Almost 28 years ago I toyed with my first professional writing adventure. My college roommate Joe Duggan had approached me with the proposition that we freelance a profile piece on the man who was grabbing national headlines with his political activism, so we drove down to Lynchburg Virginia, attended a service at the Thomas Road Baptist Church, and then settled in for an hour-long interview with its founder. Yesterday I returned to that church, this time with my son David, and joined by the 6,000 packed inside the building, and thousands more seated at Liberty University’s Vines Center and Williams stadium, we paid our final respects at Jerry Falwell’s funeral service.
His story is one of extraordinary professional accomplishments: The Thomas Road Baptist Church, with 24,000 members; Liberty University, with 27,000 students and 125,000 graduates; the Old Time Gospel Hour radio and television programs – on and on it goes, a ministerial enterprise that operates on a $200 million annual budget. Oh, and along the way he also founded the Moral Majority, the political juggernaut critically instrumental in the election of Ronald Reagan.
"Gay bishop snubbed by Anglican conference" reads the headline for the May 22 Reuters article by Luke Baker. But take a look at the lede and second graf and you'll see there are two bishops to be excluded from the gathering of Anglican prelates:
LONDON (Reuters) - The Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual head of 77
million Anglicans worldwide, has not invited two wayward bishops to a
major conference next year, a move likely to stir controversy in the
deeply divided communion.
Archbishop Rowan Williams has sent
invitations to more than 800 Anglican bishops asking them to attend the
Lambeth Conference in July and August 2008, but has not invited two
American bishops, Gene Robinson and Martyn Minns.
All three news magazines devoted a page to remembering Jerry Falwell this week, but Time and Newsweek were each obnoxious in their own way. Time ended their article with a dismissive quote from leftist Jim Wallis: "the Evangelicals have left the Right. They now reside with Jesus." Newsweek displayed false generosity in saying sometimes he was a demagogue, and sometimes he was the ringmaster of a circus: "He could be a demagogue, but he was as much a P.T. Barnum as anything else."
Time magazine, in a back-page article titled "Jerry's Kids" -- which could be an insulting reference to Falwell followers, but is probably intended to bless his more palatable, "more moderate" successors -- Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs suggested that Falwell thought party labels were more important than the social issues:
If the six men charged with planning to attack Fort Dix a few weeks ago all had ties to mosques in southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, would this be newsworthy?
Well, America’s press outlets didn’t seem to think so, for with little exception, this bit of information went largely unreported.
In fact, according to Google news and LexisNexis searches, the only major outlet to report both mosques involved was the New York Times on May 14, albeit page one of Section B (h/t WOR’s Steve Malzberg, emphasis added):
Bill Maher, host of HBO's "Real Time", tore into Jerry Falwell on the May 18 edition of his show, saying, with a photo of Falwell in the background, such things as, “... death isn’t always sad." The worst comments from Maher came from his argument for turning homosexuality into a religion, with references to the Mass as gay oral sex and reception of Holy Communion as gay oral sex. Here is the clip. WARNING: the material is very offensive.
Yesterday, a friend from Los Angeles called. The person is successful, known, part of the entertainment industry. Jerry Falwell is, my friend said, the reason I can't call myself a Christian in Hollywood. He is what everyone thinks to that when they hear the word Christian. That may well be Jerry Falwell's most enduring and most troubling legacy. Jerry Falwell almost single-handedly blurred the line between Jesus and conservative politics to the detriment of both.
It might not be surprising for liberal blog commenters or talk-radio callers to denounce Rev. Jerry Falwell upon his death, but it's a little more surprising when it comes to a professed Christian who's religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Cathleen Falsani reflected on her first reaction about hearing Falwell was "relief" and compared him to gangster TV character Tony Soprano:
Knowing I didn't have a deadline to meet that day, my first thoughts were not of what to say or write.
In fact, my very first thought upon hearing of the Rev. Falwell's passing was: Good.
And I didn't mean "good" in a oh-good-he's-gone-home-to-be-with-the-Lord kind of way. I meant "good" as in "Ding-dong, the witch is dead."
Can you imagine CNN providing live coverage to a Republican presidential candidates forum before a conference put on by the Family Research Council? Or would CNN worry that their coverage was promoting the FRC event and adding heft to the FRC’s national image? Flip that scenario to a group on the religious left, and you have the reality of CNN’s announcement that they will air a forum for the top three Democrat contenders at a conference organized by Sojourners, a group of "progressive Christians" who want more government aid to the poor and less money for the "disastrous" war in Iraq. CNN announced in a press release:
CNN will serve as the exclusive broadcaster of a presidential candidate forum on faith, values and politics during the Sojourners "Pentecost 2007" conference in Washington, D.C. The event will be held Monday, June 4, on the campus of The George Washington University, and CNN will broadcast the forum live during the 7 p.m. (ET) hour of The Situation Room.
