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.”

Louisa May Alcott – a poem


It’s a hymn by Bunyan, quoted in “Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott. I remember it from childhood and it sounded like Bunyan and when I looked it up, it was.


I’ve always been fond of this poem by Louisa May Alcott. It reminds me of something from Bunyan, for some reason.

Maybe it’s a quote that I don’t recognize. I’ll check.
The words evokes a sentiment probably as far as away as it’s possible to get from our consumer society and its partisan politics. Probably, it will be seen as trite, banal, or escapist by many people today.

But I wonder if that would be because of a failing in the verse or in the readers…

He that is down need fear no fall,
He that is low no pride.
He that is humble ever shall

Have God to be his guide.

I am content with what I have,
Little be it, or much.
And, Lord! Contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.

Fulness to them a burden is,
That go on pilgrimage.
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age!

God’s Son, Falwell’s Mother And The Rest of Us Ho’s

Jerry Falwell, the evangelical preacher, who founded the Moral Majority, as well as Liberty University, died on May 15, 2007.

There were many things I liked and respected about Dr. Falwell. He built elementary schools and homes for single mothers; he helped alcoholics, the homeless and AIDS victims. He sent money to help the poor and sick in Africa. He built up a large university. When he debated Larry Flynt on TV, I remember he conducted himself with great dignity, generosity and humor.

I hope that he will be remembered for these things at least as much as for the pain his pronouncements over the years caused homosexuals, pagans, witches, abortionists (in his words), blacks and many other groups of varying ontological status.
Mind you, I say that as a childless divorcee, skeptical occultist, ethical pagan, and heterodox Christian whom Dr. Falwell would no doubt have consigned to the flames of hell.

Like most people today my primary difficulty is not with believing, but with not believing. Believing comes altogether too easily. The world – whether seen through the lens of science or through our own eyes – is so complex, variegated, fluctuating, and contradictory that we are ever more disposed to grope for certainty in areas where it may most be an illusion.

Some would say that Falwell’s fundamentalism was of that nature.

But there are other credulities besides religious ones.

How much easier and more comforting to our perpetually aggrieved sense of fairness, for instance, to think that all beliefs – if held with sufficient good will – are the same, all convictions equally plausible, all systems of economics – if only tried with good faith – equally productive.

How easy and – often – how wrong.

Jerry Falwell, for all his flaws – and they were clear enough – was not flawed in that way.

His beliefs were narrow. But by his lights and the lights of many who are fundamentalists, it was the narrowness of the way to eternal life preached in the gospels.

Progressives, who like to sample only what they find most palatable in Jesus’ teachings — like walnuts in an unfamiliar salad — have a tendency to ignore his words as they have actually come down to us. And no wonder. Taken literally (and that, I suppose, is why they are rarely taken literally), they would stick in our craws.

This is the Jesus who once said the gospel was for “the children” of the house (Israelites) and not for the “dogs.” (Samaritans). He may have stopped the adulteress being stoned, but he didn’t deny she was an adulteress. As for the Pharisees, the liberal, well-educated elite of his day, he routinely called them a nest of vipers for the hundred sophistries and metaphors with which they got around tedious religious rules. Jesus often seemed tiresomely literal to them, as well.

And he seems to have lived in expectation of an apocalypse too, even if he also died without seeing it.

But, of course, you will say — that was Jesus. This is Falwell.
And you would have made your point. Jesus was often deliberately opaque, ironic; he iced the sting of reproof with parables, poured compassion over the wounds his words inflicted and made his point as often with artistic silence – at crucial moments.

Falwell was rarely silent, and even more rarely artistic.
But among the many offensive quotes I see attributed to him, I have so far seen nothing that was much more than a blunt, unlovely articulation of some text of Christian or Jewish scripture.

If that is hate speech and potentially discriminatory under the law, as his many detractors claim, then we must outlaw substantial portions of the major religions.

Certainly those portions of the Old and New Testaments, which classify homosexuality among abominations, advocate killing diviners and witches, and celebrate crushing your enemies’ babies on rocks; which relegate women to subordination even in matters of conscience, and – like Falwell – attribute natural calamities and plagues to the wrath of a touchy deity. As a Christian, I speak of the Bible, but I’ll warrant that there are few scriptures that are entirely innocent in these matters.

