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WASHINGTON (September 14, 2001 8:10 p.m. EDT) - One religious fanatic is
pretty much like another when it comes to using the Bible or the Koran to
justify the most unimaginable barbarisms.
If there was much doubt about this, two of America's champion evangelical
zealots - Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson - put it to rest with an
extraordinary example of insensitivity and bad taste. Both voiced the belief
that the deaths of thousands of Americans at the hands of terrorists was
inspired by God as a way of getting even with those who condone feminism,
homosexuality, abortion rights and any number of civil liberties the two
have no use for.
"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give
us probably what we deserve," Falwell said during a television appearance on
Robertson's "700 Club," a Christian Broadcast Network showcase of right-wing
religious dogma with an audience of millions. Robertson agreed as Falwell
added U.S. courts and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and
People for the American Way to his list of villains.
"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not
be mocked," he was quoted as saying. "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 ... all of them who
have tried to secularize American - I point the finger in their face and
say, 'You helped this happen.'"
The White House couldn't distance itself quickly enough, immediately calling
the jarring remarks "inappropriate" and even adding, unnecessarily one would
think, that President Bush doesn't share those views. At a time of almost
unprecedented unity in this nation, it was a dismaying, discordant and
decidedly "un-Christian" display and one that should have long-lasting
reverberations even among those who share this pair's social positions.
Falwell, of course, did not mention that one of the probable heroes in this
worst of all domestic tragedies was a young gay, a rugby player named Mark
Bingham, who, it is believed, helped overpower hijackers who planned on
crashing the airliner into a Washington target. The plane was forced down in
Pennsylvania, with the loss of all aboard but saving who knows how many more
lives in the nation's capital.
Do these sanctimonious boobs believe for one moment that among the
firefighters and police and other rescue workers who lost their lives and
among the thousands who are still striving to save more there aren't gays
and lesbians and people who believe in abortion rights? Do they actually
believe that God would spit on any of his children because of their social
beliefs - that in the process he would condone the killing of innocents who
fear and worship him?
Well, we have an answer to those questions. They do.
During the Republican presidential primary campaign, Sen. John McCain
roundly denounced the concepts of both men and their followers at great
expense to his chances. The speech he made in Virginia was a political
mistake, but he was right. In sharp contrast to the mean-spiritedness of
Falwell and Robertson were the healing words of a truly religious man, the
Rev. Billy Graham, who led the nation Friday in a prayer of renewal.
This is, after all, a free country and these men are allowed to speak their
minds freely and believe whatever they like, no matter how contradictory to
the precepts of the religion they preach, like tolerance and compassion and
forgiveness. They quite clearly would deny that privilege to others. But
there are consequences to those actions. One of those should be general
condemnation even from their followers who pump millions and millions of
dollars into their coffers to support their television "ministries" and
evangelical "universities." Voting a resounding "no" to this behavior with
one's checkbook would be quite appropriate.
Moreover, the Baptist Church at the very least should move to censure
Falwell, whose latest example of political and religious insensitivity
should now be embarrassing to even the more rigidly fundamentalist arms of
the church. Liberty University should disassociate itself from this
millstone of intolerance. The use of the title "Reverend" for such a person
is not only a mockery to Christianity, but is blasphemous.
Obviously, the president of the United States has more to do in these days
of crisis than to worry about the ranting of two religious nuts whose
beliefs are not terribly unlike those who perpetrated this crime against
humanity. But when he gets some time, he should make it abundantly clear
that he wants nothing more to do with either of them.
Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.
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