The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and author of the best selling book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, has invited Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama to share their ideas and proposals about pressing social issues with a special emphasis on poverty. Wallis also invited CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien to moderate the forum.
CBS News producer/blogger Greg Kandra opened the e-mailbag today to relay to "Couric & Co." readers some negative reaction to the network's coverage of Rev. Jerry Falwell's death. In particular, Kandra quoted from a female Liberty University graduate and vascular surgeon who took issue with historian/guest pundit Douglas Brinkley's assessment of Falwell's views on women.
In an appearance on the May 15 "Evening News," Brinkley dismissed Falwell as a reactionary who (emphasis mine) was "opposed to some of the
progressive liberal high watermarks of the 1960s, and certainly he
wanted--his returning to family values was returning to women being in
the kitchen, in many ways."
What does it say when porn-peddler and sex-shop owner Larry Flynt treated Jerry Falwell’s death with more class than CNN? As Newsbusters reported yesterday, during “Anderson Cooper 360,” CNN used a still from an old protest video that had a large illustration of Jerry Falwell next to a large illustration of Hitler.
Despite being courtroom and media adversaries that was kicked into overdrive when Flynt ran a fake ad in “Hustler,” which claimed that Falwell’s first sexual experience was with his mother in an outhouse and resulted in a lawsuit producing a landmark First Amendment ruling by the US Supreme Court, allowing the parody of public figures, Flynt issued this surprisingly generous and thoughtful statement to "Access Hollywood" on May 15 (emphasis mine):
In 2003, David Kuo resigned from the Bush administration's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and later wrote a book [published just before the 2006 mid-term elections] claiming that the administration was hypocritical in its dealings with religious conservatives.
The MSM had a field day because according to them [as E.J. Dionne wrote here, for example], Kuo was a religious conservative himself. But is that true? What kind of religious conservative, the day after Jerry Falwell died, would go on MSNBC's Tucker Carlson show and say this about the late pastor?:
DAVID KUO: In bringing the pulpit to politics in the very strident, narrow and frankly angry way that he did, he very much damaged the name of Jesus.
Less than 10 minutes after it featured Christopher Hitchens hate-filled remarks against Jerry Falwell, Tuesday night's “Anderson Cooper 360" featured another critic of the late evangelist, Mel White. White, an openly gay minister, runs a radical homosexual activist organization called Soulforce. White wrote two books for Falwell before coming-out as a homosexual. While he expressed his sadness upon hearing of his former colleague’s death, White expressed his belief that Falwell caused the deaths of homosexuals by his rhetoric.
After asking White what he was feeling after learning of Falwell’s death, and about his own strained relationship with the late evangelist, host Anderson Cooper asked, “Personally, do you think he [Falwell] hated gays?” White responded,
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has issued a call to media outlets to stick to a script of liberal bias and emphasize "Falwell's history of denigrative comments and examine the cultural progress toward inclusion, acceptance and respect that he fought against." Their website even included a story from CNN’s Newsroom from Tuesday afternoon, in which CNN prominently included old protest video that placed a large illustration of Falwell’s face next to a large illustration of Hitler’s face. So much for GLAAD's "anti-defamation" pose. Video: Real (582 KB) or Windows (659 KB) plus MP3 (97 KB)
On "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN correspondent Randi Kaye, who raised eyebrows in December for a story worrying about Saddam suffering when he hanged, shared no comparable horror at the death of Falwell. Her transcript read like a commercial for GLAAD, as their president Neil Giuliano was the only talking head in the piece (except for taped tidbits of Falwell) as he insisted Falwell was un-Christian: "Falwell’s attacks were a violation of religious faith."
Update/Related (16:44 | May 17) P.J. Gladnick of "DUmmie FUnnies" (also an NB blogger) has a blog entry about Democratic Underground worrying about commenter bile over Falwell damaging their "cause."
Update (10:14 EDT | May 17): WikipediaReview.com picked up on this post. The discussion board's slogan: "Now with 100 percent better judgment, care, and sensitivity than Wikipedia itself." Check them out.
