Posted by: L | May 18, 2007

Hitchens on Falwell, Bill Barnwell on Falwell’s Critics

I am posting this from Christopher Hitchens, who — until he inexplicably acquired a body double a few years back — used not to enjoy bombing, but was, of course, never above wearing his anticlericalism on his sleeve:

“The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God’s punishment if they hadn’t got some kind of clerical qualification?

People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup. The whole consideration of this — of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we’re — we’re not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I’m glad to see he skipped the rapture, just found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.

How dare they talk to children like this? How dare they raise money from credulous people on their huckster-like (INAUDIBLE) radio stations, and fly around in private jets, as he did, giggling and sniggering all the time at what he was getting away with?

How dare he say, for example, that the Antichrist is already present among us and is an adult male Jew, while, all the time, fawning on the worst elements in Israel, with his other hand pumping anti-Semitic innuendoes into American politics, along with his friends Robertson and Graham…encouraging — encouraging — encouraging the most extreme theocratic fanatics and maniacs on the West Bank and in Gaza not to give an inch of what he thought of was holy land to the people who already live there, undercutting and ruining every democratic and secularist in the Jewish state in the name of God?

I think he was a conscious charlatan and bully and fraud.

And I think, if he read the Bible at all — and I would doubt that he could actually read any long book of — at all — that he did so only in the most hucksterish, as we say, Bible-pounding way.

I’m going to repeat what I said before about the Israeli question. It’s very important. Jerry Falwell kept saying to his own crowd, yes, you have got to like the Jews, because they can make more money in 10 minutes than you can make in a lifetime. He was always full, as his friends Robertson and Graham are and were, of anti- Semitic innuendo.

Yet, in the most base and hypocritical way, he encouraged the worst elements among Jewry. He got Menachem Begin to give him the Jabotinsky Medal, celebrating an alliance between Christian fundamentalism and Jewish fanaticism that has ruined the chances for peace in the Middle East.

Lots of people are going to die and are already leading miserable lives because of the nonsense preached by this man, and because of the absurd way that we credit anyone who can say they’re a person of faith.

Look, the president endangers us this way. He meets a KGB thug like Vladimir Putin, and, because he is wearing a crucifix around his neck, says, I’m dealing with a man of faith. He’s a man of goodwill.

Look what Putin has done to American and European interests lately. What has the president said to take back this absurd remark? It’s time to stop saying that, because someone preaches credulity and credulousness, and claims it as a matter of faith, that we should respect them.”

My Comment:

Yes, Falwell’s contribution to the Iraq war was lamentable. So were those of many other Christian and Jewish Zionists. And secular liberals. But, what is amazing to me in Hitchens’ performance is that he completely overlooks the fact that he himself supported the invasion of Iraq……oh, I forgot, he has good liberal, secular reasons for doing it.

That doesn’t make me like religious extremism (I want to distinguish that from fundamentalism) any better. But it goes to show that there are any number of ways to rationalize murderous policies, if you want to. You don’t have to be religious to do that.
And to balance Hitchens, here is a libertarian antiwar pastor, Bill Barnwell, on Lew Rockwell ,who disagreed with Falwell’s position on the war, but finds Falwell’s critics as disturbing in their denunciations of him as he was in his war-mongering:

“The worldview of such people is to judge another’s personal worth solely based upon whether they are for or against abortion, pro or anti gay rights, or whatever other hot button issue riles them up. While I think Falwell got some issues wrong, this does not make him a piece of dirt in regards to everything else. I’m quite sure I don’t have it all together on everything either; and really, neither does anyone else for that matter. Therefore, we all should be careful about making blanket statements about a person’s worth or intentions.

Certainly many who are laughing off Falwell’s death regularly pat themselves on the back for being so much more tolerant than the “Religious Reich.” Many of Falwell’s critics despised him because of his “hate” (hate being defined as opposing abortion and homosexual behavior). But how does acting like a hateful, intolerant crank show ones love and tolerance? Or does love and tolerance only extend to people who think and act just like they do?

What are some of the nice words being posted around the web in remembrance of Falwell in the hours since he’s passed? Here’s a sample from this site:

You’re pulling my leg! No wonder everyone is so happy and shiny faced today. I think we all should have lots of premarital (or in some other way offensive to him) sex to celebrate. Yes, I see no ill in celebrating the death of a man who has caused so much pain and suffering to others. Not in the least.”

I had hoped the fat bastard would have pulled through and lived the rest of his life as a vegetable. Darn, there goes my veggie soup.”

I think a stake through the heart would be appropriate… just to make sure…”

“wow – this feels as good as the day Reagan died!”

