Falwell and Savage Christians: A Legacy of Hate and Violence

"The true Negro does not want integration. ... He realizes his potential is far better among his own race." -- Rev. Jerry Falwell

The late Rev. Jerry Falwell was one of the most powerful men in American religious and political life. He was also an avowed segregationist, contending that Africans were the cursed descendants of Ham, and worthy only of subservience to white people. He was an adamant opponent of civil rights legislation, calling the Civil Rights Act a "civil wrong."

His segregationist ardor became inconvenient when he sought a national audience. He removed many of his sermons from the 1950s and 1960s from his Liberty University archive. His lies paid off as the media made Falwell the Christian spokesman for all issues related to religion and politics. They soft-pedaled or even ignored his attacks on the civil rights movement. Yet Falwell's followers were under no misapprehension. They knew what their man wanted and followed in his foot steps.

Mark Uhl, a student at Liberty University, was in possession of homemade bombs when he was arrested at Falwell's funeral. He reportedly planned to use them against any protesters who might disrupt the festivities. Uhl had this to say on the social networking website My Space. "Christians, fear of death, fear of death. The fear of death shows you don't believe." He added this eye opening statement as well. "God needs soldiers to fight so his children may live free. Are you afraid??? I'm not. SEND ME!!!" Uhl sounds an awful lot like Osama bin Laden, who exhorts Muslims not to fear death when fighting in the name of their religion.

While Americans have been told to fear Islam and all things Muslim, Christians are riding around with home made bombs. The Uhl story was mentioned by the media for only a day or two. The threat from Christians who publicly express a willingness to die for their faith goes unreported.

The terror attack that took place on September 11, 2001 was an aberration in more ways than one. Muslims were the perpetrators, but that is usually not the case. The purveyors of hate and violence in America are almost always Christians.

Recently members of that same group had a collective hissy fit about Muslims. A Pew poll indicated that a small number of American Muslims, a minority of only 8 percent, considered suicide bombing acceptable under certain circumstances. The vast majority, 78 percent, said suicide bombing against civilian targets was never acceptable.

The selective outrage was immediate, but few commentators pointed out what Christians tell pollsters about their urge to maim and kill. Most Christians, 65 percent of Protestants and 72 percent of Catholics, believe that torture is justifiable under certain circumstances. Nearly half of Americans, 46 percent, believe that it may be acceptable to deliberately target civilian populations in war time. An average of 75 percent of Muslims in Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Morocco believe that such attacks are never acceptable.

Just as it is unfair to smear all Muslims with the legacy of bin Laden, it would be unfair to smear all Christians as disciples of Jerry Falwell. Muslims are constantly asked to denounce their members who are terrorists. Why is there no similar demand of Christians? Will the good Christians, the peaceful ones, ever speak out against their co-religionists who carry bombs in their cars or drop them on civilians in Iraq?

The public reaction to Falwell's death showed how ineffectual the supposedly good Christians have become. Few were willing to point out the numerous examples of his hate speech. An opportunity was lost because of ridiculous prohibitions against speaking ill of the dead. The good Christian soldiers don't know how to fight.

Christians perpetrated the crusades, the inquisition, the slave trade and imperial adventures too numerous to mention. It may be comforting to pat ourselves on the back and consign those behaviors to past centuries. We are living in the 21st century after all. Who would use the name of the Christian God to justify mass killing? A majority of modern day American Christians, that's who.

Perhaps the argument used against Muslims should be applied to Christians instead. Their religion has been hijacked by fundamentalist fanatics while the non-fanatics remain silent. The term clash of civilizations is definitely a misnomer. There can be no clash unless both sides are in fact civilized. Any assertion of American civilization is clearly open to question.

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