's commentary was roughly 10,000 times worse because it targeted roughly 10,000 times more Americans (maybe 100 million vs. 1,000).
As for verdicts, there was no politically incorrect verdict in Rodney King's case, only an incorrect one.
Violence is rarely acceptable, but it's often comprehensible. As it was in this case.
>> Get it from the horse's mouth here: http://www.falwell.com/ <<
Get it from the horse's ass, you mean.
As of 9/17, he apologized for his treasonous comments, but he didn't repudiate them. Benedict Falwell lives!
Out of context or out of control?
To reiterate, Falwell attacked the federal courts, the ACLU, and "people who try to secularize America." These are all clearly political attacks. Falwell's claim that he was making theological, not political, statements is a candidate for the stupidest sophistry of the year.
Of course, America doesn't need "secularizing" because it already is secular, per the First Amendment separation of church and state. But that's another matter.
The only "out of context" effort here is Falwell's attempt to take his comments out of their original context. He made anti-American statements giving aid and comfort to our enemies, then tried to weasel out of his plain support for terrorism. Too bad we're holding him to what he said, not his lies about what he meant.
Falwell apologizes again
After seeing Falwell's apology on 9/17, I found a more elaborate apology on his site on 9/18. Here it is:
Jerry Falwell Apologizes
September 18, 2001
From: Jerry Falwell
Last Thursday during an appearance on the 700 Club, in the midst of the shock and mourning of a dark week for America, I made a statement that I should not have made and which I sincerely regret. I apologize that, during a week when everyone appropriately dropped all labels and no one was seen as liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, religious or secular, I singled out for blame certain groups of Americans.
This was insensitive, uncalled for at the time, and unnecessary as part of the commentary on this destruction. The only label any of us needs in such a terrible time of crisis is that of 'American.'
I obviously did not state my theological convictions very well and I stated them at a bad time. During the difficult weeks ahead there will be much discussion about the judgment of God. It is a worthy discussion for all of us at a time when we are reminded of the fleeting nature of life itself, but it is a complicated discussion.
I do not know if the horrific events of September 11 are the judgment of God, but if they are, that judgment is on all of America—including me and all fellow sinners—and not on any particular group.
My statements were understandably called divisive by some, including those whom I mentioned by name in the interview. This grieves me, as I had no intention of being divisive.
In conclusion, I blame no one but the hijackers and terrorists for the barbaric happenings of September 11.
We know, as Abraham Lincoln anguished in his second inaugural address, that "The Almighty has his own purposes," but as he said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
And from the Washington Post:
Rev. Falwell Apologizes for Remarks
By Kevin Hall
Associated Press Writer
Monday, Sept. 17, 2001; 8:32 p.m. EDT
RICHMOND, Va. –– The Rev. Jerry Falwell apologized Monday for saying God had allowed terrorists to attack America because of the work of civil liberties groups, abortion rights supporters, and feminists.
Falwell said his comments were ill-timed, insensitive, and divisive at a time of national mourning. President Bush had called the minister's statement inappropriate.
"In the midst of the shock and mourning of a dark week for America, I made a statement that I should not have made and which I sincerely regret," Falwell said.
He added: "I want to apologize to every American, including those I named."
In an interview Thursday during religious broadcaster Pat Robertson's TV program "The 700 Club," Falwell blamed the devastation on pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the American Civil Liberties Union and the 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,'" he said.
Falwell, a Baptist minister and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., also expressed a belief shared by other evangelicals that divine protection is withdrawn from nations that violate God's will.
However, some Christian thinkers warned there was no way to know which sin led to which punishment. On Monday, Falwell agreed.
"When I talked about God lifting the curtain of protection on our nation, I should have made it very clear that no one on this earth knows whether or not that occurred or did not occur," he said.
He said if the destruction was a judgment from God it was a judgment on all sinners, including himself.
Falwell told The Associated Press that no one from the evangelical community or the White House pressured him to apologize.
However, he said a White House representative called him Friday while he was driving to the National Cathedral memorial service in Washington, and told him the president disapproved.
Falwell said he told the White House that he also felt he had misspoken.
Falwell made his apology minutes after Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network released its own statement calling Falwell's on-air remarks "severe and harsh in tone and, frankly, not fully understood" by Robertson and his two co-hosts.
Comment: Well, of course Robertson didn't fully understand Falwell. He's a Christian fundamentalist, isn't he? If he fully understood things, he'd have to denounce himself as narrowminded and intolerant.
If Falwell was wrong, so is correspondent
As I subsequently told my correspondent:
I'm glad I visited the Falwell site when you suggested it. The media has reported Falwell's abject apology for his abject stupidity, but it hasn't reported his first apology posted 9/17. That apology was as I characterized it: expressing regret but not repudiating his views.
