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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

End of an era?

One of the leading ayatollahs of the Theocratic Party has passed from the scene.

While conservatives insist we speak no evil of Jerry Falwell, it is important to look at his legacy -- and the changes his attitudes and beliefs have brought to American politics must be analyzed.

And, my conservative friends, they are not good.

I cast no personal aspersions on Falwell -- he was probably a wonderful fellow who was wonderful husband, father and grandfather who patted puppies. And please rest assured I do have my issues with the Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

But Falwell and his colleagues -- particularly Pat Robertson -- have cheapened the public discourse by ignoring the First Amendment protections for all religions.

Falwell and the "Moral Majority" (which, as the saying goes, was neither, just ask Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart) demonized those who did not share their fundamentalist Christian world view. Who can forget when Falwell blamed "feminists, gays or lesbians" for the 9-11 attacks perpetrated by a totally different religious fundamentalist sect.

The narrow-minded sectarianism that believes only certain followers of Jesus have the wisdom and know the true path is a slap in the face of Catholics, many Protestants, Jews, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, to name a few.

Their insistence on injecting their religious "truths" into the American mainstream has created a poison that infects the American body politic to this day. While it may not come close to matching their venom of the Sunni-Shia rift, the venom behind comments like that 9-11 rant -- even after he apologized -- is too hard to ignore.

Few can dispute that Falwell was a leading political figure of his generation -- much as Joseph R. McCarthy was of his era. The fissures created not only in the United States but around the world as a result of his single-minded pursuit of his own religious worldview, are deep and will be long in healing -- if they can ever heal.

Falwell, Robertson and others who believe that only fundamentalist Christian beliefs are appropriate for a nation that was founded on the belief that all faiths should be embraced, left an indelible blot on the Constitution.

May Falwell rest in his own version of peace. And may the United States recover from the divisions created by that his vision.

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