“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 all away in the name of the Lord.”
Jerry Falwell’s comments are so bizarre as to leave even conservative evangelicals shaking their heads. No doubt every news outlet in the Middle East has heard his comments and view them as incontrovertible proof that their resistance to American democracy is justified.
While Muslim extremism is beyond our ability to fully comprehend, how sane does Rev. Falwell appear? Extremism of either variety must be named for what it is. Neither view allows for debate or mutual understanding. Neither variety leaves much room for progress or peace.
Jesse Jackson was right and Jerry Falwell was wrong … we should be seeking pathways to peace and not further bloodshed or violence. Even the New Testament calls this what it is, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” At what point does resistance cross over and become revenge?
The errors of the U.S. war on terrorism continue to demonstrate that our motives in invading Iraq were mixed with political ambition and fueled by intentional misinformation. On the home front, they have been applauded and endorsed by religious views that have supported the invasion.
Falwell’s statements are indicative of a fundamentalism so extreme as to be incredulous for many faithful followers of the Prince of Peace.
If Falwell is right and his views endorsed by our political and military leaders as the answer to terrorism, we will descend from any moral high ground we might have asserted and will have joined the terrorists at their own game. The war will drag down our national sense of wanting to lift up and elevate human dignity rather than crush it under the boot of vengeance in the name of Jesus.
There is no question that terrorism requires resistance. Those responsible for death and destruction must be confronted. But whatever we do, let’s don’t kill them in the name of Jesus. Let’s do what is necessary with the least amount of destruction of life as possible, and let’s do it in the name of freedom.
Perhaps Jerry Falwell’s thinly veiled thirst for bloodshed represents the angry vindictive feeling for many American Christians who are frustrated with the war on terror. The war on terrorism calls forth all the ugliness that war invokes. Jerry Falwell need not offer himself as the poster boy for the same spirit of violent hatred we find among the Islamic extremists who have epitomized the war.
Keith Herron is senior pastor at Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.
See our Friday story, “Falwell on Terrorists: ‘Blow Them Away in the Name of the Lord’“
After serving as bridge pastor at First Congregational Church of St. Louis, Missouri, during the past year, Herron moved recently to Lawrence, Kansas, where he will continue to minister in interim settings. He is author of Living a Narrative Life, Exploring the Power of Stories (Smyth & Helwys, 2019).