The present apology at www.falwell.com is the second one. Falwell is so hateful that he apparently "forgot" his alleged belief that no one can know God's will and proclaimed God's will to us. Incredibly, he was so wedded to his treasonous views that he had to be shamed twice into recanting them.
Given that he finally did recant his views, it's all the more amusing that you defended them. Is it possible you don't know right from wrong any better than Falwell does? In what "context" does any human dare to state God's will as if it's a fact?
Your analogy with "Berkeley leftists" who denounced capitalism and racism is totally blown. Unlike Falwell, we won't be recanting our views anytime soon. Why not? Because they reflect the causes of the terrorist strike accurately, not inaccurately, so there's nothing to recant.
That is, we can document the harmful effects of capitalism and other Western dogmas on developing countries, and document the angry reactions to these effects. A typical example would be the child labor forced by the economic conditions under capitalism. Problems like these are facts, not opinions dreamed up to push a political agenda.
It's called rationality, my friend. You and Falwell might want to learn it.
The debate continues (10/24/01)....
>> There's no proof or logic in claiming you know God's motivations. None whatsoever.
The only proof is precedent. In the Bible, God has punished past societies for bad things. <<
I think you mean the only proof would be precedent if you first proved the precedents. Namely, 1) that past societies were "punished" as written in the Bible; 2) that this "punishment" happened according to God's will. Since you've proved neither of the preceding conditions, your conclusion doesn't follow.
>> Falwell and Robertson were speculating. <<
If you call statements of certitude, expressed without qualification, "speculation." As one example, Falwell said, "I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" There's nothing conditional or speculative in that bald-faced statement.
>> Millions of moderates and liberals haven't neglected their spiritual lives.
Perhaps, but it IS possible to agree to disagree. <<
It's possible to agree to disagree that Falwell and Robertson committed treason, although they did.
>> Moreover, Falwell and Robertson made themselves clear by calling liberal Christians, Jews, and others who disagree with them "pagans."
They didn't. They called pagans pagans. <<
Okay, I'll agree: They didn't make themselves clear. When Falwell referred to "pagans," he might've meant "the federal courts and others who he said were 'throwing God out of the public square.'" He might've meant "all of them who have tried to secularize America." Or he might've meant "pagans," though it's doubtful he knows the correct definition of "pagan" any more than you do.
>> There was no politically incorrect verdict in Rodney King's case, only an incorrect one.
How do you know? You weren't there. <<
I read the court reports and saw the video. That was enough to establish what happened and who was guilty in most people's minds.
Juries are merely the people who decide guilt legally. They aren't always right, as any lawyer could tell you.
The debate continues (10/25/01)....
>> People you disagree with are treasonous? <<
I explained why Falwell's remarks were treasonous—because he aided and comforted bin Laden, calling Americans the enemy, in a time of war. The issue isn't that he disagreed with me, since you and many others have disagreed with me and I haven't said you're treasonous. It's that his remarks met the standard of a crime.
>> Do the phrases 'over the top', 'McCarthyist' and 'hysterical' suggest anything? <<
They suggest you're unwilling to address the fact of Falwell's fanaticism. Not only did Falwell apologize twice, but right-wingers as rabid as Rush Limbaugh denounced him as wrong. Yet the best you can say is his comments were "speculative" and taken out of context.
So you're an apologist for Christian fundamentalist terror—as you've shown by your nominal support for anti-abortion terrorists against the law. No surprise there. If you want to shed the label, shed the views. Shed them explicitly so there's no question gays, abortion-seekers, and atheists have, and should have, rights that supersede the Bible.
>> Should Falwell be criminally prosecuted for what he said? <<
I don't think I've said anything that a few million other commentators have. It would be pointless to prosecute Falwell when America is so conservative, so gung-ho about war and killing towelheads. The case wouldn't go further than the first filing of charges before it was thrown out.
Nevertheless, Falwell's comments meet the dictionary definition of sedition—speech which tends toward treason but lacks an overt act. I doubt there have been many successful prosecutions for sedition or treasonous speech, and rightly so. I wouldn't try prosecuting Falwell because I think it would be a waste of time and effort. But a good constitutional lawyer might be able to make the case, which is why I said, "Perhaps these Benedict Arnolds should be the first to go on trial."
Down to the nitty-gritty (10/29/01)
You said Falwell's comments were taken out of context. Maybe, maybe not (probably not). But let's get to the nitty-gritty here. Do you agree or disagree with them? Make it a simple yes or no, if possible.
