Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Speaking Ill of the Dead

Of course I'm talking about Jerry Falwell (8/11/1933- 5/15/2007). Falwell was without question one of the most depraved and detestable human beings to achieve a position of prominence and influence in this country in the current era. It is a depressing indication of the profound division in our society that he had a large following who viewed him as a moral leader.

Falwell flacked for a God who was a malignant narcissist -- hateful, vengeful, and destructive. His was the God of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, a God who had nothing to do with the Gospels. This was a God who slaughtered thousands of innocent people -- hundreds of them not even U.S. citizens -- to punish the United States for harboring homosexuals. In case you didn't really know about Falwell's career, here's a useful backgrounder from Bob Moser at the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Falwell was plain enough about his views; in 1964, he told a local paper that the Civil Rights Act had been misnamed: "It should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights." His "Old Time Gospel Hour" TV program hosted prominent segregationists like Govs. Lester Maddox of Georgia and George Wallace of Alabama.

But Falwell, like other fundamentalists, worried about "tainting" his religious message by mixing it with politics.

The Rev. Mel White (see also A Thorn in Their Side), an evangelical writer and filmmaker who ghostwrote Falwell's autobiography, says Falwell was led to politics in part by Dr. Francis Schaeffer, a rebellious fundamentalist who had begun spreading the word about "dominion theology" and who many see as the father of the anti-abortion movement.


Schaeffer was admired by a radical group of fundamentalist thinkers called Christian Reconstructionists. Led by Orthodox Presbyterian minister R.J. Rushdoony, the Reconstructionists argued that the Second Coming couldn't occur until the faithful established a "Biblical kingdom."

Democracy, which Rushdoony called "the great love of the failures and cowards of life," would be replaced by strict Old Testament law — meaning the death penalty for homosexuality, along with a host of other "abominations," including heresy, astrology, and (for women only) "unchastity before marriage."

It was not enough for the good Reverend to lead the culture into ignorance and darkness: he helped to bring upon us the very tangible disaster of the criminal Bush administration. Falwell's moral values brought us the 1994 video, "The Clinton Chronicles," which Falwell heavily promoted in infomercials, as Murray Waas discusses here.

A conservative political organization with ties to the Rev. Jerry Falwell covertly paid more than $200,000 to individuals who made damaging allegations about President Clinton's personal conduct, Salon has learned. . . .

The drug smuggling and Vincent Foster allegations were prominently featured in "The Clinton Chronicles," a video produced by Citizens for Honest Government and co-financed, publicized and distributed by Falwell. The notorious 1994 video also insinuated that Clinton's political adversaries often met untimely and suspicious deaths. . . .

[A] direct-mail fund-raising appeal by Falwell suggests that Falwell was indeed involved with the video much earlier than he has acknowledged. The fund-raising appeal also shows that Falwell subsidized the production of the video as well. In the August 1994 direct-mail solicitation, Falwell asked supporters to "help me produce a national television documentary which will expose shocking new facts about Bill Clinton." The letter stated that Falwell was ready to make it available "as soon a I can raise approximately $40,000 needed to produce this video."

The video's commercial success is due in large part to its promotion on Falwell's "Old Time Gospel Hour," as well as in an infomercial for the video, which viewers could order through Falwell's Liberty Alliance.

During the infomercial, Falwell interviews a silhouetted individual whom he identifies only as an "investigative reporter."

"Could you please tell me and the American people why you think that your life and the lives of the others on this video are in danger?" Falwell asks the man.

"Jerry, two weeks ago we had an interview with a man who was an insider," the mystery man replies. "His plane crashed and he was killed an hour before the interview. You may say this is just a coincidence, but there was another fellow that we were also going to interview, and he was killed in a plane crash. Jerry, are these coincidences? I don't think so."

Falwell reassured the man: "Be assured, we will be praying for your safety."

During Salon's interview with Matrisciana [producer of the video], a reporter told him that his voice sounded familiar. When the reporter told Matrisciana that he sounded like the man in silhouette, Matrisciana acknowledged that he was the mystery man.

"Obviously, I'm not an investigative reporter," Matrisciana admitted, "and I doubt our lives were actually ever in any real danger. That was Jerry's idea to do that ... He thought that would be dramatic."

I doubt that Falwell actually believed most of the filth he spewed. He was nothing but a con man, whose mission in life was to steal from poor and ignorant people. But the Republican presidential candidates are falling all over each other to praise his legacy, and James Dobson gets most of Larry King's show to tell us why he was a great man. He was a nasty, greedy, dishonest, hate filled, ignorant, evil, foul and vicious man who hated Jesus more than he loved himself.

Update: I said that the Republican candidates were falling all over each other to praise the hypocritical hate monger, and indeed most of them were. However, John Aravosis has compiled the actual score, and he gives Thompson, McCain and Giuliani credit for comparatively faint praise, and Tancredo and Paul, so far, have not eulogized him. (I would not expect Ron Paul, a principled libertarian, to express admiration for Falwell.)

The rest, however -- 5 out of 9 -- are elevating him to sainthood. Credit where it's due, but of course Ron Paul is not really trying to become president.


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