He was, of course, a monster.
What kind of man, let alone what kind of minister of the Gospel, would underwrite a video full of made-up stories about a president of the United States, whose policies he happened to oppose, being a cocaine trafficker and assassin? What kind of man would then recruit the film's producer to pose as an investigative journalist appearing in sillouette, as Falwell himself interviewed him about why he feared for his own life? ("Be assured, we will be praying for your safety.")
What kind of man and minister of the Gospel would report that another president whose policies he happened to oppose said things to him that he never, ever said? ("Falwell responded that his account 'was not intended to be a verbatim report,' but rather an 'honest portrayal' of [President] Carter's position.")
I can respect a man with the integrity not to hide controversial beliefs, like, "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew." But what kind of man, let alone a minster of the Gospel, would claim to have changed his mind on the most profound questions of theology (reassuring his powerful friends on NBC's "Meet the Press," "God hears the prayers of all persons") simply to save political face?
(As The Washington Post reminds us today, he did the same thing days after famously telling viewers of the Christian talk show "The 700 Club" that the 9/11 attacks were an act of Godly retribution: "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.'" After first fiercely defending the statement and even sending out a fundraising letter accusing liberals and gays of using the statement as part of a "smear campaign," he told The Post's Peter Carlson, "I misspoke.")
What kind of man calls fellow Christians "brute beasts" following "a vile and Satanic system" that will "one day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven"? And who then, when a tape is produced of him saying it, offers the owner $5,000 to sell it to him—then reneges on the deal?
And what kind of man, confronted with a book in which he is quoted exulting, "I hope to 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!" claims to have never uttered such words—even though the book is a collection of his own sermons?
What kind of man? The kind of man conservative leaders everywhere fall over themselves, of course, to praise.
Here is a dispatch from the America Falwell has given us: A bearded Orthodox Jew earlier this month went public with his experience of being harassed by prostelytizing Christian chaplains and staff at an Iowa Veterans Administration hospital: "You mean you don't believe that Jesus is the Messiah?" "Is it just Orthodox Jews who deny Jesus?" "I don't understand; how can you not believe in Jesus; he's the Messiah of the Jews, too, you know."
During one visit, an elderly couple performed "The Old Rugged Cross" in the waiting room. The veteran recalled: "It was driving me nuts, and they were enjoying it."
| Wednesday, May 16, 2007 10:24 AM