When it comes to terrorists, America should “blow them all away in the name of the Lord,” television preacher Jerry Falwell said this week on CNN.
According to a transcript of Sunday night’s “CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer,” Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., defended the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
“I’d rather be killing them over there than fighting them over here,” Falwell said in a discussion with Jesse Jackson.
“Let’s stop the killing and choose peace,” Jackson replied. “Let’s choose negotiation over confrontation.”
“Well, I’m for that, too,” Falwell said. “But you’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I’m for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them away in the name of the Lord.”
“That does not sound biblical to me,” Jackson said. “And that sounds ridiculous.”
After Jackson protested that the 9/11 attackers were from Afghanistan and not Iraq, Falwell replied, “I don’t care where they came from.”
On Tuesday Falwell appealed for support of President Bush at the closing session of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
“God save America next Tuesday,” Falwell prayed at the “Heritage and Hope” rally at Prestonwood Baptist Church, according to the Fort Worth-Star Telegram. “Raise your mighty hand and bring America back to God.”
The conservative convention passed a resolution affirming Bush and U.S. military efforts in the war on terrorism.
The Bush campaign welcomes support from conservative Christians and has focused especially on evangelicals, which they believe strongly support his re-election.
The Republican National Committee even hired Wallbuilders founder David Barton, who describes the United States as a “Christian” nation and the separation of church and state as “a myth,” to speak at luncheons for evangelical pastors.
Falwell, along with other religious right leaders, has been criticized in the past for using language comparing the U.S.-led war on terror to a Christian crusade against Islam.
Two years ago Falwell apologized after being criticized for calling the Prophet Muhammad a terrorist on “60 Minutes.”
“I think Muhammad was a terrorist,” Falwell said in an interview. “I read enough of the history of his life written by both Muslims and–non-Muslims, (to know) that he was a–a violent man, a man of war.”
Falwell later issued a statement saying he meant no disrespect to “any sincere, law-abiding Muslim.”
Just days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Falwell said on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” that 9/11 might be the result of God’s judgment on America.
“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,” Falwell said, “I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'”
Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists said Falwell’s comments sound like “holy war” rhetoric in the Old Testament, concepts denounced and rejected by Jesus in the New Testament.
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said Falwell “abandons the teachings of Jesus.”
“Falwell’s spirit of revenge and raw nationalism represents what the Bible warned against—false prophets who do the bidding of the king, affirming the king’s failed policies and corrupt practices,” said Parham, executive director of the Nashville-based BCE. “If Christians follow Falwell, they follow a morally blind man. And the Bible teaches that when the blind follow the blind, both fall into destruction.
Prescott said Falwell is one of the most recognizable faces of Christianity and predicted his comments would be translated and sent around the world, particularly in non-Christian countries.
“Now that Fundamentalists like Falwell have hijacked our faith and turned the ‘good news’ about God’s love and grace into an explicit threat to ‘blow them all away in the name of the Lord,’ why would any unbeliever care to know Jesus?” Prescott wondered.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.