I’ve been reading a lot of comments on the passing of Falwell. The man had some strange ideas, from my perspective, about Jesus. He opposed civil rights for minorities, supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, and wanted to subject women’s bodies to the control of men, also rights of gay people to be treated as equal human beings was opposed by him. Most of his teachings on these issues don’t square with the teachings of Jesus. It makes me wonder if Falwell ever read the Sermon on the Mount.
The poor man could not help himself. Although he had the good luck to have had an atheist for a grandfather and a non-religious father, he fell under the spell of his bible toting mother. “It was my mother,” he said, who planted the seeds of faith in me from the moment I was born.” Some children never grow up to think for themselves. Falwell, had he been born in the middle east to a Muslim mother or in Japan to a Buddhist one, would certainly have been a Muslim or a Buddhist.
Sen. McCain [ before he saw how many votes he stood to lose and changed his mind] called Falwell one of the “forces for evil” and “agents of intolerance.” “Evil” is too metaphysical a concept for me, but he was a force for “intolerance” with respect to the rights of human beings to live happy and fruitful lives of their own choosing even when they were doing no harm to others. But millions of Americans, unfortunately, have been brought up in this society, just as he was, which has a great historical undertow of racism and violence left over from the era of slavery and the Indian wars.
Falwell and his fans were caught in this undertow: some like Jerry, from birth, and were simply swept along by it into the dark ocean of prejudice, ignorance, and hatred. In his own words he tells us that but for the accident of birth he well might have been a jihadist. The following words are from Falwell, but Osama bin Laden could have written them-- the beliefs are the same: “We are born into a war zone where the forces of God do battle with the forces of evil. Sometimes we get trapped, pinned down in the cross fire. And in the heat of that noisy, distracting battle, two voices call out for us to follow. Satan wants to lead us into death. God wants to lead us into life eternal.”
Falwell, as has bin Laden and many a confused soldier on that battlefield, did not understand what he heard above the din of battle and followed the wrong voice.