Would you call yourself a Christian fundamentalist? Why or why not?
>> No, I do not agree with him. Here's why:
In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, God would have spared the cities if Abraham could find a righteous person. He couldn't, so He didn't. Dershowitz likes to call Abraham the first lawyer in that he argued S&G's fate before God. <<
If God speaks to us in allegory, then Sodom and Gomorrah is one of his allegories. It's not proof of God's actual position. It's not proof of anything except the the imaginative storytelling ability of the Bible's authors.
I guess the story of Jesus's resurrection is another allegory, eh?
>> This passage is also proof that God does not believe in collective guilt, that you can punish an entire nation for the sins of a few. Holocaust survivors use this to argue that not all Germans are evil and that the whole society should not be punished for the sins of the Nazis. By blaming everybody you dilute the guilt of those specifically responsible for the wrongdoing. <<
If God doesn't believe in collective guilt, you sure do. At least, when it's convenient for you and the guilty aren't white Christians like you. Otherwise, how do you justify attacking a government and killing its soldiers when these people had nothing to do with 9/11?
>> Furthermore, it is axiomatic that as God gave us free will and that He demands our unconditional love, He will allow (not cause) bad things to happen to good people because if it were otherwise, we would all be automatons and be good so God would only do good things for us. <<
I assume "axiom" means "faith-based fairy tale."
Unfortunately, the concept of free will implies God isn't all-knowing. Because if God knew the future with certainty, then the future would be guaranteed. Then free will would be an illusion, not a reality.
Most Americans didn't cause slavery to happen, they merely allowed it to happen. Most Germans didn't cause the Holocaust to happen, they merely allowed it to happen. The Taliban didn't cause the terrorist attacks on America to happen, they merely allowed them to happen.
I guess you would've stood by as Kitty Genovese was killed or Rodney King was beaten, too. I'm glad you've come up with a formulation that allows God to be as blameless as the other moral cowards who've tolerated evil throughout history. Congratulations.
Taliban organized 9/11, not Bin Laden?
>> We need to focus on the guilt of the people who organized the massacre and we need to kill them before they kill others. <<
"Organized"? There's no proof, not even much talk, that the Taliban did anything but shelter the terrorists who caused the attacks. Judging by all the reports, the Taliban didn't "organize" the attacks.
When you say "the people," which people are you talking about, exactly? We're bombing all sorts of people who had no direct, specific responsibility for the attacks. Perhaps you want to reformulate your position so you're blaming only those "specifically responsible for the wrongdoing."
>> No, I am not a fundamentalist. A fundamentalist believes the Bible is the literal Word of God. I am an evangelical who believes the Bible is the true Word of God. God does speak to us in allegory. He will use exaggerated imagery and dumb down things (e.g. the Creation story in Genesis as being simplified evolution) to make Himself understood. <<
That's funny...I could've sworn you argued many times for taking the Bible literally. I.e., that you argued a semi-creationist viewpoint. Maybe I confused you with someone else.
>> In short, there are broader and more important issues here than the hurt feelings of some unspeakably self-righteous leftists looking for an excuse to bash Falwell. <<
Yes. The more important issue is whether Falwell committed treason. And whether he used the 9/11 attacks to score political points, hoping Americans would overlook his calculated bigotry in their righteous rage. Too bad for Falwell; even the most hawkish Americans recognized Falwell's butchery of Christianity for what it was.
More questions on free will (10/30/01)
If God gives us free will, what's the point of singing "God Bless America" or praying? Are you saying God doesn't answer prayers and doesn't bless countries—doesn't intervene at all in human affairs?
Because any godly intervention would diminish our free will to act, of course. Consider someone who prays for victory in a football game. If God answers his prayer and grants him victory, he's eliminated the free will of the other team. They can run whatever plays they want, but the important plays are destined not to work. The team is destined to lose no matter what they do, making their choices pointless.
So I repeat: Are there some prayers God won't answer, which implies the people praying are doofuses wasting their time? Or does God answer some prayers, even if that involves curtailing someone else's control over his own destiny?
Good luck with your answer.
Falwell and Bin Laden: two peas in a pod
I'm far from the only one who noted the similarities between the two anti-Americans intent on destroying the secular United States. From the LA Times, 9/18/01:
It was shocking, and not so shocking.
It was shocking to hear Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson point angry fingers of blame at the United States for our tragedy.
It was not so shocking because these two clerics share something basic with radical religious leaders on the other side of the world: fundamentalism. Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists worship different deities but they both live in dread of the anything-goes, individualized and expanding culture of the United States. They believe that America brought upon itself the wrath from the heavens.
