Rev. Falwell told us without knowing he was telling us that conservatism in theory is authoritarianism in practice.
I suppose we owe Jerry Falwell Jr. a debt of gratitude. I’m serious.
Falwell is the son of the late Jerry Falwell, the man most responsible for bringing fundamentalist Christianity out of the political wilderness during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Junior, along with Franklin Graham, himself a scion of a religious dynasty, is perhaps the president’s greatest champion among white evangelical Christians.
He appeared on “Fox & Friends” yesterday. Among other things, he accused Donald Trump’s enemies, including the press, of hyping COVID-19, the new strain of the coronavirus spreading around the world, panicking global markets and closing down entertainment and cultural events here and elsewhere. He, like Tom Cotton, the fascist senator from Arkansas, believes the disease outbreak can be blamed on totalitarian regimes in the east. For Cotton, that’s China. For Falwell, that’s North Korea. (While Falwell was on air, the president announced a state of national emergency related to the outbreak, undermining his and Cotton’s search for a scapegoat for his sake.)
Falwell’s demagoguery isn’t what we should be thankful for. What we should be thankful for is his confessing, without appearing to know it, that a pillar of “principled conservatism” in the United States is no pillar at all. Not in practice. Once you see that this pillar rests on a bed of sand, rather than constitutional bedrock, you start seeing other “conservative principles” do, too. “States’ rights,” “gun rights,” “the right to life” and even “religious freedom” are nearly always about something other than what they seem to be. Falwell and his ideological confederates can’t be honest about it, though. If they were, they’d lose. Dishonesty, fraudulence and bad faith are central to their aims.
What would Jesus do? Not that. …