Anomalies From the Rooftop

Theology from Anomalies. One story a day from the world of Christianity that is just a little off-beat. Sometimes, in shouting the good news from the rooftop, Christians do some strange things.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

PCUSA Publisher's Book Says Bush Responsible for 9/11

Westminster John Knox, the trade and academic press of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) has published a book by David Ray Griffin, entitled Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action. In the work, which is in the top #1000 on, Professor Griffin argues that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were organized by the US government as an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Griffin is a member of the "non-partisan association" Scholars of 9/11 Truth, a group of academics devoted to proving that the towers were brought down by controlled demolition and that no 757 hit the Pentagon.

I have no interest in writing about the conspiracy theory--Christian conspiracy theorists are sort of like modern day gnostics, somehow convincing themselves that they are vastly smarter than the large number of actually intelligent people in the world and thus that they possess some sort of secret knowledge integral to knowing the real truth. Academic conspiracy theorists are even worse, since they already feel smarter than everyone else.

Yet even if the "truth behind 9/11" were a matter of any serious contention, the real question is why would Westminster John Knox publish this book anyway? Their answer:
At Westminster John Knox Press we share Griffin’s primary allegiance and seek to encourage sustained, informed, and respectful dialogue about the most pressing issues of our times. Professor Griffin’s thorough research and intellectually rigorous arguments have persuaded us that this book should have a place in that conversation.
WJK's president wrote:
This book is not an off-the-wall polemic but rather a considered work that deserves to have a place in the public forum of discourse about Christian faith and U.S. policy...we sincerely hope publication of this book will challenge American see beyond their respective ideological impulses and provoke discussion on substantive issues about faithful citizenship in this country.
Sounds fair enough, right? But here's the catch, the reasons for questioning 9/11 provided by the Scholars for 9/11 Truth are almost all scientific in nature, mostly about impact velocities, burning temperatures, and the way the buildings collapsed. A retired liberation theology professor cannot possibly be the best person to present such science to the public--certainly an actual scientist would be far better. But what a Christian theologian does have a certain ability to make the topic religious--in an article at Christianity Today, Griffin is quoted as saying that 9/11 was designed to justify American imperial claims, claims which are specifically anti-Christian.

Jack Adams, editor of the conservative Presbyterian Layman, described the situation differently. He pointed out that Griffin is a proponent of liberation theology and that WJK and PC(USA) leadership is relentlessly liberal and anti-Israel. Basically, in Adams' view, this publication is not about "provoking discussion," but is an attempt to undermine the administration and its religious base. He also pointed out that PC(USA) leadership is out of step with the people in the pews, and expects that there will be an outcry over the publication of this book just as where was about PC(USA)'s plans for divestiture from Israel.

WJK is a rather liberal Christian press, but the real issue is that it is seen as the official press of the PC(USA). Even though the press is institutionally separate from the church, for WJK to publish this book seems to give its message a stamp of approval by the PC(USA). Most Presbyterians, of course, wouldn't want to bless such a work. More respect at WJK for the disconnect between the minds in the editorial office and minds in the pew might had prevented this whole mess. And judging by the front page of WJK's home page, which has a big link about why they published the book, they are feeling the heat. (But also probably making money from book sales generated by the controversy).

Then again, respect for the people in the pew isn't what WJK is really all about. They are, after all, Christian gnostics--possessing knowledge about how liberal God is that the vast majority of Christians apparently aren't able to understand.


Blogger Sophia Sadek said...

Thanks for the posting.

One of our students asked, "How will the average American react when they hear that the Bush Administration precipitated the 9/11 attack?" Another student responded, "They'll probably wonder what 'precipitate' means."

Such is the nature of the gnostic thought process.

4:58 PM  

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