This is not me saying so. This is them speaking.
"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked," said Falwell of the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11. "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.' "
Appearing on Christian television, Falwell also said, "God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
According to transcripts of the program, Robertson replied: "Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."
What we deserve?
At the root, fundamentalism is a struggle against modernity—against individualism, against moral self-determination and, yes, against freedom. Behind fundamentalism is one theological doctrine or another, but Islamic and Christian fundamentalists are cultural and political zealots as well as religious crusaders. Robertson, remember, ran for president in 1988.
Fundamentalists share a belief that religious tenets, whether drawn from the Koran or the Bible, provide the supreme law. Thus fundamentalism is wholly authoritarian. Fundamentalism is radicalism. Look up radical in the dictionary: "the foundation source of something; fundamental; basic."
"Fundamentalism is fundamentalism is fundamentalism," says an Arabist friend of mine who teaches history at a Christian college.
I'm not trying to be provocative. Falwell and Robertson were plenty provocative by themselves. I don't seek to meet their accusations with accusations of my own; there will be people happy to do that. Rather, like many of us, I'm trying to understand just what the United States is up against now.
How, we ask, could this happen? Just what in all the world could propel people to do such misguided things? We shake our heads as if the idea is as foreign and unfathomable as the lives of those robed men whom we see on television in the desert far off.
But I don't think you have to look abroad for all the clues. The same hate-fear that drives fundamentalists in Afghanistan also works on the hearts of Christian fundamentalists in the U.S.
I share with scholars the view that fundamentalism is not aberrant but understandable behavior during times of upheaval in the social order. In fact, I think there is a little fundamentalist in us all. As we face the unknowns of technological change, as we perceive a decline in individual values, as we witness a shift in power from nations to corporations, the old ways seem ever so sensible. Nostalgia has a foot squarely in fundamentalist thinking.
This is not a new phenomenon. Japan, with its highly developed Samurai culture, found itself threatened 400 years ago by globalization and the advent of firearms. It closed its ports to the world for two centuries.
I suppose I must add, so the letter writers don't work themselves into fits, that I am not equating U.S. Christian fundamentalists with Islamic terrorists. Neither am I equating Islamic fundamentalists, or for that matter Jewish fundamentalists, with terrorists. I am saying that Christian fundamentalists see things much as other fundamentalists do. Terrorism arises not from fundamentalism but from extreme fundamentalists, who take it upon themselves to fight for the only order that makes sense to them. Holy warriors.
It is worth reminding ourselves that extreme Christian fundamentalism breeds its own violent cells of terrorists here at home. According to the Abortion Rights League, there have been 2,500 reported attacks and 55,000 acts of illegal disruption against medical clinics since the late 1970s in the United States.
For a free society, fundamentalism poses the most basic of paradoxes: It flourishes by tolerance, but tolerance is what it cannot tolerate.
Perhaps fundamentalism—and the fundamentalism that breeds extremism—is not so hard to fathom after all. It's right here at home.
As Falwell said, "I believe that if America does not repent and return to a genuine faith and dependence on Him, we may expect more tragedies."
So long as fundamentalists insist that this is so, it will surely be true.
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times
From the LA Times, 9/25/01:
Falwell Should Have Listened to the Feminists
By ROBERT SCHEER
Robert Scheer writes a syndicated column
Ever hear of the Feminist Majority? Just the sort of people Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson held responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attack because they "make God mad." Well, it's the Feminist Majority, more than any other organization in the U.S., that sounded the alarm that the Taliban's suppression of freedom, led by its harsh treatment of women, posed "a threat to humanity" that extended beyond the borders of Afghanistan and that "the Taliban and [Osama] bin Laden are interdependent and inextricable."
If Falwell and Robertson had listened to the feminists instead of attacking them, the two men might have recognized the frightening parallels between their brand of religious extremism and that spewed by the Taliban. Instead, they fanned the flames of hate. As Falwell put it before public outrage forced him to recant: "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."' Robertson heartily agreed. Although the Taliban are actually milder in their condemnation of abortion than these two, they doubtless would applaud Robertson for saying that the terrorists' success is owed to God's wrath over our courts permitting "35 [million] to 40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered." In the homophobia department, the Taliban agrees that gays are to be condemned, having buried five men alive under a crushing pile of stones for the "crime" of being homosexual, according to Amnesty International. And the Taliban undoubtedly shares Falwell's hatred of civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way for their opposition to state-imposed religion.
