The Thinker

The End of the Angry God

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“, 1741

Homosexuality is Satan’s diabolical attack upon the family that will not only have a corrupting influence upon our next generation, but it will also bring down the wrath of God upon America.

Jerry Falwell (1933-2007)

On Monday, the Reverend Jerry Falwell passed away and entered the great hereafter or nothingness, depending on your beliefs. It appears that he died at age 73 of congestive heart failure. What I really suspect he died of (based on recent pictures) was obesity. Presumably, he did not view gluttony as one of the seven deadly sins. However, it might have had the effect of helping him commune with his Lord a bit earlier than he expected.

Falwell, of course was the famous televangelist and creator of the so-called Moral Majority. He went on to help found the Christian Coalition, which yielded surprising political clout over the last quarter century. The Christian Coalition was instrumental in turning the GOP from the Goldwater Republican set into the God-fearing all pomposity all the time set. Perhaps the last great triumph of this group was the election of George W. Bush in 2000. Arguably, Bush would not have won Ohio (and the election) without their help.

As a progressive, I find that it is hard for me to shed tears over Falwell’s passing. When I envision the words sanctimonious and chutzpah, Falwell’s image will indelibly come to mind. Falwell was the epitome of both: utterly certain about everything, and not afraid to use his mighty pulpit and TV ministry to tell us about it. He wielded disproportionate influence from Liberty University (which he founded) there among the rolling hills of Lynchburg, Virginia. His choice of residency is perhaps a bit ironic given that in one of his more flamboyant quotes he actually said:

I had a student ask me, “Could the savior you believe in save Osama bin Laden?” Of course, we know the blood of Jesus Christ can save him, and then he must be executed.

I have little doubt that given the opportunity Falwell would have been glad to lead the lynching of Osama bin Laden. I am sure he would have a Bible in one hand as he kicked the chair out from under him.

Falwell’s God is choosy and apparently has an inner circle, of which he confidently claimed membership. He told us that God must love homosexuals in spite of their perversions, but apparently, not very much, because they ignored 3000-year-old advice in the Book of Leviticus that Jesus repudiated. So in the unlikely event we feminists, secular humanists and homosexuals do make it into heaven, we will be firmly escorted to the cheap seats way in the back. This is just as well because even in heaven, they have their standards. Any flagrant sinners who through God’s grace somehow manage to escape Hell do not get to mingle with the premier elect, you know, people like Jerry.

In general, Falwell had nothing but thinly disguised contempt for gays, feminists, secular humanists and pretty much anyone who did not think exactly like him. That was because his God was actually a jealous and angry God. Hey, it takes a mean God wielding a big stick to get us sinners into line. Nonetheless, you would think that after repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth with his outrageous comments that he might have modified his behavior. But no, not his type, not when you are consumed by righteousness. He went through life with religious blinders on. His path to God was straight and he walked it with complete ease and confidence. All we had to do to get there too was to act just like him: a weird, loud but generally kindhearted and sanctimonious bigot. God and the Bible gave him certainty that eluded the rest of us fallible mortals.

Now Jerry is gone. I would like to think that maybe no one will rush to fill his shoes, but as we all know, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Ted Haggard of course got his comeuppance last year, so he is not available to until he is sufficiently forgiven by his fellow elect. In time, doubtless sooner rather than later someone will take that first audacious step forward. However, it is unlikely he or she will be able to command as much attention from the media. Falwell innately understood that evangelists who do not want to be footnoted by history must put on a wild show, and he rarely failed to deliver. Most of us are more circumspect.

In the 21st century, Falwell’s oratory, for all its pomposity, huffiness and vitriol, now looks both pathetic and comic. Those damned secular humanist forces, which I guess includes me, seem to have gained the upper hand. Apparently, I am a servant of Satan or something. Damned people like Jon Stewart can now dismiss people like him with a single smirk. Yet in fact, Falwell was just the latest and most prominent pompous leader whose time has passed.

There will doubtless again come a time when we will be vulnerable to those who propose simple solutions to complex problems. For now, the public is still reeling from the effects of having its hand pressed on the hot stove by people like Falwell. In truth, modern demons like Osama bin Laden are manifestations of the sanctimonious black and white thinkers like Jerry Falwell, rather than the result of societal debauchery, homosexuality and rampant secular humanism. In fact, many of those “sins” are the wreckage from people like Falwell trying to make us square peg Americans fit into the round holes of their conformity.

Now we know that if we are to slay these demons of stupidity (as Dogbert would put it), we need to use more intelligent tactics. The straightforward path apparently goes right into a brick wall. A more circuitous but rational path seems to be in order. That means application of reason, science and rational tolerance, you know Jerry, that secular humanist forebrain stuff instead of that primordial limbic brain stuff. Rational leadership eschews launching impossible crusades and worrying later about whether it was a good thing to do. The Crusades, by the way, never succeeded in removing the alleged apostasy of Islam or in permanently liberating the Holy Land. As a tactic, crusades suck.

So perhaps Falwell has left something of a positive legacy after all. By being such a pompous and egregious example of what not to do and by exercising such disproportionate political influence he may have moved America more quickly toward its progressive, more tolerant, more diverse and secular humanist future. I will note that since Western Europe has gone secular, it has not experienced a single war. Maybe some of that secular stuff will rub off on us when we come back bloody and defeated from our latest crusade in Iraq.

If that turns out to be the case, then thanks Jerry.


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