by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
Sept. 27, 2001
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM JERRY FALWELL?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The week after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, the Rev. Jerry Falwell apologized for saying on Pat Robertson's "The 700 Club" television show that they reflected God's judgment on a nation spiritually weakened by the American Civil Liberties Union, providers of abortion, supporters of gay rights, and federal court rulings banning prayer in schools.
After rebukes from his own followers, the general public, and the president of the United States, Falwell recanted. His remarks, he said, were "insensitive, uncalled for at the time and unnecessary." He added, "The only label any of us needs in such a terrible time of crisis is American." Robertson, who agreed with Falwell twice on the air, issued a statement saying that he never suggested God was at fault, and that only terrorists were responsible for the attacks.
Now that God has been exonerated, I think we should examine the possibility that Falwell and Robertson were on to something key. Why do Falwell and Robertson and their co-religionists dislike the ACLU, which protects our precious Constitutional freedoms? Why do they dislike gays and lesbians, or women who want to control their lives and decide for themselves when they become mothers, or people of all races and religions who treasure this country for the freedom it gives us to think, speak and worship as we please?
While I can't speak for them, I find it interesting that these freedoms are also detested also by the same Islamic fundamentalists who at the same time destroyed our beautiful New York skyline and 6,686 people's lives.
Those psychotics sneered at our "decadent" ways and our ability to move through our society freely, without identity papers and police checks. The terrorists took advantage of many of these freedoms in order to carry out their loathsome plots.
In terms of decadence, they hate the fact that women in America walk through the streets dressed as they please, that they can mingle with men, learn and teach and hold jobs and be as competent and powerful as they chose to be.
The Islamic fundamentalists, like the Christian fundamentalists and the Jewish fundamentalists, seem to be seeking a return to a backward time when men were in complete control of the world and all the women in it. Women stayed at home, serving and deferring, bearing and raising children, running the households and doing practically nothing else. Kinder, kuche and kirche, I think the Germans used to say - children, kitchens and church.
One striking thing about the terrorists, at least as it has been reported in the press, is that they believed they would go straight to heaven and be serviced by crowds of vestal virgins. These virgins wouldn't have identities, personalities, needs, desires, or other occupations. Their only function would to service the men. And if that's the terrorists' idea of heaven,= imagine the horror of being a women under their control on earth.
It seems that in terms of the valuable freedoms in our society, Falwell and bin Laden have more in common than they might be comfortable admitting.
One of those right-wing Christians, by the way, is our president, George W. Bush. He took office with a two-fold agenda. One was to loot the country and line the pockets of his elitist friends and campaign contributors, and he was well on his way to accomplishing it when the terrorists took down the towers.
More to my point was the other agenda: bringing America as close to a Christian fundamentalist county as possible by banning abortion, demonizing homosexuals, moralizing about family values in the face of the excellent jobs Lesbian and gay mothers and fathers are doing, pushing back African-American civil rights, and attempting to destroy the Constitutional boundaries between church and state. This plan, too, was well under way.
While I was surfing the cable networks last week, looking for temporary relief from the magnitude of pain and dread I have been feeling after the terrorist attacks, I ran across the film "Elizabeth." It begins in 1554, at a time when Catholics were burning "heretic" Protestants. The young Elizabeth asks, "Why we must tear ourselves apart for this small question of religion? We all believe in God."
Oddly enough, in her world, the pope was the Osama bin Laden figure. He says, "The righteous shall inherit the earth. Any man who undertakes to (kill Elizabeth) will be welcome into the kingdom of heaven."
For the past two weeks, despite my anger and my very real desire for revenge, I have been preaching peace and/or a measured response. I've been trying to point out the insanity of sending aircraft carriers and Tomcats to find a man who hides in caves. Every time Bush says "This is war!", I say, "Against who?"
And my e-mail hath been running over with sneering and hateful messages. The general tone is that we should all stand behind Bush and declare war on people we can't even name, much less find.
But unlike Falwell and Robertson or - dare I say it - bin Laden, I am enormously grateful for the rights and freedoms granted to me by the Constitution, including my right (and my correspondents' rights) to say what I think and question the actions of the president if I believe they will harm both Americans and innocent people abroad. For all the flaws of America, we have something precious here.
Perhaps inadvertently, Falwell's comments illustrate the dangers of radical thinking, and that a desire to oppress liberty is not limited to the Taliban.
One of the beauties of America is that although we sometimes tilt right and sometimes left, the best of us strive for balance. We search for inclusionary ground.
We should never let anyone take that away from us, certainly not in the name of religion.
In "Elizabeth," the character Sir Francis Walsingham asks a question that I've been asking myself a lot lately.
"There is so little beauty in this world and so much suffering," he said. "Do you think that this is what God had in mind?"
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes aboutculture, politics, economics and travel.