On the latter point, in a prison interview, Mahmud Abouhalima, convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, stated that his war isn't against Christians but U.S. "secularists" who are exporting their way of life to the Muslim world. As Abouhalima told UC Santa Barbara Professor Mark Juerensmeyer, living in America allowed him "to understand what the hell is going on in the United States and in Europe about secularism of people, you know, who have no religion." He said the U.S. would be better off with a Christian government because "at least it would have morals."
That view of the secular enemy, San Francisco Chronicle religion writer Don Lattin pointed out, is uncomfortably close to our own religious extremists' views and "remind[s] us that no religion has a monopoly on twisting spiritual truth." He said that there's a far distance between condemning secularists, as Falwell and Robertson did, and killing them, but noted the deep contempt that the two American religious leaders have in common with the Taliban toward those who might view religion in a different way.
For Robertson, the prime enemy is our court system, which has upheld the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state: "We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye." The terrorists succeeded, Robertson said, because, "We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. ... God Almighty is lifting his protection from us."
Forget building up the military. Ban the ACLU instead!
We owe Falwell and Robertson a debt for sealing the argument for the separation of church and state, given the specter of a state-empowered church run by men like them.
And from an e-mail by Michael York, 9/20/01, defining what the terrorists believe:
For OBL and his ilk, we are all pagan.
His brand of religion is parochial—a closed, exclusivist and strictly defined one-way-ism. By contrast, the kind of religion that the West most fully endorses is cosmopolitan religion. In this understanding, every religion possesses an extrinsic legitimacy and right to be to the degree that it can allow others that same right and legitimacy. Cosmopolitan religion is what the 1993 and 1999 gatherings of the Parliament of the World's Religions most fully expressed—the same gatherings that were conspicuously and vociferously boycotted by fundamentalist Christians in Chicago and by fundamentalist Moslems in Cape Town. Parochial religion is that which wants, in the name of religion, to go backwards in time and progress. Cosmopolitan religion wants, under the banner of religion as religion, to go forward. This is the religious issue of our times: do we thwart the evolution of human will through petty and myopic self-interest—whether based on fear of change, hatred of difference or the desire for personal aggrandisement, or do we champion the collective human concern through imagination, daring and compassion? Post-September 11th, the lines between these two positions are more clearly drawn than ever before.
So what is it that pagans identify with as Westerners? It can only be the West's endorsement of difference however imperfectly that endorsement is actually executed. We allow, tolerate and, in our finest hour, even encourage and celebrate variety and individuality. We do not, unlike the bin Ladenists, claim to be perfect. Perfection is instead a state toward which we are, at best, always poised.
Comment: That leaves Islamic fundamentalists like Bin Laden and Christian fundamentalists like Falwell out, since neither one tolerates differences.
More well-deserved criticism...
From the letters to the LA Times, 9/20/01:
The only thing wrong with John Balzar comparing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson with Osama bin Laden is that he didn't go far enough (Commentary, Sept. 17). Falwell's claim—and Robertson's agreement—that the attack on the World Trade Center was God's punishment of the U.S. for tolerating abortion, pornography and homosexuals is just one more reminder that there is no fanatic like a religious fanatic.
A Christian who torches family planning clinics is driven by the same mentality as a Muslim who launches suicide missions against perceived enemies. The only difference is scale.
FORREST G. WOOD
Falwell is trying to escape outrage for his recent comments linking homosexuals and "abortionists" (among others) to the WTC attacks by saying his comments were ill-timed ("Falwell Apologizes for Divisive Remarks," Sept. 18). Ill timed? That's right, Jerry. Wrong eon. The Middle Ages ended quite some time ago.
Balzar reports being shocked by Falwell, on Christian TV, blaming pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians, the ACLU, People for the American Way, et al., for bringing God's wrath upon America—according, Balzar says, to program transcripts.
I wonder if those transcripts have been softened somehow for a non-Christian-fundamentalist readership? I saw what I believe was the actual broadcast of Falwell's conversation with Robertson, and the reverend was even more inflammatory than Balzar indicates, because he lumped all of the above groups with "the Christ-haters." That would be a shameful provocation at any time, but considering our present national tragedy I believe Falwell should be particularly ashamed for uttering it now.
PRESTON NEAL JONES
Perhaps, if Falwell is looking to reside in a more sacrosanct society, he might consider relocating somewhere in Afghanistan. After his unconscionable attempt to exploit the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans to promote his own narrow-minded, so-called "Christian" political views, I would be happy to pay his one-way fare.
I do commend Falwell for one thing, though—giving the people of this country a timely reminder that all dangerous religious fanatics do not live in far-off lands and appear to us wearing turbans.
