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Copyright © Stephanie Dickison 2006.
“I think Muhammad was a terrorist.”
These words were spoken by Conservative American preacher, Jerry Falwell on a recent segment of “60 Minutes.” If there wasn’t an audible gasp of indignation across the nation, there should have been.
The serial controversialist has since apologized for this and other remarks made during the interview, but this seems to be another case of too little, too late for the specious Baptist. His comments caught some media attention here in North America, but caused such tension between Hindus and Muslims in western India, it led to the death of at least nine people and left more than 140 injured.
Abdullahi An-Na’im, the former head of Human Rights Watch Africa told Newhouse News Service, “Most Muslims will ignore this, but the Islamists, the fundamentalists, the militants will weave this as a scenario between Falwell and Bush.”
As of October 2002, Iranian Muslim clerics have ordered a fatwa, calling for Jerry Falwell, along with Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson. Franklin Graham, son of Billy, said the God of Islam is not the same God as the Christian/Judeo-Christian faith. Robertson posits that Judeo-Christian values are more qualified to govern America that that of Hindus and Muslims.
From the frying pan into the fire. In a nation that is already trembling with fear and terror, we now have a war of words on our hands. This however, is nothing new to the bombastic Falwell.
Not so long ago, September 12th to be exact, the Reverend apologized for comments he made blaming feminists, gays or lesbians for bringing on the terrorists attacks while on “The 700 Club.” Before this, he asserted that Teletubby is gay and the Antichrist is a Jew. The amount of damage done and empty apologies is right up there with those of recent political pundits. After stating that gays and lesbians were responsible for the 9/11 tragedy, Falwell told CNN, “I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize.” In a world where weather forecasters can make inaccurate predictions regularly and not risk unemployment, there is still a strong following for Hurricane Falwell. His views are so popular, he’s instituted a school where people who share his beliefs can congregate, and now, receive a law degree.
The Liberty University School of Law
“In a nation that, in one generation, has legalized abortion on demand, removed prayer and Bible reading from our schools and more recently attempted to outlaw the Pledge of Allegiance because of the words ‘under God,’ it is high time that we create a law school that will produce men and women who are committed to the Judeo-Christian ethic, the preciousness of human life and the defense of the Judeo-Christian values that formed this great nation.”
The nation’s climate has had little effect on Falwell. His pitch-perfect timing to cause uproars and get away with it continues to be the litmus test for which the country takes on an almost daily basis.
Like Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships, Falwell launches furies that hath no end. In For The Sake of Peace: Seven Paths to Global Harmony – A Buddhist Perspective, Daisaku Ikeda says,
“Eternal peace is a continuum consciously maintained through the interaction of self-restraining individuals within a self-restraining society.”
While Falwell’s appeal may be as a defender of moral rights, his downfall continues to be his inability to take into account what is going on in the world, outside of his palatial walls, and then plays hot potato with who is to blame when his words are contended.
Falwell continues to be in the spotlight due to the devotion of his followers and his own smooth self-promotion. He ignites a nation with a cacophony of lethal verbal vipers and steps away unscathed. A few insincere apologies and he goes right back to his pulpit, virtually without castigation.
Robert Lynde once wrote, “It is a glorious thing to be indifferent to suffering, but only to one’s own suffering.”
This is not only a mystifying quality for a human being to inhabit, but for a preacher of the word, it seems extremely paradoxical. This is what is at the heart of Jerry Falwell. He is a fundamentalist, through and through.
fun·da·men·tal·ism Pronunciation Key (f n d -m n tl- z m)
1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
a. often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
b. Adherence to the theology of this movement.
fun da·men tal·ist adj. & n.
fun da·men tal·ist ic adj.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
It is mandatory that as a sundered nation, we move away from intolerance and become more accepting of those that differ from us, in opinion, dress or language. It is up to the leaders of the world to begin this change. The nation will follow. And if Jerry Falwell refuses to change, then he should not be allowed the (inter)national attention he usually receives. A man who has started war with his mere words, should not be allowed to get the soapbox he stands upon. However, free speech asserts that he is given this right.
For The Sake of Peace also offers the following five principles of peace.
1. Mutual respect of territorial rights
2. Mutual nonaggression
3. Nonintervention in domestic politics
4. Equality and reciprocity
5. Peaceful coexistence.
Perhaps if you and I begin to undertake this task of both tolerance and self-restraint, the rest of the world will follow. Let’s hope so. Jerry Falwell has a big mouth, and an even bigger following. It’s going to take more than a village. It’s going to take a planet. Let’s get started.