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Falwell & Dobson: Stricken with Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Reported by Marie Therese - January 26, 2005

First it was Dr. James Dobson and the Gay SpongeBob Controversy. Now it's the Rev. Jerry Falwell and his "Confidential Memo" written on January 12th and addressed to the Moral Majority and Liberty Alliance membership. In it Falwell had this to say: "We will be delivering eight tons of rice plus medical supplies. Relief efforts are being organized using hundreds of local Christian workers. In addition, we will be presenting the gospel to tens of thousands of persons through distribution of gospel tracts written in the native languages of the area."

Bill O'Reilly interviewed Falwell and Nihad Awad, Director of the Center on American-Islamic Relations" on yesterday's O'Reilly Factor. The interchange between the calm, well-spoken Mr. Awad, the ever-bloviating Mr. O and Christian evangelical Falwell made for some interesting moments.

After reading the above quote from Falwell's memo, O'Reilly went on to say "That has angered some Muslims."

O'Reilly: What's the beef here? You know the Rev. Falwell and a lot of evangelical Christians go out to try to convert people It's part of their mission. What's the problem?

AWAD: Thank you for having me.

O'Reilly: A pleasure.

AWAD: We have no objection in principle to proselytizing. You can go convert people as much as you want, wherever you want, whenever you want in the appropriate circumstances. Our objection raises [sic] from the fact that Jerry Falwell and others are trying to prey on the victims, the victims who are suffering and hurting. Those people who are suffering will have no choice but to accept what you offer them. If you offer them your religious belief before the aid, that's taking advantage of people who are under, you know, who are vulnerable. The second thing is, in the e-mail, Rev, Falwell is saying (reads) "In this heavily Muslim part of the world, millions have never heard of Jesus Christ." This is a false statement. Most Muslims would disagree with the statement. In fact ...

O'Reilly (interrupts): But why is that important?

AWAD: It's important because it is misleading to the supporters of Jerry Falwell. He has to be truthful ...

O'Reilly (annoyed): Alright.

AWAD: ... and tell people most Muslims revere ...

O'Reilly (overtalks the last word): It might be a matter of debate whether people ..

AWAD: Well.

O'Reilly: ... in remote parts of Indonesia have been subjected or - you know - I don't know if it's that important.

AWAD: If I may.

O'Reilly: Go ahead.

AWAD: Muslims revere, respect and hold Jesus in the highest regard as a prophet of God. They believe in the Ab - in the God [of] Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so this information has to be known to most Christians, especially the supporters of Jerry Falwell.

O'Reilly (overtalks last 4 words): OK. I got it. What do you say, Reverend?

FALWELL: Well, first of all, I fully, fully understand Nihad's concern, if in fact we, as Christians, were doing what he thinks we're doing. The fact is in my ministry - I'm 71, I've been doing this 50 years - we go where the tragedies are. We are delivering food and medical supplies like Mother Teresa in Calcutta all those years. They don't have to convert to Catholicism to get the food. When they asked her about her faith, she shared it lovingly with them. That was not a crime. And we - we don't ever, ever, ever require anyone, young person, adult, to submit to faith in Christ - that can never be coerced - before we feed them, clothe them, build them a home. But, if in the administration of our love and care someone asks, we share our faith. Of course, we do that.

O'Reilly: So, does it have to be asked or do the relief workers that you work with ...

FALWELL: Yes.

O'Reilly: ...hand them the clothes and food and the bible tract? Do you do that just [indecipherable]

FALWELL (overtalks last 4 or 5 words): No. We very much obey the law. If we distribute a tract or pass out a bible or do anything in those areas, it is only after we have the authority and the permission form the powers-that-be. You know, the Muslims, for example, do a commendable job of proselytation [sic] and evangelism in American's prisons among African-American men. They have outstripped evangelistic Christians in their evangelistic work and I don't object to that. I just look at our guys and say "Why aren't we doing a better job?" We don't try to silence the Muslims and that's [indecipherable].

O'Reilly (overtalks last 3 words): Let's let the - ah - let's let Mr. Awad reply. His [Fallwell's] argument is that nobody's getting this unless they ask for it and that the traditions of the countries are being respected in the sense that the local authorities are being informed. It seems to me up and up, no?

