Jerry Falwell died today. In 1979, Falwell founded the Moral Majority, a religious special interest group that worked to conform law and policy to their view of religion. At various times, he spoke out against scientists, secularists, Jews, gays, and teletubbies.
To me, Falwell was the epitome of what's wrong with politics. It is true that Jews and Romans killed Christ, but that's actually incidental. They just happened to be in power at the time. Christ's execution was the result of collusion between church and state.
I would argue that all progress we've made in the West traces back to a separation of state force and individual opinion - allowing the individual freedom to argue for, and live by, standards that aren't normal and aren't enforced by the state. Falwell was one of these reformed segregationist who was offended by the parade of abnormal that characterizes America, a man eager to stamp out deviation from his interpretation of God's true law.
My own faith represents about 1/100th of 1 percent of the US population. Nonetheless, there are members of my faith who feel an affinity with the political goals of Falwell and his ilk. That kind of thing just scares me. The best any of us can ever hope for is the freedom to live our own lives. I've no illusions about keeping my rights should there become a national conversation about the ONE way that should guide our politics. And in truth, although minority religions like Bahai or Jews are the first to go in a purge of religious deviancy, it doesn't take long before the Protestants and Catholics are casualties as well. There are very few winners in the battle to align church and state. My contempt for Falwell doesn't follow from my contempt for religion but, rather, my fondness for it.
Falwell was a throwback to the time when each colony represented a particular faith. That he was embraced by so many is proof that we still do a poor job of teaching religion in our schools. In a sane society, he would have received no more publicity than someone advocating the reinstatement of royalty or child labor.
Falwell is dead. One can only hope that the theocon movement he helped to inspire soon follows.
Among those happy to see him go:
Among those sad to see him go: