Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Some Relatively Unfavorable Commentary on the Recent Death of Jerry Falwell

I am not aware that any of the criticism, deserved or otherwise, that attatched itself to Jerry Falwell over the length of his career ever took note of the fundamental (no pun intended) contradiction that was at the heart of his favorite line of rhetoric. Falwell's critics invariably took aim at his deliberate and frequent divisiveness and at the lack of both taste and humanity denoted by his comments. Often, his critics were correct in so doing-certainly his suggestion that gay and lesbian couples were the sole parties that ought to be taken to account for the September Eleventh Attacks would have been best left unsaid-but they have been strangely silent on the chief paradox of his ideological platform, namely, that he wished to both act as the chosen arbiter in dealing with a social ill and appear as one of its chief victims.

Falwell was the founder of the notorious "Moral Majority," one of the less disputable proofs that what is good for Republicanism in America is not likewise healthy for Christianity in the same. Falwell credited this organization for the elections of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and didn't much exaggerate in his claim; his organization raised 70 million dollars for Reagan alone in his first run for the presidency, and has played a significant hand in subsequent Republican bids for office. Falwell set himself up as the spiritual voice of the political party which unquestionably dominated political discourse in the 80's and enjoyed an almost uninterrupted hegemony on capitol hill between 1994 and November of last year.

In spite of the political influence he enjoyed and didn't mind mentioning (he commented once that it was due to his brainchild that America was not in worse spiritual straits than was the case) Falwell also liked to play the proverbial Victim Card when it suited his motives. The picture of America he often painted was one in which Christians (or TheoCons, which in the terms he selected usually came across as the same thing) were gaurding the keep of Christ's Kingdom on Earth while under assault from all sides by a variety of infidels, ranging from illegal immegrants to commentators in the employ of National Public Radio. The advantage derived from this grotesque framing of Christians' place on the political stage of America is that the religious right now feels the paradoxical impulses of a robust and virile demographical voice that has elected three of the last four presidents, and a reactive and self righteous paranoia that ensures that every housewife in Topeka now feels every bit as disenfranchised (and is certainly every bit as vocal) as her enlightened feminist counterpart in Manhattan.

It's certainly not a misrepresentation of most liberals of the post Vietnam era to say that they illegitimately made all victims to appear as martyrs and all the oppressed as angels. This development, I believe, is nothing short of secularized baptism, a baptism in which instead of Man's redemption by Christ's Blood from sin unto righteousness he is redeemed by his own suffering, and uplifted from voicelesness and disenfranchisement and granted a seat at the Table of Righteousness, or excuse me, Special Interest Dialogue. God had His chosen people before Christ died for all, and provided that all might be given membership in His Body, and democracy does more or less the same thing, only by means of extending the vote to those who have not got it and playing upon the bitterness Man feels toward the empowered above him. Thus they "Behold the Man" as did the Jews at Pilate's order, but The Man in question is a white republican who has no other name.

Falwell's greatest legacy was helping to introduce the culture of victimhood to the church in America, and the particular baptism that attends it. With this he also introduced the need for American Christians to choose between yet another counterfeit Christendom and the one that whose provision was made on Calvary two thousand years ago.

May he Rest in Peace.

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