The Liberal Leap of Faith

Browsing through the latest catalogue from the venerable Westminster John Knox Press, I was momentarily brought up short at the sight of a new book by David Ray Griffin, a Process theologian with an impressive publishing record. I remember thinking his A Process Christology (1973) was pretty good, much better than John B. Cobb’s Christ in a Pluralistic Age, one of the most annoying theological books I have ever read. But rest assured, Griffin has him all beat to hell with his new work: Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action. Actually, this makes his fifth hare-brained Anti-American screed.

We could not ask for better evidence that Liberal Protestant theology has gone absolutely mad. Professor Griffin’s captivation by the absurd conspiracy theory that George Bush personally piloted one of the suicide airplanes, with Dick Cheney at the controls of the other, both parachuting to safety just before impact (well, that’s practically what they say!), is even more ridiculous, more paranoid, than the belief that NASA faked the moon landing, almost as preposterous as Holocaust denial or “Scientific Creationism.” Really, it is something you would expect from Dale Gribble on the cartoon King of the Hill. Just picture Dale, clutching a can of Alamo Beer, explaining this theory to Hank, Bill, and Boomhauer as they stand in front of the fence. Isn’t it a perfect fit?

One’s regard for Griffin’s research expertise and skill in weighing evidence is not strengthened by his accompanying analysis of Jesus, whom he feels compelled to drag in, kicking and screaming. Here is a quote from a favorable review:

In Chapter 7 he first shows how the U.S. Empire is remarkably similar to the Roman Empire of 2000 years ago in its sense of divine authorization, its overwhelming military power, its use of terror to intimidate, its use of puppet rulers in countries under its control, and its exaction of "tribute and taxation" from subordinate populations. He then shows that Jesus of Nazareth, the central historical personage for Christians to this day, was the founder of an "anti-imperial gospel" that called upon his compatriots to resist the oppression and idolatry of the Roman Empire.

This is so far-fetched a reading, so bizarre and self-evidently slanted a reading of the gospels, far beyond any political Jesus-ventriloquism of which the Jesus Seminar might be accused, as to be comical! Poor Jesus! If Griffin (with his Leftist ventriloquist comrades Richard A. Horsley and Catherine Keller) can make Jesus into Che Guevara in this manner, it comes as absolutely no surprise that he can conjure and construe modern data in order to make the U.S. Government responsible for the World Trade massacre. Both are sheer fantasy.

So what is it we are to envision happening on 9/11? The Feds placed Arab hi-jackers on those planes and synchronized the impact of the planes with explosive charges rigged throughout the Towers, and they all blew at pretty much the same moment. Bin Laden took credit for the crime, but are we to suppose that he didn’t do it, or that he was put up to it by the U.S. Government? Either way lies madness.

Griffin’s paranoia leads him to believe that George Bush engineered this massacre to give himself an excuse to fiendishly deprive all Americans of their rights with the Patriot Act. Another fantasy, pure and simple. Like the American Criminal Liberties Union’s constant plaints, this one is concerned only for the protection of terrorists’ planning, since no one else has anything to worry about. Do I have reason to worry that the government might look at my library records? Or my e-mails? You are kidding yourself if you think they haven’t been able to do that for a long time. And not only them, but any credit card company. This only bothers you if you are paranoid. And the ultra-liberal conspiracy nuts like Griffin are.

Did Bush crash the plane into the WTC, then parachute out, because he needed an excuse to attack Iraq? Then why didn’t he plan some other atrocity that would have had a more plausible connection to Iraq? Make up your minds, paranoid liberals; are Bush and his cronies morons who can’t do anything right? Or are they fiendish criminal masterminds like the Feds on The X-Files?

Or how about Griffin’s belief that the Towers fell because of “controlled demolition,” the setting off of multiple detonations throughout the buildings. Can you really imagine the scenario? How’d they plant the charges? Presumably hundreds of them, and in plain sight, since Griffin sets great store by statements of fire fighters on the scene. They must have been able to spot them pretty easily. But if they did, does that mean the explosives they saw didn’t go off? If they did, how are we hearing reports from the fire fighters? Did they survive it? And did the Men in Black plant the explosives in plain sight the week before the disaster with no one stopping them to ask what the hell they were doing? “Oh, uh, new bug zapper, ma’am. Be done in a sec.”

The fact that poor Griffin is turning out such crazy rants is sad enough. But it is worse that the Presbyterian publishing house is marketing this nonsense. It reminds you of the good old days when the pathetic Presbies, desperate to appear relevant, paid for the defense of Angela Davis. And it goes to show that, just because Liberal Protestants reject historic orthodoxy (and I’m with them that far), it doesn’t mean they lack faith. And I don’t mean faith in some redefined sense. No, if you can believe and want to believe crazy conspiracy theories like this one, just to give yourself an excuse to posture as a radical like Jesus (“What a good boy am I!”)?well, brother, you’ve got more faith than an Appalachian snake handler!

I am sometimes asked how I can be so critical when it comes to the Bible and yet be politically conservative. You think that’s a contradiction? Don’t you see? I am equally unwilling to sign on for wild leaps into delusion and dogma, whether they are religious or political. Once I was on a Humanist panel with a brilliant evolutionist, and I was stunned to see his critical sense vanish as soon as politics came up. He said that it would be best to have a single world government, and since the United Nations was the closest thing to it, then we ought to do whatever they said we should. I wouldn’t have been particularly surprised if some ordinary fool said this, but this man is a brilliant scientist, and a room full of avid intellectuals nodded piously. Yes, they formed a congregation sharing the blind faith of Liberalism, whether of Humanism or Liberal Protestantism, because both come down to uncritical, doctrinaire left-wing politics under the pseudo-philosophical veneer.

Personally, I cannot bear smug, bull-headed pietism, whether religious or political, whether of the Left or of the Right. Both are leaps of faith, albeit in different directions, both equally irresponsible and equally dangerous. And relative to both, I remain godless. If there is anyone more ungodly than I, lead me to him, that I may become his disciple.

So says Zarathustra.

Robert M. Price
October 2006


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