Falwell’s fight never changed

If you go to the Moral Majority Coalition’s “website”:http://www.moralmajority.com/ (a recent update of the plain, old Moral Majority), you see a snapshot of what Jerry Falwell was all about.

Falwell writes:

In the May issue of my National Liberty Journal newspaper, we featured the story of Megan Chapman, who last year was forced to make a choice between standing up for her faith in Jesus Christ or allowing school officials to silence her.

tjndc5-5et7tr902sk10c2w2ic4_thumbnail.jpgHe also explains why he invited Newt Gingrich to speak at Liberty University’s graduation, despite Gingrich’s recent admission that he had an affair during the Clinton/Monica scandal:

I was pleased to hear Mr. Gingrich state: “I’ve gotten on my knees and sought God’s forgiveness.�

The homepage also offers the MMC’s platform, which is pure Falwell:

Platform # 1
The Moral Majority Coalition will conduct an intensive “Voter Registration Campaign” through America’s conservative churches, para-church ministries, pro-life and pro-family organizations.

Platform #2
The Moral Majority Coalition will conduct well organized “Get-Out-The-Vote Campaigns” in 2008.

Platform #3
The Moral Majority Coalition will engage in the massive recruitment and mobilization of social conservatives through television, radio, direct mail (U.S.P.S. and Internet) and public rallies.

Platform #4
The Moral Majority Coalition will encourage the promotion of continuous private and corporate prayer for America’s moral renaissance based on 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Falwell was fighting his fight right up until the end. Still, I couldn’t help thinking this morning of remarks made in Briarcliff Manor a couple of months ago by Michael Cromartie, an evangelical and vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

He said that Falwell, Pat Robertson and other old-school televangelists had decreasing influence in the evangelical world, in part because their goals had never evolved.

“Religious conservatives need to decide what their ultimate goals are in the current culture war,” he said, adding that leaders like Falwell needed to decide if they wanted to encourage tolerance for their views, achieve defined goals or simply obliterate the opposition.

Falwell: The name says it all

Just the name — Falwell — evoked reactions.

For many, he and Pat Robertson were a dynamic duo. For many others, they were a duo of dummies.

Falwell’s name would often be used to evoke a position or a point of view. That’s what Falwell would say? Who are you, Falwell? Wait ’till Falwell gets a hold of this one…

tjndc5-5et44cvswjk19w9azic4_layout.jpgClearly, he knew what he was doing. He didn’t mind being a bad guy to many if he could affect a public debate or inspire his Moral Majority.

It seems to me that he succeeded on many levels. He wanted conservative Christians to have a voice in the public arena. And they do. A loud one.

Did he get everything he wanted on abortion or other issues? Of course not. No one does.

He also succeeded by infuriating the other side. He said the things he did to get under people’s skin. How many times have I heard people mutter about Falwell or rail at something he said on TV the night before. Many, many, many times.

The tributes are pouring out today. Operation Rescue loves him. Ditto Concerned Women for Ameirca. The National Clergy Council says he was a was a “bold, unapologetic, uncompromising voice for Biblical truth.” Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention: “A true giant of the faith has gone on to his heavenly reward.â€?

And this from Pat Robertson:

My wife and I have sent our condolences to Macel Falwell and her family. Jerry has been a tower of strength on many of the moral issues which have confronted our nation. Liberty University is a magnificent accomplishment and will prove a lasting legacy. Jerry’s courage and strength of convictions will be sadly missed in this time of increasing moral relativism. I join with the tens of thousands of his friends to mourn the passing of this extraordinary human being.

Even Falwell’s ideological opponents are trying to find something nice to say.

The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance, said: “Although we did not see eye to eye, he was a formidable spokesman for his point of view. We shared a fierce patriotism and strong beliefs about the importance of religion in politics, which took different paths.”

The Rev. Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches, said this:

Some media pundits tended to think of Falwell as representative of American Christianity, but most church leaders, while claiming him as a ‘brother in Christ,’ strongly differed with many of his outspoken views, including his puzzling denunciation of the Teletubbies children’s TV program.

He did perform the valuable contribution of taking stands that forced mainstream Christians to re-examine their positions and test their convictions.

Rudy Giuliani must have agreed with Falwell on few things. But he was in evangelical country yesterday (Columbia, S.C.) when the news hit. He released a very telling statement:

I express my condolences to his family, Reverend Falwell’s family, and to his much larger family …He was a man who set a direction. He was someone who was not afraid to speak his mind. We all have great respect for him … he is a person who told you what he thought and you knew where he stood. … My sympathies and my prayers go out to his family…

Falwell’s legacy will be a subject of debate for some time. But his name will continue to be a lightning rod in our cultural divide.


Falwell gravely ill

Jerry Falwell is in “gravely serious” condition after being found unconscious this morning in his office.

