Quote: “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked.” Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, speaking of 911.
Figure of Speech: jeremiad (Jer-uh-MY-ad), the figure of godly payback. Named after the Biblical prophet Jeremiah.
Jerry Falwell is dead. The evangelical minister led a busy life as a voice that cried out against all the abominations America fell into — sins like civil rights and public education. He got some great press for attributing the September 11 terrorism to “the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, [and] People for the American Way.”
Even some of his evangelical allies thought the Rev had gone off the theological deep end. But he was following a very old American tradition. In seventeenth-century New England, Puritan ministers used the jeremiad to terrify their communities, blaming their ills on the sins the citizens had committed or permitted.
The word “jeremiad” itself is an eponym — a word named after a person. Jeremiah was a prophet responsible for two of the most pessimistic books in the Bible, the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations. (Ian Frazier’s side-splitting “Lamentations of the Father” is a brilliant spoof.)
New Englanders eventually tired of the jeremiad, dedicated themselves to full-time sinning, and became the modern-day Gomorrah that abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians call “Massachusetts.”
Snappy Answer: “Terrorists will be glad to know they’re off the hook.”