Words, whether we think they come only from Jerry or directly from Jahweh, can offend.

They can cause immense pain. Ironically, Falwell himself suffered that pain once, very publicly. Pornographer Larry Flynt published a revoltingly nasty parody of a liquor ad, which had Falwell describing his “first time” with his mother in an outhouse. In 1988, in a seminal decision (Hustler Magazine Inc. Vs. Falwell), the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision to award the preacher damages for emotional pain, strengthening even further the protection of free speech about public figures. It was satire, said the justices, and satire has a venerable history, especially in America politics. To limit it would cast a pall over public debate.

Many applaud that decision unhesitatingly. It goes without saying, in our secular world, that pornographic imagery of that sort (I refuse to give it the great, good name of sex) – however maliciously intended – is never harmful in any ‘real’ way, and we are nothing if not realists…..or so we think.

Oddly, the also realistic CIA – whom no one could accuse of swooning sensitivity in these matters – thinks differently. By the 1960s, it had come to regard “no touch” torture – among which sexual humiliation occupies a prominent place – as more damaging than conventional physical torture in the long run. It “leaves deep, searing psychological scars on both victims and — something seldom noted — their interrogators,” writes Alfred McCoy, (The Hidden History of CIA Torture: America’s Road to Abu Ghraib, 2004).

Falwell was not directly injured in the same way, of course. But it seems at least odd, if not downright confused, to argue that the very malicious public humiliation of a religious figure respected by a large segment of the population is not
a real injury to him and his followers, while the strong but not vicious articulation of hoary religious doctrines about pagans and witches, for instance, is a real injury to those groups – one that borders on discrimination so powerful that it needs to be outlawed as hate speech, as some have suggested.

That’s to say, a woman like me – qua believer – is supposed to be devastatingly injured if a Jerry Falwell tells her she can’t get to heaven while reading astrology charts. (His heaven, by the way, is presumably something she either doesn’t believe in, to begin with, or if she does believe in, thinks has different entrance requirements).

Yet, the same woman – qua woman – is supposed to be serenely untouched, if not actually enthused, when a Larry Flynt concocts imagery depicting her violently humiliated in pornographic terms. And this schizophrenia is usually to be found in the same progressives for whom sexuality and gender is supposedly a much more serious business than theological doctrine.

There’s no denying that religion has often had a history of subordinating some people to others nor that we are right to regard religious dogma with suspicion when it imposes itself on non-believers through the mechanism of the state. But there are other dogmas besides religious ones. And, allied to the power of the state, they can become quite as oppressive.

It was not overtly in the name of Christianity, after all, but in the name of secular, universal values that the American government bombed Orthodox Christians and Muslims in their own countries in recent years.

It may be time to recognize that some dogmas, whether religious or secular, might be mutually exclusive and it is our refusal to recognize and respect that exclusivity that has led to the current sorry state of political debate. Yet, respect we must. For, while it is impossible to meld irreconcilable beliefs without changing their natures, what is not impossible is to co-exist peacefully as people, while admitting that our beliefs are irreconcilable.

For that to happen, precisely defining religious belief or artistic expression or political speech is less important than cultivating a will to extend generosity to even our most fervent opponents. Style is more essential here than substance.

Jerry Falwell, after all, did disavow hatred for any group, even while he characterized them in accordance with his religious beliefs. And, to all appearances, those beliefs were sincerely held.

It is double-think of the worst kind, then, to label this express disavowal of hate as “hate,” unless you have proof of some kind of disingenuousness. And if you misused language in that way, what right would you have to feel injured if you heard the same Orwellism issue from the mouth of some right-wing talk show host who characterized your own viewpoint about gender or economic policy as “man-hating” or “class warfare”?

None at all.

Here is a modus vivendi easily available to anyone willing to try some agon-istic respect. Left-wing critics of Falwell could simply look at what the preacher said as a form of art. Perhaps a subsidy from the government would even be forthcoming. And fundamentalists could simply think of sexual liberalism as a distinct dogma and let it enjoy the protected status of a minor church. They might then be able to argue against a religious establishment in the public sphere with better success than they have until now.

Some of Falwell’s critics would do well to take a leaf out of his book and at least profess to love fundamentalists no matter how much they hate fundamentalism.