“We’ve been singing this great song in my office ‘Somebody’s burning in hell,

Somebody’s burning in hell!’”

“Yeah – maybe if we’re all nice and respectful and Xtian about it, the fundies will be impressed and like us. Burn in hell you fat hateful lying hypocrite pig!”

There’s dozens of other nice, tolerant, and loving memorials that can be read at that site. But how about hearing from the diversity celebrating folks over here on this page:

“I hope he is gang-banged in Hell by Satan, Saddam, Hitler, and Liberace.”

“makes me want to sodomize as a tribute to him. now, if only I knew the sexual preferences of other gawker readers…”

“So how soon is the funeral, and where? Some serious grave-dancing is in order, here.”

“Our Father which art in heaven, please let Pat Robertson be next!!”

I could go on and highlight posts from plenty of other blogs, but I think you get the point. If these individuals want to act so uncivilized and uncaring, then they certainly have the right to think and say whatever they want, no matter how nasty it might be. But if they make the claim that they are more loving, kind and tolerant than Falwell, or really just loving, kind and tolerant in general, then they should stop lying to themselves. They ought to just admit that they are as uncaring and nasty as the next rigid ideological extremist.

The militant hard-left should stop pretending that it celebrates diversity and cares about all people. Individuals who make up this movement actually only tolerate and celebrate other people who think and act just like they do. Once you deviate from the party line, you become a worthless human being. And if we’ve learned anything from the passing of Jerry Falwell, it’s apparently a good thing if you die.

Celebrate Diversity.

My Comment:

Of course, Mr. Barnwell is forgetting something here. Unlike Falwell, none of his critics are advocating bombing large groups of people.

Still, he makes a good point. Whom are we trying to talk to?
Progressives have someone here who is on their side on this vital issue of war and they completely turn him off – quite needlessly – by their vituperation. It’s hard to get anyone to hear anything new or have a change of heart, when the tone of the discussion is so shrill.

It seems that people sometimes don’t really care whether they’re getting through to anyone. They simply prefer to say what they want to hear…to assuage their own feelings. Which, of course, they manage to do. It’s a form of therapy for them that also solidifies group feeling with other people who agree with them.

But isn’t the point of debate to clarify your position to people on the other side? To persuade them? Not just to justify your arguments to yourself? Otherwise, you might as well stay inside your bathroom and mutter at your face in the mirror. You’re tying to converse with people from very different backgrounds from yours, with different thoughts, different experiences, different conclusions – you have to make at least a small effort at civility. Get out of your pajamas so to speak, brush your teeth, put on some clothes and go down and meet your guests. Don’t snarl at them from behind your locked door. Be a hypocrite, if necessary.

The other point is that, unfortunately, as Barnwell suggests, we don’t really celebrate diversity of opinion these days. We welcome different skin colors (which is good), but we want everyone thinking the same way – or at least in entirely predictable ways that have been scripted before hand. Again, an intelligent response to the ideological divide by Ali Eteraz:

“I always considered myself a humanist and do still. It just cannot be the case that only one “side” of a political divide have a monopoly on humanism. I know for a fact that Isaiah Berlin would not exactly be welcome in some parts of the left; nor Solzhenitsyn. [I also know that Burke would be ridiculed in some parts of the right]. I cannot in clean conscience engage against religious supremacism and exclusion if I engage in ideological supremacism and exclusion.

I believe in human solidarity. In the elimination of cruelty and humiliation. I believe in living beyond labels and identity markers. My motto is, and was, the following:

History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetites, which shake the public with the same troublous storms that toss the private state and render life unsweet. These vices are the causes of those storms. Religions, morals, laws, prerogatives, privileges, liberties, rights of men, are the pretexts.

Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to names; to the causes of evil which are permanent, not to the occasional organs by which they act, and the transitory modes in which they appear.

Edmund Burke, Reflections On The Revolution In France

I trust in my ability to distinguish between those that advance the causes of liberty and those that undermine it.”



  1. Lila,

    I apologize for leaving this comment here but my allergy meds have left me so addled I didn’t see an email address. 🙂

    You left a comment on the Sepia Mutiny meetup thread asking if it was an “Invitation-only” sort of event; it’s quite the opposite, all are welcome. I hope we get the opportunity to meet you tomorrow!

    Please let me know if we’ll get to enjoy your company either via my email (entered above) or the thread itself.

    Thank you,

    Anna 🙂
    who is thrilled you might be coming!

  2. Hi –

    Sorry I couldn’t make it. Too busy these days.
    I linked Sepia Mutiny, though.
    Take care,

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