It's not for me to spit on a warm corpse. I'm sensitive to the fact that he left a family who loved him on a personal level, and believe me, I'm hip to how much his death is hurting them, especially today and in the coming days. So if one of Falwell's immediate family is reading this, please accept my condolences for your loss, and I apologize in advance for the hard words that will follow.
But the man you loved was, at his heart, a bad man. He turned his love for his God into a political agenda, and in so doing brought shame to himself and diminished many people's view of his God. For his sake, he'd better hope there is no heaven, because he's gonna be on the outside looking in.
It's my belief that Falwell did more damage to the American political landscape than any other human being, other than perhaps the current President and his administration.
Falwell's particular brand of havoc was to inexorably tie religious beliefs to politics, against the specific instructions of the framers of the Constitution. In so doing he has set the course of American history back by decades. I know this is a difficult concept for a lot of people, especially Christian people, but there are more people in the United States besides Christians. And there are plenty of Christians who can separate the notions of how a country should be run versus how one's house should be run. But Falwell decided things should be otherwise.
There's nothing wrong with being a person of faith, though I admit freely that I am not one. What's wrong is that certain people of faith are, you should pardon the expression, hell-bent on subjecting the entire population to the same set of rules by which they have chosen to live (the selfsame choice, by the way, that might never have been possible had the Founding Fathers decided that religion and politics ought not mix).
A provocative question: How much different is the Christian right - specifically that segment of the Christian right that pursues a political agenda - from those who would see Islamic regimes set up based on Shariya, ancient Islamic law? Sure, maybe the way punishment is meted out might be different (we'll throw you in the hoosgow for knocking over a liquor store; those crazy bastards will cut off your hand), but the idea is the same: conduct YOUR life according to the tenets that I believe, and if you can't see the folly and the arrogance of that, you're not paying attention.
And Jerry Falwell was the man that pioneered the concept that his God should run the United States. And would say and do anything to further his political agenda, irrespective of whose beliefs he trampled or whose good name he besmirched. He claimed that feminists and Democrats -- Democrats, for heaven's sake! -- were doing the work of the devil. He claimed that AIDS was God's divine retribution for the "sin" of homosexuality. He claimed that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were the direct cause of abortionists and the ACLU. He of course later claimed that his remarks two days after the attacks on Pat Robertson's 700 Club were taken out of context. I'll let you be the judge:
JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, yes.
JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. 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'.
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.
How out of context could that be? On September 13, 2001, when the whole country was shaken and raw, and tears were shed for total strangers, and there was a universal outpouring of sympathy and pity and love for one's fellow man, here's Jerry Falwell blaming Americans for that horrible tragedy and furthering his own political agenda at the exact time that a TRUE man of God would be trying to heal the nation's wounds.
No, Jerry Falwell was not a good man. History will not remember him kindly, and that is the one true legacy that he deserves.