Jerry Falwell Blames You

19 Sep 2001

Jerry Falwell Blames You
The televangelists, the godless heathens, and a little proper

By Mark Morford
SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, September 19, 2001

There has been talk of hucksters amongst the New York rubble, of scam artists and shysters, of crazy wandering people seeking nonexistent loved ones, of slimeball journalists angling for an inside scoop, of fake rescue personnel seeking morbid souvenirs.

Of phony charities set up by fraudulent scum-sucking slug-people trying to dupe the minds and drain the wallets of heartbroken Americans, of glazed-eyed Scientologists masquerading as mental help counselors and walking around carrying clipboards and asking bystanders if they'd like a free "personality test" and the opportunity to meet John Travolta in a bunker somewhere in Florida.

Then there are Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Perhaps you have heard this. Perhaps you saw the incredible story. It winged around the Net faster than light, faster than ignorance itself. Two aging and small-minded but somehow still influential religious zealots. Two pasty and terminally unpleasant whitebread televangelists, leaders of immense flocks of sadly misguided Christian citizens, sucking in millions in donations every year to finance their "churches" and their religious compounds and their cosmetic dental work and their bulletproof gold-trimmed Range Rovers.

There they are, on "The 700 Club," the Christian pundit TV show, off in some dank remote corner of the cable channel spectrum, howling and thumping into the Void, all righteous and judgmental and somehow very, very sad. Robertson and Falwell, sitting on really ugly couches surrounded by fake flowers and bad lighting, openly blaming much of the World Trade Center tragedy -- all the violence, the hatred, the astounding brutality of it all -- blaming it on, you know, those people.

Gays. Lesbians. Liberals. Feminists. Pro-choicers. The ACLU. Pagans, for chrissakes. That prominent army of cultural heathens running like rabid dogs through the moral flowerbed, who have angered the Bearded One and riled His fur and invited His punishment of non-protection down upon Earth because of their wanton and godless ways and gosh, well, this is what happens when you go against the will of the Almighty and don't call in right now to the number you see scrolling across the bottom of your screen and pay your church dues on time and in full, brother. "God gave us what we deserve," Falwell actually said. And Robertson nodded.

And you can get angry at their words or you can shake your head in disbelief, you can groan or sigh or you can even laugh a little, at the absurdity of it all, at the rabid intolerance and the obvious display of narrow-minded religious bile, the appalling self-righteousness, rooted in the same acrid fundamentalist soil that spawned the "Attack on America" in the first place.

And you can note that even the White House itself, the most right-wing administration we've had to endure in decades, even Bush & Co. was forced to call Falwell's comments "inappropriate" and thus impel a rather embarrassing retraction and a mildly humble apology, not that it matters, not that anyone believes it, but still.

But the best reaction is of course to be very, very pleased. Happy, even. To realize it's always a good day when fundamentalist religious bonk-jobs go way over the line in a very public way, when even an administration like Bush's has to distance itself from the Christian right, when even devoutly religious people who might've had some affinity for Robertson or Falwell in the past may indeed realize how utterly noxious is the voice of prejudice and fanaticism and excessive use of Brylcreem.

It was, in effect, an ironically powerful misstep, one that will serve only to further unite all us disparate savages and heathens, liberals and conservatives and communists, gays and lesbians and heteros and the as-yet-undecideds, vegans and meat eaters, and make us all realize how little room there is in the world for shallow isolationism and ignorant dogma, for hilariously mangled moral principles, for the limp egos of unhappy men of limited intellectual acumen whose sad ideologies simply could not be further removed from the reality we're all saddled with, for better or worse.

And for this awkward gesture, this small but glorious backfiring, we should all be grateful.

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Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, just like a special magic bunny of love. He also writes the Morning Fix, a deeply skewed daily email column and newsletter.

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