I was not at all happy to see Rev. Al Sharpton who—despite his recent rash of semi-statesmanlike conduct—has a history of demagoguery, being treated seriously this week. Not only did the Democrats give him speaking time, but CNN used him extensively as a regular commentator.
Now comes news that the GOP may have found someone even worse than Sharpton to put front and center in their convention! The Carpetbagger Report says that it seems the GOP may ask Falwell to give an invocation.
I admit that I used to have a soft spot for Falwell. He used racially mixed audiences in his show. He seemed cleaner than, say, the Bakers. And he took a vacation from politics to concentrate on religion when all the TV preachers were getting indicted. (Yes, 1989 was a convenient time to leave the TV evangelism/politics thing, the bloom was off the rose, but his claim that he felt a need to concentrate on spiritual issues was nonetheless plausible.) He seemed horribly wrong, but sincere, and up to a point I like sincere better than apathetic.
But then he lost it. First he endorsed felon Oliver North for Senate. Then in the late '90s he got back into politics. (According to this summary I learn he'd never 'left' as much as I thought anyway.)
Then Falwell attacked Tinky Winky, one of the Teletubbies (a UK children's show), claiming the character was a gay icon (he, gasp, carries a red purse in some episodes).
Then Falwell really went too far, saying, a few days after the 9/11 attacks:
“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'”
Yes, Falwell later offered a non-apology apology, but even so, could the GOP really put this man on stage in New York?
P.S. Please don't say 'oh, it's just an invocation, not a political statement'. In some ways, that's worse: this is a man whose theology is that all non-Christians (as he defines that term i.e. including Catholics, Muslims, Jews, atheists) not to mention gay people are damned. And whose theology argues that the state's toleration of non-Christians (as he defines it) is not only wrong, but invites divine retribution.
I could never understand the support of the fundamentalists for the Republicans, or even of their involvement in politics at all. For those who fervently believe that the bible can coexist peacefully with government, I would urge them to look to their history: namely, the Puritan experiment in Massachusetts. Here, the Puritans (whose brand of fundamentalism would make zealots today appear lax) had free reign to design a government as they pleased and even to select their citizens. They discovered, to their dismay, that the bible sounded good in a sermon but was too vague to be the basis for a system of government and of laws. Ultimately, the Puritans were forced to rely on a council to interpret what the bible might have said (a council that would, understandably, look to its own interests as it interpreted the bible), and disagreements about the validity of the “orthodox” opinions sowed the heresies that helped kill this experiment. Even the dogma that made the Puritans what they were turned out to be a threat to an orderly society, and so had to be cast as heresy and stamped out. And neither did Puritan government make anyone detectably more virtuous–every sin under the sun flourished in Massachusetts, as their records reveal. Yet somehow we keep stupidly thinking that electing Republicans will create a virtuous Christian nation–a utopia. More devout people have tried it already, and failed. So why do we keep trying–what is different today?
As for what the Repubs may think, Falwell’s invocation is simply the Repubs pandering to their base support. It costs them nothing financially or in terms of political capital to give the zealots a token appearance before promising them a few policies they have no intention or hope of implementing.
To learn more about Falwell’s political/religious philosophy, see these choice quotes offered by General J.C. Christian.
Sorry — incomplete URL: http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/2004_07_01_patriotboy_archive.html#109108042327872472
Nice to see I’m not the only person who still thinks Sharpton does not deserve a national stage handed to him. I was in New York during the Tawana Brawley incident and I remember how ugly it all was and how innocent people’s lives got changed for the worse thanks to Sharpton and his “Tawana was raped” crew of liars.
This is fabulous. I’ve lived in Manhattan for 20 years, and it was news to me that America [heart]ed New York. True, by 2001 the nation’s image of the city had come a long way since Panic in Needle Park, Dog Day Afternoon, and the Taking of Pelham 1-2-3; but Falwell’s talk of “pagans” etc was hardly an expression of his own unique or personal pathology; on the contrary, he was giving vent to very deeply rooted traditions of suspicion, even hatred, of New York and everything it supposedly ‘stands for’ — the same kinds of suspicions that Bush is pandering to, even as I write, with his anti-“Hollywood” talk. For those and many other reasons, I was extremely skeptical about the pseudo-communitarian outpourings post-9/11, as well as resentful — but not at all surprised — when those outpourings mutated into the ‘tribal’ hatred that has marked the so-called War on Terrorism. I was really pissed when the GOP decided to exploit 9/11 by having their tawdry little hatefest here; but now I love it, because choices like Falwell make it all too clear what the GOP’s interest in NYC was all along — they wanted what we call here a bitch. But not one they actually had to (ewww…) touch, mind you — hence the various prophylactic devices (1, 2) they’ve been trying out. 🙂 I only hope that New Yorkers return to their senses as much as the GOP has; if they do, the results could be pretty entertaining. Pray that they are…
Re: Sharpton and Brawley….
Whenever right-winger bring that up now, my response is
“Sharpton was getting bad information from people, and rather than change course as it became increasingly obvious that his information was seriously flawed, he simply demogogued the issue further. That’s why Al Sharpton will never be nominated for President by the Democrats. But you keep supporting Bush, who did the same thing with Iraq…”
Don’t turn a blind eye to the even shadier characters the dems cozy up to, Yahya Hendi:
Yeah, kerry will reform the intelligence system …