Religious fundamentalism has been the bane of civilization since the advent of religion. Now we have fundamentalists Falwell and Robertson stiffening their bodies, grimacing in prayer and invoking Jesus to help us. They have gained power and wealth teaching hatred and intolerance toward several classes of people (including mainline Christians) in our nation—teachings that are diametrically opposed to what the Bible says Jesus taught. They are as much of a danger to the American way of life as the Muslim fundamentalists who attacked us.
JAMES R. GALLAGHER
Isn't it ironic—in a land where Falwell can say gays and lesbians brought this terrorist tragedy upon America, where witch hunts keep them from serving openly in the military, where they can be fired from their jobs at will, where the Boy Scouts deem gay men as unsuitable role models and where it is illegal to commit a hate crime against a foreign-born Muslim but not an American-born homosexual—that here comes the story of a brave gay man who heroically participated in the rebellion against the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93. He and his fellow passengers possibly saved the White House, the Capitol or even the president himself. Today, I'm not only a proud American, but an even prouder gay American.
Comment: I've never heard anyone say they hated Christ. What most people hate is how holy terrors like Falwell bastardize, pervert, and destroy Christ's message. Falwell has confused himself with a prophet of God, which is a huge part of his problem.
From the letters to the LA Times, 9/22/01:
After reading "Falwell Apologizes for Divisive Remarks" (Sept. 18), about how Jerry Falwell offered an apology to those he offended, I was overcome with a feeling of disgust for the man. I see him for the putrid individual he is, spewing hatred and disharmony in our time of grief. Claiming that God somehow has it in for America and that God made it possible for over 6,000 innocent lives to perish is incomprehensible to me. Perhaps Falwell and his followers should go back and read the Bible and learn what it means to be Christians, not hatemongers and traitors to America. The pick-and-choose method of religion, using segments of biblical scripture to fit one's political beliefs, closely resembles that of the Muslims who have twisted the words of the Koran into a means to justify terrorist acts.
For those of you who were fortunate to have missed the religious right's spin of the Sept. 11 disasters, I can summarize: divine retribution. Yes, those who support abortion, gay rights, U.S. materialism and Hollywood immorality have finally received punishment for their sins. Watching these zealots spit their vitriolic words, smilingly, revealed only their true colors: hatred and self-loathing. Jerry Falwell, et al., please meet and greet your dark half: Osama bin Laden.
JANICE PELLICO Agoura Hills
Falwell's statement of regret for linking feminists, pro-choice people and gays and lesbians with the terrorist attack was duplicitous. The cat has long since been out of the bag about his fanatical views against many Americans who disagree with him. I think he should at least have had enough backbone to defend his original statements. It seems, instead, that Falwell chose to spin-doctor his comments in order to avoid the bad press of keeping company with the intolerance that characterizes fanatical terrorists. How pathetic.
John Balzar got it right, but for the wrong reason, in arguing that Falwell and Pat Robertson, on the one hand, and Bin Laden and the ayatollahs, on the other hand, are spiritual brothers (Commentary, Sept. 17). America's religious right and the Mideast's Islamic radicals are offspring of the same animal—not because they are both fundamentalists but rather because they both take religion seriously.
Wanting to base your life on fundamental principles is not misguided or even evil. In fact, it is only by using rational, reality-based principles that any man or woman can pursue a life of happiness here on Earth.
Falwell and his ilk are the siblings of Islamic terrorists (with the same ultimate goal) because they reject this world in favor of an imaginary afterlife. They reject their minds in favor of faith. Because there is no God, the priests are left with only their feelings to guide them; because emotions are not arguments, they are left with only force in dealing with other men.
The overriding emotion that consumes them is hate. Hate for freedom, reason, material wealth. Hate for this world. Fundamentally, hate for life itself.
As a serious Christian, I have to say I am repulsed by the callous, insensitive, self-serving remarks of Falwell and Robertson in regard to the horrible attack on the World Trade Center. What decent American, or anyone else in his or her right mind, would even entertain the notion that these victims and their families got what they deserved?
Jesus warned us of false prophets, and I can think of no better examples. To the vast majority of Christians, these men do not represent their faith but rather are seen as arrogant, rich, self-righteous impostors. If they had an ounce of decency they would get on their knees and seek forgiveness from each and every relative of the 5,000 dead and countless thousands injured.
I would like Falwell and Robertson to know that their God is not my God. My God is loving and caring. We were given free will, which allows acts like those that took place on Sept. 11, and also allows the terrorist acts perpetrated in this country over the last few years by extreme American fundamentalists.
When Falwell and Robertson meet their maker, they will be asked why they have been blaming all this carnage on God, and they will come up lacking.