(Content warning: Inappropriate, crass comments from left-wing nutjobs excerpted below)
Joking that an elderly religious man died from suffocating on a penis is not my idea of anything "comical." It is to the George Carlin wannabes at Wonkette though, reporting on a vandalized Jerry Falwell page on Wikipedia:
Something happened to somebody famous, so guess what happened on
Wikipedia … that’s right, the person’s page was comically vandalized! Nobody ever gets tired of a really good joke.
You'll recall that in March, MRC's Brent Bozell wrote about Wikipedia's bias against conservatives, but this is ridiculous.
On Wonkette's part, posting such an item served only to provide another comment thread for wingunuts to spew hatred about Falwell and religious conservatives, such as this dirge by commenter "choirboy":
Over the past years, the liberal mainstream media has produced gushing tributes to deceased "secular saints" such as Princess Diana, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Coretta Scott King. It would have been practically sacrilegious for these outlets to air any kind of immediate criticism of such figures. Yet, in the 24 hours or so since the death of Christian conservative leader Jerry Falwell, the mainstream media has given air time to every sort of criticism of the late evangelical. On Tuesday night's "Anderson Cooper 360," noted atheist Christopher Hitchens launched one of the most vitriolic attacks to date on Falwell. Among the terms Hitchens used to describe Falwell were "ugly little charlatan," "bully," "fraud," and "little toad."
A NewsBusters reader sent us an MP3 clip
of an ABC News radio report from the afternoon of May 15 by "Nightline"
host Terry Moran. In it, Moran boils down the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's clerical career and political activism to one extreme soundbite from
shortly after 9/11.
Moran left unmentioned that Falwell later
clarified his statements to reflect more accurately his belief that God lifted the "curtain" of His protection to allow 9/11 to happen, and closed his report emphasizing Falwell as a marginalized political actor:
In 2001, just two days after the 9/11 attacks, Falwell infamously and
appallingly blamed the mass murder not on terrorists...
FALWELL sound bite: The pagans and the abortionists...
Sure, it's a basic Judeo-Christian tenet that we will be accountable to God for our actions on earth. But if a reverend from the religious left had died yesterday, do you think Diane Sawyer, immediately after reviewing controversial statements he had made in the course of his career, would conclude by archly observing that the reverend has "gone to answer to his Maker"?
Neither do I. But that is just what the Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer did today on the occasion of the death of Jerry Falwell. After a brief biographical review, Sawyer stated "as the years went by, even some believers saw intolerance buried inside his attacks." She highlighted three of his statements. First, a clip of Falwell stating "I happen to be a Bible-believing Christian. And the Old and New Testament both teach that homosexuality is sin." Sawyer and anyone else are free to reject that teaching. But in Sawyer's eyes, does stating what Scripture says amount to "intolerance"?
The sudden death of Rev. Jerry Falwell on Tuesday marked not just the passing of a television evangelist, but of a historic conservative leader and regular cable TV pundit. The mainstream media developed a strong distaste for him because he entered the political arena and helped establish a stronger conservative movement. For reporters, he was the definition of the far right, someone whose support made a Republican unacceptable, and any Republican who attacked him (like John McCain in 2000) quickly became a media hero. The Washington Post infamously described him as leading a flock that was "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command." Here's a selection of "Notable Quotables" capturing their attitudes:
"In 2000, John McCain ran for President as a different kind of politician....Straight talk included taking on powerful Christian conservatives like Jerry Falwell, whom he called an ‘agent of intolerance.’....McCain is [now] trying to repair relations with the religious right.... For McCain, doing so could jeopardize his reputation for being a different kind of politician." — Reporter Dan Harris on ABC’s World News Tonight, April 14.
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts Tuesday night couldn't resist ridiculing the late Jerry Falwell for pointing out how a children's character on a PBS show appeared gay -- though gay rights advocates had earlier made the same observation -- and CBS brought aboard liberal presidential historian Douglas Brinkley who called Falwell “comedy fodder for people,” found it relevant that “feminists never liked him,”and dismissed him as “a backlash figure” whose “returning to family values was returning to women being in the kitchen.”
