The smoke was still coming from the ruins of the World Trade Center when Jerry Falwell made a stop at Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” to explain why American passenger jets had been turned into missiles, why over 5,000 people were still buried in the smoldering and twisted ruins in Manhattan, why hundreds more had been killed in the crashes in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.

The death and devastation was caused by folks like Ellen DeGeneres, explained the good and portly preacher, caused by liberal judges and pagan television and ACLU lawyers and dirty dancing. God was mad at America, proclaimed Falwell, mad enough about abortion and gender-bending and everything else to get up there in the sky that morning with Satam Al Suqami, Abdulaziz Alomari, Waleed Alshehri, Wall Alshehri and Mohamed Atta and slam American Airlines flight 11 straight into the World Trade Center.

God, Falwell told Robertson, had protected America “wonderfully these 225 years,” and this was the first time since 1812 that we’d been attacked on our soil. The reason? Divine protection was withdrawn because we’re too bad … worse even, I guess, than the rats and psychos who live in the caves of Afghanistan.

The four plane crashes? “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked,” said Falwell. “When we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. Throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”

Robertson’s instant response: “Well, I totally concur.” The response from the White House: “The president does not share those views.” And the response from columnist Rip Rense: “God’s mad? I don’t know about you, folks, but whenever somebody tells me he claims to know God’s mind, I get kind of nervous. Makes me think about all those primitive tribes jumping for joy in the Middle East because they believe God has smitten the Great Satan. They think they know God’s mind too.”

Let’s follow Falwell’s theology. God got in bed with an international gang of Islamic terrorists because Ellen DeGeneres got in bed with Anne Heche. Or from another angle, the loving God of Christianity helped plow United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center because He’s mad that Gloria Steinem fought for equal pay for equal work.

And what, we should ground all passenger jets because God hates feminists, or because Madonna’s on tour? And what, God blew up the Pentagon because Dick Cheney’s daughter isn’t straight enough, and every large building in England should be evacuated because Elton John doesn’t put Tab A in Slot B?

“To follow this logic, one can only conclude that God is a terrorist,” says Rense. “Isn’t this what the Rev is saying? To follow the Falwellian logic, God hired those wacko hit-men and put them up to their fiendish work. And it’s just a short leap from there to think that maybe, gasp, God is on their side! After all, all those Muslim extremists just hate abortion, feminism and homosexuality, right? I mean, they don’t even let women show their faces in public. Osama bin Laden owns three wives (at last count), and young women who have sex before marriage are often decapitated by their own families.” Family values, via the God squad.

“Ol’ Jer’s way of thinking reminds me of primitive tribes who sacrifice monkeys to calm God down when he gets all riled up and dumps a big storm on their heads,” says Rense. “His thinking reminds me of Muslim extremist murderers who think that only they know the mind of a righteous God.”

All told, Falwell’s way of thinking isn’t all that different from what Saeed Alghamdi was probably thinking when he boarded United flight 93 in Newark, or what Fayez Ahmed was thinking as he got on United flight 175 in Boston, or what Hani Hanjour was thinking as American Airlines flight 77 left Dulles. All were blind to America as a civilized and free nation, unable to see a country of hard-working, successful and good people. Instead, they saw only infidels, impure people that their God wanted to kill.

As I’m writing this, Falwell is making the TV rounds, saying he was quoted out of context and apologizing if any impression was left that he thought God had allowed terrorists to attack us because of civil liberties groups, abortion, gays, lesbians and feminists.

“In the midst of the shock and mourning of a dark week for America, I made a statement that I should not have made and which I sincerely regret,” he said. “I want to apologize to every American, including those I named.” At a time of national mourning, he agreed, his comments were “insensitive, divisive and ill-timed.”

Ill-timed? Wrong again. There’s no time when his comments will make sense, except maybe to some primeval witch doctor.

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