Bill Moyers articulates the base reaction I have to the death of Jerry Falwell. His “legacy” if you will, was the sowing of intolerance. It’s what Moyers describes as Falwell’s “theology of fear and loathing”. That about sums it up. Falwell fueled the fires of religious bigotry.
The first two minutes of Moyer’s spot on Bruce Bawer, who has written a book , While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying The West From Within, which contains his commentary on Falwell, is accessible via this link
I watched the segment on Bawer, and he , although certainly an intelligent and articulate guy, is a bit scary to me. His “core values” seem to be tied to the notions of a “democracy” that sounds a lot like what Christopher Hitchens is saying about religion in general. Even Obama, who seems to be one of the most “religion affirming” candidates in recent history, echoes the same kind of bottom line allegiance to “democracy” when he said that “religion must be disciplined by the demands of democracy. This seems to be yet another variation on the exchange that usually goes like this: “I believe that life in America ought to be patterned along the lines of the Biblical message”. Reply: “Whose Bible?”
You rarely hear anyone say “Whose democracy?” It’s almost an automatic that “democracy” is one of those “universals” that everyone understands. But in reality, just as there is widespread agreement, especially in “progressive” circles, that it is simplistic to suggest that there is A “Biblical approach” vs A “secular approach”, the same applies to “democracy”, but our language would seem to urge us toward some notion of a “natural revelation” when it comes to “Democracy”, and a strained effort to get everybody to “speak the same language” when it comes to the “public square”.
Bawer’s book leans heavily toward a caricature and pigeonholing of Muslims based on an obvious minority of the followers of Islam. Noone denies that there is Islamic fundamentalism. But Bawer’s concern is how we can curtail the expressions of Islam that lead to fundamentalism. So are we logically willing to apply this to “Christian fundamentalism” in our country, and plot ways to curtail “signs of fundamentalism leaning”?
The fact that Christians are the “majority” in this country makes it OK to “tolerate” the Jerry Falwells, even though his “teaching” and theology (that “theology of fear and loathing” encourages “followers” of that nationalistic “hybrid” –or “heresy”– of Christianity to be tolerated because it doesn’t foster violence. The disturbing thing is that it DOES, but the violence is not experienced by our country (or only within the families of those 3000+ killed or countless others physically or psychologically or spiritually maimed ), but wrapped in the flag and the “values” of “freedom and liberty”.