TV preacher Jerry Falwell has promised to start a new political organization\n that he says will be a “21st century resurrection of the Moral Majority.”
Encouraged by President George W. Bush’s re-election in November and\n Republican Party gains in the House and Senate, Falwell says the time is right\n for him to create a new organization that will press for anti-abortion nominees\n on the Supreme Court, push for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex\n marriage and advocate for the election of a “George Bush-type” conservative\n in 2008.
Americans United says the new organization is likely to be just another fund-raising\n gimmick for the intolerant TV preacher.
“Falwell keeps threatening to reanimate the Moral Majority,” said\n Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Has he never\n seen an old horror movie? Every time they bring Frankenstein’s monster\n back, it just gets worse. Some things should be left dead and buried.”
Falwell said he will personally serve as national chairman of the new group,\n to be called the Faith and Values Coalition, for four years. His son, Jonathan\n Falwell, will serve as the organization’s executive director and Tim\n LaHaye, author of the “Left Behind” series of evangelical end-of-the-world\n thrillers, will be chairman of the board of directors. Mat Staver of Falwell’s\n legal unit, Liberty Counsel, will act as vice chairman.
While Falwell is running the group, his son Jerry Jr. will oversee Liberty\n University and Thomas Road Baptist Church.
“We all, for the first time, began to realize the potential of religious\n conservatives, particularly evangelicals, when something over 30 million of\n them went to the polls,” Falwell told the Associated Press.
He added that Religious Right voters were energized by the debate over same-sex\n marriage.
Lynn greeted Falwell’s announcement with some skepticism, pointing\n out that Falwell has a history of claiming to start new groups that never actually\n do anything. Research by Americans United in May of 2000 uncovered several\n Falwellian pseudo-organizations, among them: 1984’s I Love America\n Committee, 1987’s Liberty Foundation, 1994’s Mission\n America, 1997’s National Committee for the Restoration of the\n Judeo-Christian Ethic and 2000’s People of Faith.
Lynn also said Falwell is wrong in assuming that Americans agree with his\n goals. The AU head noted that recent analysis of election results have debunked\n early claims that “values voters” put Bush back in office. In fact,\n voters’ main concerns were terrorism, national security and the war in\n Iraq.
“The people do not share Jerry Falwell’s repressive vision of\n an America where church and state are merged and the views of intolerant TV\n preachers form the basis of our laws,” Lynn said.
Nevertheless, Lynn said AU will closely monitor the new Falwell unit to make\n certain it operates within the law. Lynn noted that Falwell said that one of\n the goals of the group is to elect a Religious Right conservative as president\n in 2008. If this is the case, Lynn said, the organization cannot incorporate\n as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit.
In other news about Falwell, the Lynchburg TV preacher is feeling some heat\n after he told a CNN interviewer that the United States should kill terrorists “in\n the name of the Lord.”
Falwell was debating the war in Iraq with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on CNN’s “Late\n Edition with Wolf Blitzer” Oct. 24. After Jackson labeled the Iraqi conflict “a\n misadventure,” Falwell responded that the United States must kill terrorists\n abroad before they come to U.S. soil.
“But you’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops,” Falwell\n said. “And I’m for the president to chase them all over the world.\n If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.”
Jackson replied, “That does not sound biblical to me. And that sounds\n ridiculous.”
Several moderate Baptists contacted by Associated Baptist Press criticized\n Falwell’s comments. They agreed that it is appropriate for the nation\n to defend itself against terrorists but said engaging in violence in the name\n of religion is dangerous.
Killing terrorists is justifiable, said David Gushee, a professor of moral\n philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. “However, it must be\n recognized that in the terms of Christian moral thought, even justified wars\n are not to be treated as if they are being fought ‘in the name of the\n Lord,’” he said.
Stan Hastey, executive director of the Alliance of Baptists in Washington,\n D.C., added, “Jerry Falwell apparently believes the United States\n is waging a holy war in Iraq. Such comments are fodder for the terrorists,\n bulletin board material for Osama bin Laden in recruiting his own holy warriors.\n What spews out of Jerry Falwell’s mouth is increasingly toxic. He would\n do well to re-read Jesus’ beatitudes and reorder both his rhetoric and\n priorities accordingly.”
Glen Stassen, professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary\n in Pasadena, Calif., took an even stronger stance.
“Jerry Falwell is showing that he is infected by a demon, and unfortunately\n it has spread to many others,” Stassen said. “The demon is the\n assumption that either we kill people in war or they kill us.”
At least one group sought to use Falwell’s words to spur activism.\n Sojourners, a group of progressive evangelicals, ran a full-page ad in USA\n Today Nov. 1 reprinting Falwell’s words beside the image of a tank\n barrel.
The ad, signed by 200 Christian leaders, attacked what it called “a ‘Theology\n of War.’”
Read the ad, “Peacemaking is central to our vocation in a troubled\n world. We urge Christians and others to remember Jesus’ teachings in\n making their decisions as citizens.”