Jerry Falwell accused a fellow minister who differs with him politically of being “anti-America” on a Sunday news program.
Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine and the Call to Renewal political action group joined Falwell and two other religious leaders for a discussion of religion and politics on NBC News’ “Meet The Press.”
Falwell, who recently launched The Faith and Values Coalition as a 21st century successor to the Moral Majority, which he founded in the 1980s, criticized Wallis and other evangelicals for buying a full-page newspaper ad opposing the war in Iraq.
“Jerry, there are millions and millions of Christians who want the nation to know that you don’t speak for them,” Wallis said. “That Jesus, our Jesus, isn’t pro-rich, pro-war and only pro-American. We don’t find that Jesus anywhere in the Bible.”
“I don’t believe that either,” Falwell said. “But I was also against Adolf Hitler. And if you had been president during World War II, we’d all be speaking German now.”
Later Falwell cut in after another comment by Wallis. “Jim, I’m old enough to remember how much you fought—you and Sojourners—fought Ronald Reagan and his peace through strength initiative. And had you been successful, the Soviet communism of the world will still be prevalent and existing. You fought Ronald Reagan.”
“You’re just anti-America,” Falwell said.
Joining Falwell and Wallis in the discussion moderated by NBC’s Tim Russert were former presidential candidate Al Sharpton and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Land has been recently criticized after describing the states that voted for President Bush in the recent election as “the real America.”
Land said in a Nov. 20 interview with the Tennessean that Eastern liberals were “snobby and hostile” and “try to paint people of traditional religious values and traditional moral values as some kind of redneck, Bible-toting bigots.”
“You can want to defend traditional marriage without being a homophobic,” Land said. “I know that’s news to some folks in those states, but they’re the minorities. The country has changed. They ought to spend more time out there in the red states—in the real America.”
A letter to the editor last Tuesday sought to “remind” Land that “the real America” includes both red and blue states.
“As much as he would like to exclude liberals from his definition of America, liberals are a large and influential part of this country,” wrote Tom Neilson of Nashville. “Let’s not forget that nearly half of the country (47 percent) voted for John Kerry in the last presidential election.”
Another letter on Wednesday criticized Land for describing the 2004 election as a contest between parties with “traditional morals” on the one hand and “the ’60s counterculture” on the other.
“Last time I checked, improved access to health care, social justice, jobs, equality in tax cuts, opposing an untruthful justification for war and restoring America’s integrity aren’t exactly counterculture values,” said Carey Moore of Nashville.
“I understand that it’s in his interest to frame the debate in such a fashion,” Moore said. “But as a leader in one of the countries largest faiths, Mr. Land really should stop bearing false witness against his neighbors.”
Susan Ray of Nashville on Saturday wrote that she thought “real Americans” were a diverse lot.
“I guess there are too many stars on our flag now,” she wrote in a letter to the editor. “We need a new flag to represent the ‘real America’ so that all of us who are misinformed can get straightened out and fall in step with what America is all about under this regime.”
On Monday the newspaper devoted a “Nashville Eye” op-ed piece to a rebuttal of Land by David Harkness, a retired Presbyterian minister who attended a Southern Baptist college and seminary.
“I’m an Eagle Scout, graduate of Baylor University and Southern Baptist Seminary and am now a retired Presbyterian minister,” Harkness wrote. “My wife, a Mississippi College graduate, and I raised two wonderful Christian daughters, one a registered nurse, the other a teacher. I served 32 months in the Army and was commissioned an officer by President Harry Truman. I voted for Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, and have voted in every election since.
“Now I learn from you that I am not a ‘real American.’
“As an ‘unreal American’ saved by Jesus Christ, I find it impossible to meditate on His words ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ while supporting a pre-emptive, unnecessary war against an undefined enemy, ordered by a president who claims to be led by God, that has killed close to 150,000 innocent Iraqi people and more than 1,200 U.S. soldiers, seriously injuring tens of thousands more people. And $200 billion of taxpayers’ money? How much food, education and medical care could this have provided for Americans?”
“You expend enormous amounts of energy to protect the unborn while collateral damage in Iraq has slain thousands of women, many pregnant, and killed or maimed thousands of little children,” Harkness said later in the article. “What greater hypocrisy can one practice?”
“So, Mr. Land, please don’t ask me to accept your Jesus. I’m content to remain an ”unreal American’ and to seek the true Jesus whose mission is redemption, forgiveness and love which, if taken seriously, could indeed heal our serious polarization and make of all of us–reds and blues–reconciled real American sisters and brothers.”
Charles Deweese of the Brentwood-based Baptist History and Heritage Society had a letter in Sunday’s paper saying the Land interview “reveals what SBC leaders really stand for today.”
“These leaders talk traditional Baptist values,” Deweese said. “What they actually practice is anti-traditional faith that is nationalized, politicized, militarized, chauvinized, fundamentalized and opportunized.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.