The indefatigable Martin Marty reports that of the 14,720 lines written in his column “Sightings” since 1999, only 7 were devoted to the late fundamentalist politico Rev. Jerry Falwell. “Accuse us not of overdoing comment on [the religious] Right,” Marty wrote last week. “We resolved early on not to over-comment on over-done subjects that need no one to do any ‘sighting.'”
I won’t. I accuse him of not commenting enough on Falwell and his ilk. Who better than a popular mainstream Christian writer and professor to explain how Falwell’s beliefs and actions contradicted many Christian tenets? Who better than one of the pre-eminent church historians of our time to explain how thoroughly Falwell’s attempt to join church and state runs contrary to the insights of his own Baptist denomination (which for centuries understood that the wall between church and state was there to protect the church)? And who better to do these two jobs over and over again, as needed?
I don’t make this accusation lightly. I like Marty, profiled him 21 years ago, worked with him briefly on a book-reading committee. Plus the Reader has long prided itself on a similar editorial philosophy of not overdoing already overexposed subjects.
But we’ve been known to repeat ourselves when the cause was serious enough. Given the damage that political fundamentalism has done to American life, culture, morality, and, yes, religion, Falwell needed to be tracked and exposed at every turn. The fact that he and Marty pray to the same god makes the task more imperative, if anything. (The bloggers at Talk to Action have seen this and are acting on it.)
Marty and his colleagues and successors are better placed than any humanist or atheist to expose the fallacies and evils perpetrated by Falwell and his colleagues and successors. But do the moderates care enough to truth-squad these renegades?