AWAD: If this is true, then I would agree with him and I would say go ahead. But the question is ...

FALWELL: It is true.

AWAD: But the question is most groups like Rev. Falwell's have broken the local customs and show disrespect and insensitivity to local religious and [areas?] and government officials objected to this. In fact most of the objection does not come from Muslim groups, as even the promo has shown earlier.

[COMMENT: The teaser before O'Reilly's show stated: "Christians vs Muslims in the Tsunami Zone"]

Most of the objections come from local Christian groups who think that these efforts, these tactics, endanger the interfaith relations and there's a danger ...

O'Reilly (interrupting): But if the Reverend's playing by the rules, Mr. Awad, and, if he's doin' what he says he's doing - and I have no reason to doubt him, do you?

AWAD: No. I won't. But ... but ...

O'Reilly (cuts him off): Let's agree. You and I agree that what the Reverend just told us is true. OK? He's not tryin' to sneak the bible in. He's not trying to do anything back door. He's up front with his stuff. OK? Then there can't be any objection, can there?

AWAD: Well, I think, knowing his background, especially now, today, we try to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world and even not the Muslim world, everybody outside the United States. His efforts have been divisive. His statements have been offensive and inaccurate, so if his group ...

O'Reilly (interrupts, overtalks last 4 words): Well, give me an example ‘cause yer, yer - give me an example...

AWAD (overtalks last 3 words): It's his group. In this e-mail, in this e-mail he says that he's trying to share the gospel with those millions of people who are Muslim in Indonesia...

O'Reilly: Yeah.

AWAD: ... who have no knowledge or have never heard of Jesus Christ. That means it's misleading [indecipherable]

FALWELL (interjects): Can I explain that, please?

AWAD (continues): [They're going into?] Indonesia.

O'Reilly: But, I don't even think that's a major point, but go ahead, go ahead.

FALWELL: I'd like to explain that.

O'Reilly: I know, to you, it's a major point, but I'm saying to myself, if they have, [if] they haven't, what difference does it make?

FALWELL: Well, what I mean is this. Historically, I would assume almost every person on earth has heard the name of Jesus Christ, if only in swear words at the harbors. But, what I meant is not historically but in the personal saving knowledge of Christ, who, through His death, burial and resurrection, brought forgiveness to all the world and all who trust Him.

O'Reilly (overtalks last 2 words): You wanna teach. You wanna teach is what you're saying.

FALWELL: If we're allowed to and if we could legally do it, but we never - just like the rescue missions in our major cities, like I mentioned Mother Teresa, like the Christian ministry for 2,000 years, we never turn anyone down meeting their physical and mental needs, simply because they will not believe what we're preaching. No one can be coerced or forced into trusting Christ as Saviour any more, any more than they can the forced into becoming ...

O'Reilly (overtalks last 10 words): You know, Mr. Awad has one point. These people are vulnerable. Right now they're in a state where ..

FALWELL: Yes, I know.

O'Reilly: ... they're confused. So you don't want to exploit that confusion.

FALWELL: Cannot. Cannot. And I don't know of any Christian ministry that's doing that, Bill. I think ...

O'Reilly: Ah, there are some.

FALWELL: ... of World Vision. I think of Samaritan's Purse. Dr. Franklin Graham's ministry. I think of literally millions of Christian in America ...

O'Reilly (overtalks last 6 words): Alright. Well, I think we've reached some détente.

AWAD: OK. Well, the fact that many Christian groups - read the Washington Post, it will tell you that 300 Muslim children were airlifted from - from Aceh to Jakarta in order to convert them. This is taking advantage of the suffering of these orphan people. My point is, if you want to be helpful to these people, go two years from now, after they stand up on their feet. Argue with them. explain your gospel. If they - they're converted, that's fine.

O'Reilly: Do it then. Yeah. I got it.

FALWELL: And, Nihad, we plan to do that later. [But be assured?]

O'Reilly: I think we've reached some common ground here. Mr. Awad, thanks very much. Rev. Falwell, as always.

COMMENT

Click here for the Washington Post article on the orphans. Tsunami Orphans Won't Be Sent to Christian Home

Click here to go to the article by CAIR: U.S. Muslims Say Exploitation of Tsunami Aid Hurts America's Image

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