Farewell to Jerry
You've no doubt heard that Jerry Falwell died on Tuesday, so I guess the testimonials are rolling in somewhere (though I'm not bothering to look for them). As much as I wish it were otherwise, you've got to admit that he was influential (although, as Don points out, not so influential that he actually had a place in the current White House power structure--too bad MSNBC wasn't so well informed). He was in the forefront of bringing religious conservatives into politics, and regrettably, we see the fruits of his labors all around us today. I was looking forward to the Republican presidential debate earlier tonight in South Carolina to see which candidate would most wrap himself in Falwell's legacy, but oddly, moderator Brit Hume asked the candidates not to take time during the debate to talk about the subject. Perhaps he feared that it would just turn into a free-for-all of one-upsmanship, and he might've been right. But no matter how beloved Falwell may have been among evangelicals, he was a polarizing figure in the culture at large. Although it might help with primary voters, embracing Falwell wouldn't be a wise move to win over voters in the general election.
Falwell's most recent controversy (I'd call it a gaffe because of the negative reaction he got, but he knew what he was saying, and he said what he meant) concerned his reaction to September 11, which he said was caused by God's anger at gays, feminists, the ACLU, or any group he felt like scapegoating. Although Falwell apologized, John Aravosis points out that he repeated the statement as recently as last week. I never heard anyone challenge him on the details to this (though I didn't follow Jerry Falwell obsessively, so it's possible that I missed it), but I would've loved to see someone take him through the logic of that belief. If God was punishing the United States for its sins, wouldn't that make the hijackers agents of God? And if that's the case, how exactly did Falwell's view of the terrorists differ from their own view of themselves and their actions?