Pundits and papers have moved on from criticizing Bill Maher and Jerry Falwell, but that doesn't mean others aren't being told to shut up. In The New Republic, even Billy Graham gets hit. Literary editor Leon Wieseltier takes umbrage at Graham's comments at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service that "many of those people who died [in the September 11 attacks] are in heaven right now, and they wouldn't want to come back. It's so glorious and so wonderful."
"This was Mohamed Atta's eschatology, too," Wieseltier writes.
It is not consoling, it is insulting. … Nothing that transpired on September 11 was wonderful, nothing. The only effect of these fantasies is to loosen the American grip on reality at precisely the moment that it needs to be tightened. … Belief and unbelief are a disagreement, but they do not disagree about what is significant, and the vocabulary in which they conduct their disagreement is for certain purposes the only adequate vocabulary. And so Billy Graham's degradation of that vocabulary should have sent all intelligent souls in perplexity running from the church.
Or maybe all intelligent souls would realize that heaven really is a glorious and wonderful place, and that sometimes grieving people—in this case, a grieving nation—need that reminder.
Another speaker at that service is also coming under fire. Houston Press, an alternative weekly newspaper, takes aim at Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Houston's Windsor Village United Methodist Church and one of President Bush's closest spiritual advisers. It seems that at a memorial service for terrorist attack victims, Caldwell said Americans should blame the church, not Osama bin Laden, for the terror. "The church has failed to walk and operate in the power and authority that has been given only to the body of Christ," he explained. "Had we as a body of Christ been focused and faithful and praying for bin Laden, I don't know what would have happened. But I sure know he could have been shaken by the power of God." There's not much direct commentary in the Houston Press article, but writer Tim Fleck takes a mocking tone.
Across the pond, Dawn Gilkes, wife of vicar Don Gilkes, asked children at her church to pray that Osama bin Laden and other Muslims would (gasp!) convert to Christianity. One parent complained, "In the current climate to voice sentiments like this, particularly in front of children who are as young as five, is entirely unacceptable. … To have them subjected to this … is outrageous as far as I am concerned." The unnamed parent says the Anglican bishop of Blackburn will express his disapproval for the comments.
Guillermo Sobero confirmed dead
The California man who was kidnapped along with missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham was beheaded, the U.S. embassy in the Philippines confirmed today. His remains were discovered by the military last week. Meanwhile, three more Filipinos have escaped from the Abu Sayyaf guerillas, and they report that the Burnhams are well. The Muslim militants are "treating the Americans with respect … maybe because they are foreigners,' coconut farmer Faizal Benasing told reporters. "They ate bananas just like us … We saw them last night." Benasing says he converted from Christianity to Islam during his captivity. "I joined them because the Islam faith is true," he said, insisting that he was not forcibly converted.
Faith-based initiative: not this year
Despite earlier hopes that the September 11 attacks would re-energize support for Bush's faith-based initiative, charitable choice's chief backer in the Senate says it's probably not going to happen this year. " It's always difficult to pass something, and this year there is especially heavy competition," Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) tells the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Web fans will rejoice that the White House Web site finally offers a section promoting the faith-based initiative, complete with news and speeches.
More Supreme Court Nos
Weblog has already noted several cases the Supreme Court has refused to hear. Here are a few more. Two have to do with workplace discrimination. A Texas police officer sued for his job after he was fired for wearing a cross pin on his uniform. And a Mississippi hospital counselor claims she was fired because she objected to homosexuality (she refused to give relationship advice to a lesbian). The Supreme Court turned down both cases, so both workers will remain fired.
The Supreme Court also set aside a lower court's ruling allowing the city of Tucson, Arizona, to charge a National Day of Prayer group to use a public park. The justices sent the case back to the federal appeals court, asking them to reconsider the case in light of the recent Good News Club decision, which again reiterated that once the state opens the door to community organizations it can't discriminate against religious ones.
After Sept. 11:
- As nation prays, atheists cringe | Can politicians invoke God without making war on terrorism a holy war? (Associated Press)
- Cape Town's religious leaders slam U.S. strikes (Cape Argus)
- Turning a blind eye to evil | The multicultural-therapeutic left—including those in churches—will have to be pushed to move away from sloppy multiculturalism and all-purpose relativism (John Leo, U.S. News)
- A young religion sharpens its sabers | A look back at the history of all three faiths shows that the younger the belief, the fiercer (James P. Pinkerton, Los Angeles Times)
Church and state:
- Prayer Day case sent back down | Justices throw out lower court ruling (USA Today)
- Madison schools take heat for pledge ban | Meeting To Reconsider Ban Monday (Wisconsin 12 news)
- Police on high alert after churches and mosques hit | including "Osama bin Laden is Great", "Muslims Rule" and "Kill Jews and Christians" were spray-painted Syrian Orthodox Church (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Also: Pro bin-Ladin graffiti on Sydney church | Walls covered with words to the effect of "Osama bin Laden is Great," and "Kill Jews and Christians" (The Australian)
- Also: Hate messages on walls of wrecked church | The attack is the seventh in two weeks on Christian churches, and at least three mosques have been targeted (The Australian)
- Christians in Pakistan keep the faith in the face of turmoil | Services packed, peaceful after airstrikes on Afghanistan (Fox News)
- Commission orders arrest of Christian leaders | Archbishop, others accused of encouraging violence among youths (The Daily Trust, Abjua, Nigeria)
Politics and Law:
- Full appeals court to take up 'Nuremberg Files' case | 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will reconsider March ruling that threw out $107 million verdict (Associated Press)
- B.C. court rejects petition for same-sex marriages | Judge says law is discriminatory, but justified (Vancouver Sun)
- Britain May Criminalize Religion-Based Offenses | New laws would be akin to hate-crime legislation (Religion News Service)
- Christian group sues Babylon | Wants right to meet in the town's facilities (Newsday)
Spreading the Word:
- Bishop's mission: firing up his flock | Leo Frade, bishop of the Diocese of Southeast Florida, wants to triple his diocese's communicates by 2010. (The Miami Herald)
- Billy Graham Takes Sermons on the Road | Graham will be at Fresno State University's 40,000-seat stadium Thursday through Oct. 14 (Associated Press)
- Chicago Boy Makes Good (as Amazon's Bishop) | James M. Ryan is the last and perhaps greatest of the classic Amazon missionaries (The New York Times)
- Methodists' new method: mass-media outreach ads | Campaign motto: "Open hearts, open minds, open doors" (The Tennessean, Nashville)
- Volunteers often benefit as much from mission trips as the villages and people they visit | Area youths minister around the world (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Pope beatifies seven, including one hanged by Nazis | Nicholas Gross' son opposed move (Reuters)
- Archbishop defies Pope's call to quit | John Ward says he should not be forced to resign because of pedophile scandals in his archdiocese (The Daily Telegraph)
- Vatican cuts short its litany of saints | Uriah the Hittite, Philomena among those dropped from approved list (The Times)
Other stories of interest:
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