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Editorial: Jerry-miad / Falwell blames liberals, gays, judges for terror

Monday, September 17, 2001

According to the White House, President Bush considers "inappropriate" a suggestion by the Rev. Jerry Falwell that the American Civil Liberties Union, abortion providers, gay activists and the federal courts are complicit in the carnage from last Tuesday's terrorist attack. "Obscene" is a better description, and more than a few Christians might want to add "blasphemous."

Appearing with the Rev. Pat Robertson on "The 700 Club," Mr. Falwell said that "the ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this." By "throwing out God successfully with the help of the federal court system," it seems, the civil liberties group incurred the Deity's displeasure, leading Him to withhold his protection of America against terrorist attacks.

But others were responsible, too, Mr. Falwell allowed: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "

Mr. Falwell later said his remarks had been taken out of context. But asked by a New York Times reporter to elaborate, he reiterated his basic point: "I sincerely believe that the collective efforts of many secularists during the past generation, resulting in the expulsion [of God] from our schools and from the public square, has left us vulnerable."

Mr. Falwell added that he did not believe God "had anything to do with the tragedy," but that God had "lifted the curtain of protection."

Jerry Falwell is entitled to his theology and the idea of a vengeful God is not unknown in the Judeo-Christian tradition. (Whether God is angered by court decisions forbidding official prayer in public schools is another question.) We suspect, however, that most Christians are more comfortable with this exegesis from Bill Leonard, the dean of Wake Forest Divinity School in Winston-Salem, N.C.:

"From my point of view, God created the world with terrible freedom, and part of that freedom is the freedom to do terrible evil, if you want to be theological about this. This is a time when we hold each other close and lament these events."

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