His legacy is a very interesting question. There’s no doubt he’s been a tremendously influential and divisive figure on the national scene.

Here’s the latest AP story:

meet_jerry.jpgLYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — The Rev. Jerry Falwell was hospitalized in “gravely serious� condition after being found unconscious Tuesday in his office at Liberty University, a school executive said.
Ron Godwin, the university’s executive vice president, said Falwell, 73, was found unresponsive around 10:45 a.m. and taken to Lynchburg General Hospital. Godwin said he was not sure what caused the collapse, but he said Falwell “has a history of heart challenges.�
“I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast,� Godwin said. “He went to his office, I went to mine, and they found him unresponsive.�
Godwin said Falwell was receiving emergency care. A hospital spokeswoman said she had “no information to release at this time.�
Falwell, a television evangelist who founded the Moral Majority, became the face of the religious right in the 1980s. He later founded the conservative Liberty University and serves as its president.
Falwell survived two serious health scares in early 2005. He was hospitalized for two weeks with what was described as a viral infection, then was hospitalized again a few weeks later after going into respiratory arrest. Later that year, doctors found a 70 percent blockage in an artery, which they opened with stents.
Liberty University’s commencement is scheduled for Saturday, with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the featured speaker.

Rabbi suggests a no-media diet

I don’t usually pay much attention to spiritual self-help books, probably because there are so many of them.

But I’m intrigued by a new book by Rabbi “Yitzchak Goldman,”:http://goldmanbooks.com/?page=who a young Seattle rabbi who is outreach coordinator for the “Seattle Kollel,”:http://www.seattlekollel.org/ns/home.php an institute that promotes Torah study.

His new book, called “The Soul Diet: Ten Steps towards Metaphysical Health,”:http://www.souldiet.com/index2.php includes this prescription: a two-week break from all media.

“Just because the mind and soul are not visible, does not mean we should ignore all the spiritual junk food and mind clutter we consume on a daily basis,â€? he say.

I’m a small part of the media, but can’t help thinking that he’s onto something…

Is Justin Timberlake more influential than Rick Warren?

I’ve finally gotten around to checking out the “Time 100”:http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20070514,00.html — Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Who are the religious figures on the list? There aren’t many, in the strictest sense.

Pope Benedict XVI. Obviously.

Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran (who is far less visible that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad).

Amr Khaled, a media-savvy voice for religious moderation in the Arab world (he’s a layman, a accountant by trade).

1101070514_400.jpgAnd Richard Dawkins, the atheist biologist, who is sort of a (anti) religious figure.

Then there’s Barack Obama, who goes to church. Ditto Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts is a devout Catholic. Tony Dungy talks faith as much as he talks football.

I’m not sure where to put Rhonda Byrne, who wrote The Secret.

The rest of the Time 100 is pretty interesting. A lot of techno-people.

The entertainment section, though, left me bewildered. I mean, what am I missing?

Tina Fey? I love her show, 30 Rock, but one of the most influential people in the world?

Tyra Banks? The Yankees’ Chie-Ming Wang (he can’t even stay healthy)? Justin Timberlake? Rosie O’Donnell? John Mayer? Kate Moss?

Kate Moss?

There has got to be a Trappist monk somewhere out there making beer who has influenced more people than Kate Moss.

Benedict not the first pope to question capitalism

It seems that we’re going to hear a lot about Pope Benedict’s parting shot at capitalism.

Before boarding a plane yesterday at the end of his trip to Brazil, the pope warned that capitalism and globalization could give “rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.�

The remark came after Benedict attacked Marxism in a speech before Latin American bishops.

It’s worth keeping sight of the fact that John Paul II was a steady and sometimes harsh critic of unfettered capitalism.

When he addressed the U.N. in 1979, during his first visit to the U.S., John Paul said: “It is no secret that the abyss separating the minority of the excessively rich from the multitude of the destitute is a very grave symptom in the life of any society.”

tjndc5-5b3wbprvjj9zkpkx6m5_layout.jpgIn 1995, at Aqueduct Raceway (pictured), he asked: “Have the people living in this huge metropolis lost sight of the blessings which belong to the poor in spirit? In the midst of the magnificent scientific and technological civilization of which America is proud … is there room for the mystery of God?”

During his final visit to the U.S., a stop in St. Louis in 1999, John Paul said that American culture was entering a “time of trial” that could have worldwide implications. Recalling a time when black slaves were officially considered property, he said that the U.S. was in danger of treating the unborn, the terminally ill and the handicapped as less than fully human:

“Today, the conflict is between a culture that affirms, cherishes and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to declare entire groups of human beings considered ‘unuseful’ to be outside the boundaries of legal protection,” he said.

So, college profs are leery of evangelicals…

A group called the Institute for Jewish and Community Research put out a report the other day about how college and university faculty members feel about different religions.

