web analytics
December 17, 2014 / 25 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Knesset and Menorah Lawyers Called Upon to Use Their Legal Skills in Israel’s Defense

Learn about the up to the minute human rights and legal challenges facing Israel, while networking with other likeminded professionals and earning CLE credits in your jurisdictions – all at the same time



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Jewish Shortsightedness And Jerry Falwell


In 1984, the United States rectified a diplomatic anomaly when it formally recognized the Vatican and agreed to exchange ambassadors with the papal mini-state in Rome.

But when Congress held hearings on the measure, at least one discordant voice was heard in dissent. Rev. Jerry Falwell, by then already a familiar figure as the head of the Moral Majority, hustled to the Capitol to testify against the move.

One might have expected Falwell’s position to be based in the sort of theological antagonism between Baptists and Catholics that had its roots in the Reformation. But the evangelical leader had another agenda that day: He was mad about the church’s foreign policy in the Middle East. He urged the Senate not to recognize the Vatican until it extended the same courtesy to the State of Israel.

That was an issue that was also of concern to Jewish groups. The Vatican eventually did recognize Israel a decade later. But the idea of the Jews publicly campaigning against the church in this manner was simply out of the question.

Falwell’s intervention in this issue is barely a footnote to this chapter in history, but it is symbolic of much of his interactions with Jews over the years.

He was always among our most zealous allies on the question of Israel, its security and its place in the world. But his efforts in this regard were not merely unbidden. They were, for the most part, regarded with incredulity by Jewish audiences and groups, and thus not merely unappreciated but often met with outright rejection. As such, he was always American Jewry’s most unwavering and yet unwelcome ally.

Falwell’s death last month set off a wave of retrospectives in the media about the rise of Christian conservative politics. But no discussion of his impact on the culture of this country is complete without a discussion of his iconic position as the bête noire of liberal Jewry who regarded his noisy support for Israel – and the willingness of Israeli leaders such as Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu to embrace him for it – with a combination of disgust and horror.

The reason for that horror wasn’t hard to explain. As one of the leading figures of the Right’s counterattack on both liberal politics and cultural values, Falwell was deeply hated by liberals. His sanctimonious demeanor, and his willingness to voice his (in the view of most American Jews) antediluvian views on just about everything, made him a ripe subject for satire.

But what made Falwell, who avoided the sort of personal and financial scandals that make it easy to discount many of his fellow televangelists, really scary to liberals was that his mobilization of Christian conservatives helped change American politics. Although the Moral Majority itself had a short shelf life (it was disbanded in 1989), Falwell’s influence will live on long after him.

What must be understood is that his movement was not an attempt to undo democracy. Rather, it gave life to the well-founded fear on the part of religious conservatives that they were losing control of American culture. Despite the fact that they won a fair share of the election battles they picked, that verdict is unchanged. Take a look at the content of virtually any network television drama or comedy, let alone contemporary major feature films, and it won’t be hard to discern that Falwell’s views about abortion, sex and gay rights have not only not prevailed, but, in fact, have lost considerable ground.

As more than a few of his allies on the Right noted in the wake of the public’s unwillingness to support the impeachment of President Clinton, maybe the majority in this country wasn’t so “moral” after all. And given the fact that a pro-abortion rights candidate such as Rudy Giuliani has a shot at the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, it may well be that the tide has turned on these issues in the GOP itself.

But none of that explains why Falwell’s enthusiastic support for Israel was always something that many Jewish liberals felt ought to be treated with disdain. The excuses for this attitude always centered on the notion that his motives were tainted by his intention to evangelize Jews or notions about his wanting a Zionist triumph to set off the second coming of Jesus.

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Jewish Shortsightedness And Jerry Falwell”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Alan Gross (L)
Alan Gross Freed From Cuban Jail
Latest Indepth Stories

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

Joseph Berger 
(Photo: James Estrin)

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

Israel and the strengthening of the Jewish people in faith and numbers has brought a growing light

“Can you hear what the dead are whispering? Leave Galut, escape to Eretz Israel-Lech lecha!”

3 main messages emerged from this conference: Communications, Community, and Collaboration.

In his short time with the shul, he has managed to activate a Hebrew school with now over 50 children and five teachers.

Recent headlines show escalation of the same attitudes and actions as existed during the Holocaust

The Mid-East conflict is a unidirectional campaign of Arabs murdering Jews, not the inverse.

More Articles from Jonathan S. Tobin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Jerusalem at the President's Residence, February 2014 (archive)

Anti-Semitism has returned to the mainstream of European society and Israel has become its focus.

Bomb Shelter

One of the key talking points by apologists for Hamas in the current conflict is that it isn’t fair that Israelis under fire have bomb shelters while Palestinians in Gaza don’t have any. Among other factors, the lack of shelters accounts in part for the differences in casualty figures between the two peoples. But somehow […]

How will all this end? Hamas seems to think it will be Netanyahu who will blink first.

Nothing short of a stroke that will decapitate the leadership of this group will convince the Arabs that Hamas has made a mistake.

Z STREET will have the ability to compel IRS officials to testify as to their practices and produce all records.

“Death of Klinghoffer” opera frames the issue as Israel’s existence being the real crime.

Palestinian leaders claim the kidnapping is an Israeli hoax or the act of Jewish criminals rather than terrorists.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/jewish-shortsightedness-and-jerry-falwell/2007/05/19/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: