Friday, August 18, 2006

Presbyterian Publishing Blows It Big Time

I try very hard not to speak too harshly of my PCUSA denomination. I weary of the bitter in-fighting over reimagining such matters as human sexuality and the authority of scripture. As a pastor all I really want to do is reach out and welcome folks into the church with the good news of God's saving love in the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I first heard that the denominationally-affiliated Presbyterian Publishing had printed a book by David Ray Griffin called, "Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action," I wondered if the author might be examining the issues of religion and culture in light of the emerging power of militant Islamism and the widening "clash of civilizations."

To my astonishment the book turned out to be a political nut-case hit piece against the Bush administration that accuses the United States of invading other countries to impose its imperial rule and its control of other peoples' resources. According to one reviewer, "Griffin makes a compelling case that the imperial practices of the American government have become a destructive force in the world." Another reviewer states that, "In a profound exploration of the nature and history of the demonic, Griffin suggests that American empire is a culmination of human demonic alienation from God."

As the Washington Times puts it, the book
...accuses the Bush administration -- in power only eight months at the time of the 2001 terrorist attacks -- of plotting September 11 to justify war with Afghanistan and Iraq, and to expand an "American empire."
As a PCUSA pastor I can only roll my eyes in disbelief over the publication of this book by Presbyterian Publishing. The PP editor offers this lame excuse:

"The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation is one of six agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) but we receive no funding from the denomination, but rather contribute to the mission of the PC(USA) through our operating surpluses. Under the Westminster John Knox Press imprint, we publish a theologically and religiously diverse selection of books that extends far beyond the Reformed tradition and the official policies and stances of the PC(USA)."

Note, however, that the link to PP can be found at the PCUSA web site listed under "Resources & Publications." It's sad to think that we are disseminating this foolishness in the name of Christ and trying to make money off of it!

Hugh Hewitt, a PCUSA Elder and member of Dr. Mark Roberts' Irvine Presbyterian Church, is outraged and so am I. Hugh sees this as one more reason to either "demand a wholesale housecleaning of the Louisville bureaucracy" or else "outline the process of divorce so the rational congregations can go their own way."

I am not so shaken by this as is Hugh yet I am getting tired . . . oh, so tired . . . of denominational staff and agencies related to our General Assembly constantly slipping, sliding and falling off the far left side of the national political spectrum.

That a publisher affiliated with a national Christian denomination would even CONSIDER publishing a book such as this is beyond scandalous. The book, in essence, accuses the current President of the United States of personal responsibility in conspiring ordering and causing the deaths of neary 3000 American civilians, military personnel and emergency responders as well as the destruction and/or damage to the two largest workplace complexes in the world on 9/11/01!

The implications of such an accusation are unfathomable and less grounded in any sense of reality that a painting by Salvador Dali. The outright denial that an actual attack on the United States by Islamic terrorists took place on 9/11 is reminiscent of Hitler's infamous "Big Lie" and every bit at dangerous.

At the very least, we should demand that the Board of Directors of Presbyterian Publishing denounce and repudiate the contents of this book and immediately cease its printing and distibution.

This action should be followed immediatly by the firing of Presbyterian Publishing's President & Publisher Davis Perkins and the entire Editorial staff.

Having said this I must also reflect on the many comments Hugh Hewitt has received in response to his post on this matter. Many were from either members of the PCA or the Roman Catholic Church attempting to lure, entice and encourage Hugh into their particular theological fold.

After first responding with a comment in support of Hugh's outrage I added a second comment as follows:
Hugh, I can't help but notice the seductive and tempting invitations from your PCA and RC fans! Even with its struggles the PCUSA continues to deny homosexuals the privilege of ordination (contrary to all you have heard) and even the adoption of the PUP report at GA this year included an amendment to that report that radically reduced the chance that it can be used to circumvent the constitutional prohibitions.

The past GA was one of the most conservatively inclined meetings in many years with much accomplished that tells me that we have not yet reached doctrinal bankruptcy.

In spite of all the warts there is still much in the PCUSA that is right and good, and much of that is bitterly opposed by the PCA and RC. If the day should ever come when I would leave my denomination (and that day has not yet come) I doubt I would join either of the above mentioned alternatives lest too much of the biblical/doctrinal baby get thrown out with the bath water!

Try as we might, only Christ is perfect and free from sin.
Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.