Ideas Against Empire

Murray Rothbard, cited by Joe Stromberg:

“And this is how even a mighty and despotic State gets toppled. This is how ideas effect social and political change – through movements, through alternative visions, through struggle. And this is a change that should gladden the hearts of libertarians, for it shows that a Leviathan State, even a particularly brutal and dictatorial one, can be vanquished….”

What are some of those ideas? One, is to see through the facade of liberal warmaking states:

“…liberal states, by allowing considerable economic freedom, sit atop more productive economies than do backward states. With lower taxes, they can still raise great revenues and assemble superior armed force. They then wield this armed force in projects that interest them as state apparatchiks, while the busy commercial classes pay little enough attention.

Accordingly, liberal states such as Britain and the United States are likely to succeed in imperialist competition, while clunky feudal-mercantilist or dirigiste states are not. This is the key to the much-mooted “democratic peace” imposture. Liberal democratic states get more revenue and win most of their wars. This tells us nothing about the merits of those wars, and little enough about reasons for those states’ foreign policies. (Hint: doing good may not top the list.)

Long ago, John Locke saw the point: “that Prince who shall be so wise and godlike as by established laws of liberty to secure protection and encouragement to the honest industry of Mankind against the oppression of power and narrowness of Party will quickly be too hard for his neighbours.” Thomas Paine, too, saw it, when he wrote that, “the portion of liberty enjoyed in England, is just enough to enslave a country by, more productively than by despotism; and that as the real object of all despotism is revenue, a government so formed obtains more than it could do either by direct despotism, or in a full state of freedom; and is therefore, on the ground of interest, opposed to both.” And Hans-Hermann Hoppe has made the same point at greater length. [48]

It would be interesting to look at the ambiguities of Locke as an early semistatist modernizer, [49] mercantilist, participant in the slave trade, etc., but there is no room here, and anyway, Locke has plenty of latter-day followers in providing a liberal façade for state activities. They are legion who stand for “free-market” Social Bonapartism – the imposing of “freedom” and “spontaneous order” by US weaponry. That so many Chicagoites are on board the imperial train suggests that the Chicago School always functioned as the right wing of Cold War liberalism. [50]

This is heady brew and one can easily see why enlistments are up in John Stuart Mill’s Own Lancers and the Bentham Berets. Instead of cultivating our own garden – dull work at best – liberventionists have enlisted to “Smash Someone Else’s State,” or to repudiate someone else’s national debt. This creates a bit of a problem.”

More ideas to end an empire:

“What can someone do, who sincerely believes that markets work better than states, that liberty is better than statism, or that life is better than death? Well, he or she can learn to separate America from the state, justifications from good intentions, morality from utility, American political realities from vanished 18th-century essences, freemen from Founders, defense from empire, and so on.”

Read more at “How Murray Rothbard Singlehandedly Brought Down the Saigon Government with Malice Aforethought,” Joseph Stromberg, Lew Rockwell, April 4, 2005.

Fining Landlords Who Rent to Illegals

The city council of Farmer’s Branch, a Dallas suburb, recently took a tough line on illegal immigration by approving fines for landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, making English the city’s official language and letting suspects in police custody be checked for their immigration status.
In “Farmer’s Branch Follies,” Michelle Wucker at the Huffington Post writes:

“Without a doubt, the federal government’s failure to reform our immigration laws bears much of the blame for the counter-productive actions of small towns across the states. Let’s hope that if any good comes of the Farmers Branches of the world, it will be to add to momentum for reform.

Unfortunately, we cannot count on reason from the federal government either. In 1918, the lynching of a German immigrant in Collinsville, Illinois, for supposed “disloyalty” (more likely, for general obnoxiousness, including having accused Americans of failure to display Old Glory sufficiently prominently) pushed a sluggish Congress into action. The law that ultimately passed, however, was not one to prevent lynchings and irrational behavior, but rather to crack down on foreign-born suspicious characters and to muzzle the freedom of speech in general. The logic that turned a lynching at the hands of U.S citizens into justification for the passage of 1918 Sedition Act is, sadly, the same warped reasoning that this year got us Congressional approval of a border fence instead of a set of immigration laws that have something to do with reality.”

My Comment:

Putting the burden on landlords to prove that their tenants have their legal papers in order seems rather unfair to me. But of course, it’s much easier to collect a penalty from landlords. Once again, the state passes the buck to citizens……