You have to figure that the group was primarily interested in learning whether anti-Semitism is an issue these days in academia.

“It turned out”:http://www.jewishresearch.org/v2/2007/pressReleases/4_07PR.html that only 3 percent of faculty said they had unfavorable feelings toward Jews.

But 53 percent of non-evangelical profs said they had cool or unfavorable feelings toward evangelical Christians. Evangelicals are the only major group to be viewed so poorly.

Seventy-five percent of professors who say that religion is not important to them dislike evangelicals. But only 20 percent of faculty who say that religion IS important to them hold unfavorable views of evangelicals.

Gary Tobin, president of the Institute, said: “This survey shows a disturbing level of prejudice or intolerance among U.S. faculty towards tens of millions of Evangelical Christians.”

The study is getting a moderate amount of media coverage. “Here”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/04/AR2007050401990_pf.html is a typically strong overview from the Washington Post’s Alan Cooperman.

Personally, I’m not really surprised by the findings. To start with, most college profs are pretty liberal. Many are very liberal. Many evangelicals, however, are not (especially those who are known to non-evangelicals).

In addition, many professors probably believe that evangelicals are anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-modern. Usually, when we hear about evangelicals, they are opposing evolution, searching for Noah’s ark, home-schooling their kids, etc. More moderate evangelicals show up in all the polls and studies, but are kind of faceless.

One final thought: I bet that a lot of evangelicals have unfavorable views of college professors.

Catholic priest shortage a matter of perspective

Cardinal Egan will ordain seven new diocesan priests tomorrow at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (plus seven men for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a New York-based national order that serves the poor).

tjndc5-5b3wf5rqmkofcdnc6m5_layout.jpgMost years, Egan says that ordination day is his favorite day of the year. (In the photo, he is ordaining the Rev. Timothy Wiggins, now of St. John the Evangelist Church in White Plains, back in 2002).

New York’s new class is among close to 500 new priests being ordained across the country. According to the “U.S. Bishops Conference,”:http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2007/07-076.shtml their average age is 35 (many spent some time in the business world), but 36 percent are between 25 and 29. Two out of three are American born.

It’s no secret that the “number of priests”:http://cara.georgetown.edu/bulletin/index.htm has been sliding for decades. The number of diocesan priests, who serve parishes, has dropped from 36,000 in 1965 to 28,299 last year. During the same period, the number of graduate-level seminarians — future priests — has fallen from 8,325 to 3,306.

In the meantime, the Catholic population has gone from 46 million to 64 million.

In New York, priests are working longer and harder than at any point in memory. Many have told me that they are tired all the time (even if they love their jobs).

But one priest I recently talked to about the “vocations problem” added some long-term perspective. He said that people always compare the number of priests today to the numbers during the vocation heyday of the 1950s and 1960s.

If you go back to the early 20th century or the 19th century, when the Catholic Church was taking shape in America, there were far fewer priests than there are today (and far fewer Catholics). So, this priest told me, there are good times and there are bad times, but the church survives.

“People talk about a crisis, but the church will be fine,” he told me.

The question facing dioceses today is how they will deal with parishioners’ expectations. A number of bishops across the country have released letters that explain what the priest shortage will mean and how parishes will have to be run differently than they have been over the past half-century.

Some priests will have to move between parishes, and lay leaders will have to play an increasingly large role in the day-to-day administration of parishes (of course, they already are).

It seems that the sooner dioceses explain to parishioners what the future will look like — at least until vocations pick up — the better for everyone

Papal trip agenda doesn’t bode well for Rudy

Rudy Giuliani must be paying attention to the papal visit to Brazil.

The “intense interest”:http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702642.htm in what Pope Benedict says about politicians who support abortion rights may well foreshadow the inevitable conflict that will encircle Rudy’s candidacy if he sticks around a while.

tjndc5-5ep4vv52xwzcp3nxd1z_thumbnail.jpgSpeaking to reporters yesterday on a plane, the pope gave the impression that he supported Mexican bishops who said that pro-choice Catholic politicians would be excommunicated. But a Vatican spokesman quickly told the press that the pope had not announced a new policy.

Still, a Brazilian newspaper today reads: “The pope supports the excommunication of pro-abortion politicians.”

Today, the Vatican released a statement in which the pontiff says that pro-choice politicians should be denied Communion. But he doesn’t say they should be excommunicated.

These are the same questions that will at some point haunt Giuliani, who is pro-choice. We recently “found out”:http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/05/08/giuliani.abortion/index.html that he gave money to Planned Parenthood at least six times during the 1990s.

Once the race heats up, if Rudy is still in the running, many orthodox Catholics — and at least some bishops — will demand that Giuliani not be given Communion. Some will demand that he be excommunicated.

And Giuliani will be put in the position of having to avoid Catholic churches — or risk being turned away from Communion.