On ABC's World News, which unlike CBS and NBC did not lead with Falwell's death, Dan Harris asserted: “In the final years of his life Falwell alienated some in his own movement with a series of controversial statements. For example, he said the children's TV character 'Tinky Winky' was a gay role model.” CBS's Richard Schlesinger recalled that in later years “Falwell started making embarrassing missteps, denouncing a popular cartoon character as a gay role model.” Over on the NBC Nightly News, Bob Faw, who concluded his piece by asserting that “the Reverend Jerry Falwell -- crusader and polarizer -- was 73,” raised the PBS show: “In 1999, Falwell was ridiculed when he complained one of the PBS Teletubbies was gay.” But a 1999 Cox News story archived on a gay news Web site, began: “In the flap over whether Tinky Winky the Teletubby is gay, the real news is that the Rev. Jerry Falwell is late to the party.” Phil Kloer pointed out that in 1998, the year before Falwell spoke out, “the gay magazine The Advocate presciently wrote that 'PBS is clearly terrified that the same fundamentalists who boycott Disney are going to flip once they get wind of the latest lavender love puppet.'”
If you've ever wondered why stories critical of Islam are often dropped off sites like YouTube and Digg, look no further than this email currently being circulated among YouTube users encouraging the formation of a private group to promote Islam through gaming YouTube's favorites system:
Date: May 14, 2007, 11:18 AM
to all muslim brothers and sisters please read
Our Islamic videos will not get full attention unless they come in
the top ranked videos in youtube. For this purpose we all Muslims have
to rate the videos to 5 stars and have to add them to our favorites.
This will not be achieved if we Muslim Youtubers are scattered, i.e.,
one muslim rating one video and other muslim rating another. So we have
to be highly organized. We will do a massive campaign of focusing to
rate a single video collectively at once, so that it can show up on the
top videos at least in the “Today’s top videos” list.
I'm not a fan of Jerry Falwell, who died today
shortly after being found unconscious in his office at Liberty
University at the age of 73. That said, I am quite disgusted with the
pathological hatred displayed by liberal bloggers in their reactions to
Dick Kreck of the Denver Post seems to think there is a good "point" to a suggestion that Christians should be suspected bombers because Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh was supposedly a Christian. In a column about local radio talk show host "Gunny Bob" of KOA, Kreck comments that a radio station detractor has "got a point" when he satirically said that, since McVeigh and Nichols were Christians, all Christians should be placed under surveillance because of the actions of the two bombers. The detractor was responding to talker "Gunny Bob's" idea that all Muslims in the USA should be forced to wear GPS tracking bracelets so the government could keep track of them all.
"It is unclear what role, if any, religion played in the attack Mr. Shnewer and the five other men are charged with planning. (The sixth suspect, Agron Abdullahu, had no apparent connection with Al-Aqsa or the South Jersey Islamic Center.) The authorities have described the suspects as Islamic extremists, but the lengthy criminal complaint summarizing the F.B.I.'s 15-month undercover investigation of the group does not mention where -- or how often -- they prayed. Certainly there is no evidence that they picked up radical ideas at either mosque."
As Ken Shepherd reported earlier, on the May 14 edition of "The View" co-host Rosie O’Donnell once again advanced her now famous September 11 conspiracy theory. After admitting to a "cult personality," Rosie engaged in a verbal spat with her colleague Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the merits of this crackpot theory.
Joy Behar accused former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani of incompetence in handling the lead up to and aftermath of the terrorist attacks of that horrific day. This prompted Rosie to note that Giuliani shipped some of the debris to China, implying the former mayor had evidence to hide. After Behar lashed out at Giuliani for not moving the Command/Control Center out of the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombing, Rosie advanced her conspiracy theory again.
A 12 year old girl is suing the Chicago Board of Education for negligence, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress after a substitute teacher led her 8th grade class to watch the film Brokeback Mountain with the warning, "What happens in Ms. Buford's class stays in Ms. Buford's class," according to the lawsuit.
The teacher then proceeded to show the 8th grade elementary school class the R rated gay themed film; a film that garnered its rating for sexual content, language and drug use.
According to the suit, a substitute teacher introduced herself as Ms. Buford to Jessica's class at Ashburn Community Elementary School, 8300 S. St. Louis Ave. She then said, "What happens in Ms. Buford's class stays in Ms. Buford's class," the suit claims. Buford then had a student close the door, and started showing the controversial R-rated film, which features two men engaged in sex.
Washington Post reporter Alan Cooperman reported in Saturday's Religion section on evangelical scholar Francis Beckwith rejoining the Catholic Church. This is a controversial act, but centered on theology (in this case, the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI). But to find the correct (or the entertaining?) analogy, Cooperman selected a blogger who compared it to Hulk Hogan switching professional wrestling organizations:
The president of the Evangelical Theological Society, an association of 4,300 Protestant theologians, resigned this month because he has joined the Roman Catholic Church.
The May 5 announcement by Francis J. Beckwith, a tenured associate professor at Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Tex., has left colleagues gasping for breath and commentators grasping for analogies.