Thursday, May 17, 2007

Falwell That Ends Well

First, to my faithful reader(s), apologies for my brief 2 day absence. I've been miserably ill, and could barely rouse myself from bed, let alone blog.

Despite my suffering, it didn't escape my attention that noted American evangelist and founder of the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell, died a couple of days ago. Given the proclivities of some of his compatriots (Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker etc), that he didn't pass away in the bed of a transgendered crack addict is in itself something of a minor miracle.

And it didn't take long for the 2008 Republican presidential nominees to start lining up and proffering their condolences and admirations for a man who embodied the American Christian conservative movement (and its accompanying votes). Senator John McCain in particular said "Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country". I'll let John Nichols of The Nation respond:

Distinguished accomplishment? Would that be when Falwell regularly featured segregationists Lester Maddox and George Wallace on his Old Time Gospel Hour television program in the 1960s? When he condemned the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and referred to the civil rights movement as "the civil wrongs movement"? When he opposed sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime in the 1980s? When he produced an infomercial in the 1990s accusing President Clinton of
orchestrating murders of journalists and political critics, even though he would eventually admit that "I do not know the accuracy of the claims"? When he attacked Teletubbies character Tinky Winky as a gay recruitment tool? When he asserted that the Antichrist "must be, of necessity, a Jewish male"?

I don't begrudge anyone their religious views. Even closed-minded fatheads like Jerry Falwell. But I am a firm believer in the concept of separation of church and state, one of the principles of American governance. Falwell was the embodiment of a concerted effort by evangelicals to narrow, even ablate, that gap. Their contribution to the Bush presidency cannot be underestimated. In 2004, Falwell himself stated that the GOP would be unable to win without the support of Christian conservatives. Virtually all of Bush's policy decisions (opposing stem cell research, federally funded abstinence programs, even the war in Iraq) have been the direct result of his ideological commitment to Christian conservative groups to which he is politically beholden.

Aside from the obvious philosophical and constitutional consequences of this behaviour, GOP presidential candidates would be well advised to note that the Bush strategy has not been a resounding political success. Despite "winning" 2 terms, Bush's approval rating sits just under 30%, and the country is as politically divided as it has ever been. Rather than pandering to extreme right wing crackpots like Falwell, Republicans should instead focus on more mundane, say...good governance. Just a thought.

And as my little obituary to the good Reverend, here are some of his more thoughtful observations:

"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."

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

"Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them."

Here endeth the sermon.

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