Bloggers on the death of Jerry Falwell.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
May 16 2007 6:01 PM

The Preacher Silenced

Bloggers squeeze out precious few tears for Jerry Falwell and wonder if keeping Prince Harry out of Iraq bodes well for royalty—or the war.

The preacher silenced: Jerry Falwell, the evangelical preacher who founded the Moral Majority, died Tuesday at 73. Among his more memorable comments over the years: Sept. 11 was God's way of retaliating against feminism, abortion, and homosexuality, for which AIDS is also divine recompense; the Antichrist was already born as a Jewish male; Mohammed was a terrorist; and there is no separation between church and state. Bloggers struggle to eulogize the late reverend.

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Ebonmuse at Daylight Atheism writes: "[T]he power of the religious right in America … is on the decline. However, we secularists and defenders of religious freedom underestimate them at our peril. Their power tends to rise and fall cyclically, and they have regrouped before. …. I hope Jerry Falwell's death does not inspire friends of liberty to relax their guard, but rather to man the barricades all the more vigilantly, to be tireless in our effort to defend what we know is right."

Neoconservative Joseph Bottum at Catholic journal First Things' On the Square has an altogether admiring obit but doesn't shrink from labeling the older Falwell a sad caricature of his enemies' caricature of his younger self: "All our present-day talk of impending theocracy couldn't have happened without Jerry Falwell. And yet, all our present-day talk about abortion, and values, and the right of believers to participate in the public square—much of that couldn't have happened without Jerry Falwell, either. He made an enormous difference in 1980, and those who now routinely genuflect toward the memory of Ronald Reagan shouldn't forget it."

Sex columnist Dan Savage at The Stranger's Slog doesn't know where to begin with the news that Rev. Fred Phelps plans to protest Falwell's funeral because the late preacher was a "false prophet … who spent his entire life prophesying lies and false doctrines like 'God loves everyone.'" Savage says: "Excuse me, Fred—but what the fuck are you talking about? Did two corpulent Falwell dudes die today? Jerry Falwell taught that God loves everyone? Really? When? I want to see the video."

Matthew Reynolds, a Liberty University graduate, guest posts without a trace of irony at conservative Ed Morrissey's Captain's Quarters: "One of the first things I noticed about him was that he was genuinely interested in you as a person. He wanted to know how you were and would ask if there was anything he could pray for on your behalf. Second thing was that you always had to watch out for his SUV. Dr. Falwell, who always went around freely without security, still drove his own vehicle and would pretend to go after students. His humor was always there."

Tony Mauro at The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times once moderated a debate between Falwell and Larry Flynt after the famous First Amendment case that Falwell brought against Hustler. Falwell, according to Mauro, "made a substantial, if unintended contribution to First Amendment jurisprudence… The majority opinion, written by then-chief Justice William Rehnquist, rejected Falwell's effort to recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and in the process eloquently praised the importance of satire. Reviewing the history of cartoons and parody, Rehnquist wrote, 'From the viewpoint of history, it is clear that our political discourse would have been considerably poorer without them.' "

Liberal evangelical Jim Wallis at Beliefnet's God's Politics was "saddened to learn that Rev. Jerry Falwell passed away this morning at age 73. Rev. Falwell and I met many times over the years, as the media often paired us as debate partners on issues of faith and politics. I respected his passionate commitment to his beliefs, and our shared commitment to bringing moral debate to the public square, although we didn't agree on many things."

Read more about Falwell's death. In Slate, Tim Noah catalogs some of Falwell's less tolerant comments, and Christopher Hitchens accuses Falwell of treason.

Sit this one out, Your Highness: Prince Harry, 22, was to have been deployed to Basra in the coming weeks with his regiment, the Blues and Royals, but the head of the British Army Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt has said no, fearing the heir would be a high-visibility prize for jihadists.

Jeralyn at TalkLeft thinks the kibosh on Harry's tour is wise: "If he is a individualized target, there's also a much greater risk of danger to his team members traveling with him. I don't think it's a question of valuing his life more than others. I think it's a question of whether sending him amounts to state-assisted suicide because he'd be such a trophy for the insurgents."

United Irelander argues the royal safety test might well apply to the rest of the British corps: "If I was a British person I'd be asking myself why this royal gets to avoid service on account of the dangers in Iraq, yet the rest of the British troops have to endure it. It seems royal blood means more than 'common' blood. …For British personnel, It should be either 'all in' or 'all out'. If Iraq is too dangerous for Harry then it's too dangerous for everybody else."

Journalist Robert Fox at the Guardian's Comment is Free explains the anxiety of putting Harry into combat: "British troops are likely to change their configuration in Basra soon, and as they change positions Harry's presence could only have posed an extra hazard. The British would like to hand over most of Basra province, including the city itself, to Iraqi control within a matter of weeks. … The main groups, Dawa, Fadillah, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al Sadr, are being relatively quiet at present, while the Iranian proxies appear to have declared all-out guerrilla warfare on the British."

Read more about Harry's canceled deployment.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.

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