When I first heard the news that Tammy Faye Bakker only had a few weeks left to live as she battles with inoperable lung cancer I thought that this was a subject that I should leave alone. Besides being in a leadership position with a large fundamentalist movement in the early 80s that was ultimately crushed by scandal she is really a moral, decent and upright person. Tammy Faye, with her incredibly thick make up, was an incredibly accepting person. This included people that did not share her beliefs with her. Her most recent foray into entertainment was an appearance on the surreal life along with some characters like porn star Ron Jeremy, rapper Vanilla Ice, Traci Bingham, Erik Estrada, and Trishelle Cannatella. She was often heard making comments such as “people need to grant themselves permission to cast off the things that are holding them back, to forgive themselves and others, to be happy with themselves whoever they are, to persevere in the face of opposition, and to show each other unconditional love.” So the fact that I do not agree with Tammy Faye’s religious views has absolutely no effect on my feeling that she is generally accepting of varying beliefs and lifestyles and had nothing in mind but to make the world a better place. The only major thing that I can fault her for is having bad taste in men. This of course is a trait that she shares with most women in America, if not the world.
So as I mentioned, my plan was to leave the ironies of religious icons dying of horrific afflictions alone. Then all of the sudden I saw a story on CNN that Jerry Falwell, was sick. I clicked on the headline only to be taken to a story saying that he was dead!!! Jerry Falwell represents the same section of society under the banner of extreme fundamentalist faith that Tammy Faye represented, but with one exception. Jerry Falwell was an evil arrogant, hateful bastard. Falwell certainly left some marks on American society. We could call these marks stains since even after his passing they will be difficult to remove. One of those stains is the formation of an anti-gay group that was bent on “the polarization of the American electorate and the rise of Christian evangelicals as a political force in American politics.”
Falwell is credited with making it comfortable for religious leaders to get into politics. This of course has had some very positive effects on our society from Ted Haggard’s induced gay sex addiction to President Bush having difficulty fielding questions about the apocalpyse in press conferences.
Falwell’s biggest headline grabbers were of course more recently in his career. In 1999 he pointed the “Moral Majority” towards an incredibly important task of destroying the teletubbies. The teletubbies, an awkward children’s show from the 90s had a character that Falwell considered to be “a symbol of gay pride and a poor role model for children.” Falwell also overlooked Al Qaeda’s responsibility for the 2001 September 11th attacks on the World Trade towers. He claimed that there were some other groups that were responsible for the attacks and that these groups had brought the wrath of God. Falwell was quoted saying “I really believe that the pagans and the abortionist and the feminist and the gays and 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.”
Falwell actively pushed to get religion and politics as intertwined as possible. He often claimed that this country was founded under the principle of “one true God.” Of course in the Treaty of Tripoli, which was drafted under George Washington and signed by John Adams it is stated “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Peter Carr wrote “Shake off the fears of servile prejudices under which weak minds are firmly crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there be one he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
The most hilarious part of this story is that just a week before his death Falwell was interviewed and said that he had asked God for another 20 years of life to complete the work that needed to be completed. He quoted the story of Hezekiah, who asked God for the same thing and had it granted. Apparently "god" did not feel that Falwell was as worthy of this request as Hezekiah. Of course the Christian community is just as happy with Falwell’s passing as the non-religious community. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist convention said "A true giant of the faith has gone on to his heavenly reward." Obviously, like most Christians, Land does not comprehend the seriousness or permanence of death.
Falwell was single handedly responsible for a large movement to intertwine politics and religion. This is an idea that our Founding Fathers would have viciously opposed. It is this type of mentality that is holding America back from progress, causing us to wage wars that we have no right to wage, causing us not to accept those that differ from us in religious views or lifestyle choices. One can only hope that the age of close-mindedness, bigotry and hate ended with Falwell’s death, but as we all know, in all likelihood, it more than likely left a vacuum for an even bigger monster to take his place. If people have to believe in the ridiculous notion of a “sky god” let us hope that they at least are led to act more like Tammy and less like Jerry. Someone please save us from ourselves!