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 ...1
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