Battle over Colorado College speaker becomes religious, personal
Colorado College's invitation to Palestinian Hanan Ashrawi to speak at a three-day symposium called "September 11: One Year Later, Responding to Global Challenges," has brought criticism from Jewish groups, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, conservative state legislators—and Focus on the Family President James Dobson.

"There is certainly a place for academic freedom, but contracting a controversial figure at such a painful time for America is insensitive and lacks appropriate judgment," he said in a press release. "Have we already forgotten the news footage of Palestinians dancing in the streets on September 11 celebrating bin Laden's attack on the United States? Have we forgotten Israel's response to the catastrophe? Israel lowered its flags to half-staff, and Benjamin Netanyahu said, 'Today, we are all Americans.'"

Dobson's comments outraged Bishara Awad, president of Bethlehem Bible College, who is apparently e-mailing an open letter to Dobson to several media outlets and websites. "On September 11, I was in Bethlehem and I personally asked many Palestinians, Muslims and Christian, about the attack and all those I asked have said this is terrible and evil," Awad wrote. "Not one condoned the attack on America . …The incident of dancing you referred to is a very isolated incident, and all Palestinians believe it was staged by the media."

Then Awad gets personal:

We don't only respect, but we feel we know you and love you. For us it is a shock to learn of your objections for Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, for a very moderate and sound speaker to share in Colorado. Just because she is a Palestinian, this does not make her unclean. You have become an instrument of hate and division. You have said things against your own writings and beliefs. You have considered all Palestinians as the enemy of America and your enemy. Dr. Dobson, you are wrong . …Dr. Dobson, you as my hero, have fallen and had become a part of the hate propaganda and deceitful ways of the enemy of righteousness. We are not to listen to those who are advocating wars among nations. You are not being objective any more.

There's an awful lot of spin going on in this story. Dobson and others don't just oppose Ashrawi because she's a Palestinian. She used to be spokeswoman for the Palestinians (and therefore for Yasser Arafat). Of course, those who emphasize this point almost always fail to note that she resigned from the government in 1998—specifically criticizing Arafat's political corruption. Oddly, neither Dobson nor Awad mention that Ashrawi is a Christian (see a recent interview with her in our sister publication, Books & Culture). Focus on the Family hasn't yet responded on its website, but Weblog will let you know if they do.

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Pentecostal Korean church joins Episcopal Church
These days you're more likely to read about conservative congregations leaving the Episcopal Church than joining it, but the latter happened Sunday as Nashville's diocese welcomed the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit. The 100-plus-member Pentecostal congregation move was initiated—as most such moves are—by the pastor, Moon Lee, who has a background in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.).

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September 11 observances:

  • Churches taking on heavy burden | New York's houses of worship brace to meet rush of 9/11 pain (Houston Chronicle)

  • Clerics' daunting task: forming 9/11 sermons | While secular leaders are refraining from speechmaking—whether out of fear of inadequacy or a sincere sense of awe—it will be the preachers shaping the oratorical legacy of Wednesday's public recollection of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York (The New York Times)

  • Faith in 'God's design' | Long Island's bishop reviews the trauma, tragedy of his first year (Newsday)

  • Houses of worship ponder Sept. 11 | Many respond to President Bush's "National Days of Prayer and Remembrance." Bush had asked all Americans to gather in their places of worship and communities from Friday through Sunday to honor the dead, "give thanks for God's enduring blessings on our land," and pray for world peace and the strength to bring the attackers to justice (Fox News)

  • 'Our refuge, strength' | Atlantans of all faiths look forward, back as anniversary stirs words to soothe soul (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Sermons for Sept. 11 | Local clergy describe what they're telling the faithful on the weekend before the anniversary (Anchorage Daily News)

  • A time to remember | Along with predictable religious themes of love and hope, local clergy are adding a lot of silence, taking away the talk and including a challenge in their Sept. 11 anniversary services (Savannah [Ga.] Morning News)

Life after September 11:

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  • Why they hate us | As the anniversary week of the 9/11 attacks begins, let's cut to the chase as to their cause: It's the endless mortal enmity felt toward the West by a significant chunk of the Islamic world (New York Post)

  • Pope addresses roots of terrorism | "The recruitment of terrorists is more easily achieved in areas where human rights are trampled upon" (Associated Press)

  • Building reborn as "secular" church in memory of Flight 93 | The vacant church was just miles from the barren field—where the plane fell from the sky (Houston Chronicle)


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