First it went after one of the Teletubbies, accusing it of being a gay role model. Now the conservative Christian newspaper that the Rev. Jerry Falwell publishes is taking on the Lilith Fair female concert tour, saying its name has links to a demonic culture.
An article in the June edition of Falwell's National Liberty Journal, based in Lynchburg, Va., warns parents that the name "Lilith" has alarming associations with a pagan figure from ancient Hebrew folklore that consorted with demons and had evil offspring. A musical event under such a name is no place for children, the piece implies.
Lilith Fair, created in 1997 by singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, drew more than 800,000 people to its summer concert series last year. This summer's 33-city tour includes an appearance next month at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.
"It is having a negative impact when it's linking itself to a demon culture," the author, J.M. Smith, said yesterday. Lilith "mated with demons and had a demonic brood of children, according to her legend. That is dangerous, and parents need to know that."
Smith, a senior editor, said he was also concerned about the tour's links to Planned Parenthood. The article says that condoms are distributed at concerts.
Smith said the article was written to present information to Christian parents "who may not wish their children to participate in a music festival that celebrates a pagan figure." Most of the article details various Lilith legends.
Yesterday Smith said he is not calling for a boycott of the concert series. He said he just wanted to educate parents about the meaning of the tour's name.
Acknowledging that Falwell's publication was heavily criticized for warning of a homosexual link with the Teletubbies children's TV series, Smith wrote he was willing to take more fire "in order to document the truth behind the benign appearance of this music festival."
That truth, according to Smith, is that Lilith, Adam's first wife, was thrown out of paradise after claiming equality with her husband. She then went to dwell with the demons of the underworld, according to a legend Smith recounts. Smith said he has no problem with Lilith Fair's founder, McLachlan.
"I'm a fan of her music. . . . I just saw her on TV the other night," Smith said. "She's wonderfully talented. I respect her as an artist, but I wish she would rethink choosing Lilith to represent the concert series." Smith said other parents have written him to complain about the name.
Falwell's executive assistant, Duke Westover, said yesterday that Falwell didn't know enough details about Lilith or the article to comment on the article. But Westover said that Falwell has never contradicted anything Smith has written in the past and is unlikely to do so now.
The Lilith Fair tour began as way to promote female artists and vocalists. Sheryl Crow, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris have taken part in the series, which sends $1 from each ticket purchase to a women's shelter in each concert's host city. The music features mostly country, folk and pop songwriters strumming their guitars on stage.
Terry McBride, the tour co-founder and McLachlan's manager, said the artist chose the Lilith myth because it celebrated an independent female fighting for equality. McLachlan has called Lilith the world's first feminist.
"We just tend to focus on the good side," McBride said. "Sarah added the `fair' to denote equality and fairness. It's a festival that gives millions of dollars to charitable organizations and puts on a good show. I don't see anything evil about it. . . . People are trying to read things into it that weren't meant to be."
Aviva Cantor, a founder of the quarterly Jewish women's publication "Lilith," researched the figure for a book. She said much of the evil ascribed to Lilith was added to the legend by a male-dominated society that feared the role independent women might play. Some very conservative Jewish communities still fear Lilith, she said. But Cantor expressed doubt that Smith's understanding of Lilith is complete.
"He is not well-informed," Cantor said. "And the whole thing is mythology anyhow. Are we really thinking there are demons floating around taking up residence at a Lilith Fair festival?"