f the statements of Protestant clerics and denominational bureaucrats are any indication, the current sex scandal in the Catholic Church is far from the only church story that needs further investigation. Indeed, terrorism finds in these quarters a kind of theological public-relations agency.
In late October of last year, while the ruins from the World Trade Center still smoldered, the Justice and Ministries Board of the United Church of Christ charged that the "war on terrorism," revealing placed in dismissive quotes, was being used "to justify a rushed legislative agenda in Congress, some of which is irrelevant to the crisis and which includes, for example, fast-track authority on trade treaties, authorization for oil drilling in the Arctic. National Wilderness Area, expansion of Plan Colombia and other foreign military investments, promotion of the National Missile Defense System, and tax cuts which ignore the needs of the poor."
Further, "unrestrained federal spending since September 11, focused on military retaliation and antiterrorism measures, threatens to further weaken economic protection for the poor and elderly, including prescription drug relief for the elderly, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Social Security benefits, health care and other programs." In addition, "Low wage workers, especially immigrants, are losing their jobs by the thousands everyday in industries impacted by the war and the global economic recession."
Like other major American denominations, the United Methodists avoided direct condemnation of those responsible for the September 11 attacks. Barely a month had passed before the Methodist General Board of Church and Society rejected the use of military force to fight "criminal" acts of terror.
Konrad Raiser, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), to which more than 30 American denominations belong, condemned the U.S. war on terrorism. This should come as no surprise since, in its heyday the WCC functioned as Soviet lobby and anti-American echo chamber. But consider Vernon Broyles III, associate director for Social Justice and Associate for Corporate Witness in the National Ministries Division of the Presbyterian Church USA, the man responsible for theologically framing national and social issues for his denomination.
Four days after Sept. 11, the Rev. Broyles found a moral equivalence between those who attacked the World Trade Center and those they attacked. He questioned whether it was even appropriate to ask whether the incineration of several thousand innocent civilians from dozens of nations was an act of terrorism, a term he puts in dismissive quotes, when the United States once bombed cities in Japan.
The Sept. 11 perpetrators, in fact, were not "terrorists" at all, the Presbyterian official wrote, but "part of a guerrilla fighting force that uses the methods typical of every guerrilla army in history that is fighting against a force far superior to their own."
These guerrillas were motivated by grievances that the Rev. Broyles thought were legitimate. The problem was that "we have ignored many people suffering injustice at the hands of those we support."
Veterans of the Maquis, other Resistance fighters, indeed, "every guerrilla army in history" would be surprised to discover that they shared tactics with the Sept. 11 bombers. But Rev. Broyles's loathsome nonsense, which his type likes to call "speaking prophetically," is perfectly consistent with his working environment. Protestant bureaucracies remain a kind of interlocking directorate of the religious Left, for whom anti-Americanism is more theological than political. In these quarters, America really is the Great Satan. Therefore the sins of America will always receive more attention than those of terrorists, be they the Baader Meinhof gang, Red Brigades, or genocidal Islamic fascists.
Truly, anti-Americanism covers a multitude of sins. Perhaps St. Paul said it best. "If any man among you be ignorant, let him be ignorant." But there is more in play here.
In their pastoral letters, resolutions, and appearances before government committees, the religious Left curia gives the impression that they represent millions of rank-and-file church members. They don't, and never have. Church members ought to publicly disown and defund the fevered apologists for terrorism. Relatives of the Sept. 11 victims might want to show up with protest signs. National leaders should of course pay them no need whatsoever, though perhaps they should consider a law requiring terrorism's alibi armory to register as a lobby.
Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley, a journalist based in Sacramento, is author
Mainline to Sideline, the Social Witness of the National Council of Churches.