San Juan Capistrano
Falwell and Robertson have passed on the hate in their hearts and they have done so in the context of recent hateful, horrific events. We do not need more terrorism, verbal or physical.
If there is some small good that can come out of the tragedies of Sept. 11, it will be to make Falwell and his ilk irrelevant.
Comment: The only remarks I disagree with here are Ray Shelton's. He claims "there is no God" and says he lives by rational principles. Since he can't prove God doesn't exist any more than a Christian can prove God does, his statement is itself irrational.
The only rational, factually-based position on God is to say we don't know. That makes agnosticism, which happens to be my position, more rational than either religion or atheism.
It takes one to know one
Last week, [Jerry] Falwell appeared as a guest on [Pat] Robertson's daily 700 Club program. He said that, in addition to the terrorists who launched the attacks, others were also responsible. He elaborated by suggesting that it was the feminists, gays, abortionists and the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] who had angered God to the point that God allowed this to happen to the United States of America. ... Suggestions of this kind are one of the reasons why all conservatives get tarred and feathered with this extremist, bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic label or image that isn't true.
Comment: Would this be the same Limbaugh who calls feminists "femi-Nazis" and said "Columbus saved the Indians from themselves"? Yep, it takes a right-wing doofus to know a right-wing doofus, all right.
More on the evil one
From the LA Times, 11/18/01:
Holes in the 'Curtain of Protection' Around Falwell
The televangelist's apology for blaming gays and liberals for Sept. 11 is attacked from left and right.
By PETER CARLSON, WASHINGTON POST
LYNCHBURG, Va. — Televangelist Jerry Falwell is sitting behind his big power desk in his big power office at Liberty University, the Baptist college he founded 30 years ago, before he became famous as a leader of the religious right.
He rises, flashes a big grin, reaches out to shake hands. He's a large man and, at 68, his round fleshy face has sagged into a set of impressive jowls. He sits down. He looks toward the office door, where secretaries and his media advisor are bustling about.
"Close the door, or come on in," he barks. "One or the other." The door closes.
The last few weeks haven't been pleasant for Falwell. On Sept. 13—two days after the terrorist attacks that killed more than 4,300—he appeared on "The 700 Club," the Rev. Pat Robertson's TV show, and made a statement that inspired widespread anger and mockery.
"What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is," he said, "could be minuscule if in fact God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
"Jerry, that's my feeling," Robertson replied.
"The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this," Falwell said.
"Well, yes," Robertson agreed.
"And I know that I'll hear from them on this," Falwell continued. "But throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and 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."'
Over the next several weeks, Falwell's comments about those controversial comments kept changing.
A few hours after the show, he reiterated his remarks, telling the New York Times that "the collective efforts of many secularists ... has left us vulnerable."
The next day he issued a statement saying his comments were made during "a long theological discussion" and were "taken out of context."
A few days later, he appeared on Geraldo Rivera's cable TV show and repudiated everything he'd said on "The 700 Club": "This is not what I believe, and I therefore repudiate it and ask God's forgiveness and yours."
His words had come out in a moment of fatigue, he explained: "I'd been up all night the night before, coming in from Houston."
Then, two weeks after Falwell apologized to God and Geraldo, the Jerry Falwell Ministries sent out a fund-raising letter written by Falwell's son, the Rev. Jonathan Falwell. The letter charged that "Satan has launched a hail of fiery darts at dad" and that "liberals, and especially gay activists, have launched a vicious smear campaign to discredit him."
The younger Falwell suggested that supporters assuage the elder Falwell's "personal hurt" by sending "a special Vote of Confidence gift for Jerry Falwell of at least $50 or even $100."
It was all a tad confusing. Was Falwell blaming the terrorist attacks on liberals and gays, or wasn't he? Was he apologizing, or wasn't he? And what, exactly, were those fiery darts that Satan had launched against him?
Fortunately, Falwell has agreed to spend an hour answering these questions. "I misspoke," he says.
"I apologize for my Sept. 13 comments because they were a complete misstatement of what I believe and what I've preached for nearly 50 years," he says. "Namely, I do not believe that any mortal knows when God is judging or not judging someone or a nation. In my listing of groups and persons who might have assisted in the secularization of America, I unforgivably left off the list a sleeping church, Jerry Falwell, etc.... It was a pure misstatement, unintentional, and I apologize for it uncategorically."
But wasn't it a rather lengthy misstatement? "About 35 seconds," he says. "I think somebody said it was 37 seconds."
It happened because he was tired, he says, and because he didn't know Robertson would bring up the issue of God's curtain of protection around America.
"Pat Robertson had that agenda going when I came in by satellite" from Liberty University, Falwell explains. "He said, 'Jerry, we're talking about God lifting the curtain,' and I started in on that subject and I said what I said there. A lot of it was weariness and really anger over what happened to the country. And I didn't complete what I was going to say. If I added the church as one of the offenders—a sleeping church that is not praying enough—it would have been acceptable."
Which brings up the question: What does it mean to lift the curtain of protection?
"That was part of the misstatement," he says. "I have no way of knowing when or if God would lift the curtain of protection."
Did God lift the curtain of protection around Pearl Harbor in 1941?
"My misstatement included assuming that I or any mortal would know when God is judging or not judging a nation," he says. "Therefore, I don't know if God was judging America in 1941 or in 1812 or on Sept. 11, 2001. I've said that was a misstatement and now you want me to support my misstatement. I think I've clarified it the best way I know how."
Falwell's getting a little peeved. He has repudiated his remarks, he says, and he doesn't want to discuss each of them, one by one.
"I said I've misstated," he says, "and all reasonable people have already accepted the apology and you're the first one that's challenged it."
Actually, that's not quite true. Even after his various apologies, Falwell has been lambasted by commentators ranging from Rush Limbaugh to Walter Cronkite.
"Falwell apologizes the way politicians apologize," wrote Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman.
"Everybody I know is appalled. And I know some very conservative, very religious people," said conservative TV yakker Bill O'Reilly. "There's nobody I know that can justify, condone, defend those remarks."
Editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette drew Falwell, Robertson and Osama bin Laden arm in arm, singing "Gimme That Old Time Religion."
Has he taken more heat on this than anything in his long, controversial career?
"Oh, no," he says, smiling. "As a matter of fact, most of the heat I've taken has not been because of the statement. It's from people who are upset that I apologized. Thousands of people of faith in America unfortunately agreed with the first statement.... They were incensed that I apologized."
Falwell's son didn't mention those "incensed" Christians in his fund-raising letter. He said his father had been "brutalized" by "the media" and "liberals of all stripes" and "gay activists" and, of course, Satan.
Does Falwell agree that Satan has "launched a hail of fiery darts" at him?
"Yeah," he says. "Over a two-week period, it was a hailstorm."
How can he tell when the darts are coming from Satan and not mere mortals?
"If it's intended to hurt beyond the boundaries of love and sensibility and reality, I think a Christian person has the right to define something as wrong or good," he says. "And I think my son, who's pretty sensitive when someone attacks me, felt that it was not good and he didn't like it and so he commented. And that's his right."
Falwell takes a sip of diet cola. He leans back in his green leather swivel chair. He's relaxed.
Over his left shoulder, his psychedelic screen saver wiggles and twitches. Next to the computer is a sign that reads "Donald Duck Cola." It's there because Falwell started his Thomas Road Baptist Church in the building where Donald Duck Cola was once bottled. The cola company went out of business, but the church is thriving. It has 22,000 members now. And Liberty University has 10,000 students. Falwell's enterprises take in more than $100 million annually.
"By the way," he says, smiling, "if you were watching A&E's 'Biography' last Wednesday night, they did my biography."
In that show, he says, gay minister Mel White told the story of how Falwell hosted 200 gay activists for a weekend at Liberty University. "Mel White says Jerry Falwell is the only religious leader to invite us in," Falwell says, proudly. "Then he qualified that by saying, 'He didn't listen to us.' Well, I didn't invite them in to listen to them. I invited them in to talk to them."
He doesn't mention another interesting scene in the A&E biography, when Falwell's wife, Macel, tells how Jerry won her heart while attending Baptist Bible College in the early '50s: "He was roommates with the young man I was engaged to," she said. "And when he would write letters to me, Jerry would take the letters and throw them away and write to me himself."
"All's fair in love and war," Falwell explained on the show.
That doesn't sound like Christian doctrine, but it does describe Falwell's modus operandi.
An aide enters Falwell's office to say it's almost time for him to go.
"I'm speaking in Richmond tonight," Falwell says. The night before, he spoke to a conference of Baptist pastors in Lakeland, Fla.
He climbs out of his leather chair and gets ready to leave.
Outside, in the world beyond his shuttered blinds, the Associated Press is moving a story about Falwell's theological revelations to the Florida pastors last night:
"Lakeland, Fla.—The Rev. Jerry Falwell says even Osama bin Laden's soul could be saved if he converted to Christianity—but he would still deserve to be killed."
God only knows what Falwell will say next.
Terrorism: "good" vs. "evil"
God bless secular America
Right-wing extremists: the enemy within
America's cultural mindset
. . .
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