A book suggesting the September 11 attacks were engineered by the U.S. government is raising hackles among the faithful because its publisher is an agency of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest of several Presbyterian denominations.
“Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action” is already in its second printing after having sold 5,000 copies in its first month. It 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.”
The book has attracted volumes of criticism, boycott threats and attempted clarifications by various church officials.
“The views expressed in the book are Griffin’s alone,” says Presbyterian Publishing Corp. (PPC) Board Chairman Kenneth Godshall, referring to the author, David Ray Griffin, 67, a retired professor at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, Calif.
“PPC provides a variety of viewpoints in the books we publish. A few of them from time to time are controversial. This particular book is the work of an independent author and in no way represents the views of the denomination or PPC itself.”
His statement was posted on the Presbyterian Church (USA) Web site (www.pcusa.org) directly under an ad for Presbyterian Publishing Corp. and the slogan, “All Things Presbyterian, All in One Place.”
The book represents the latest conflict within a denomination that in June voted that local congregations could decide to ordain homosexual clergy and that the Trinity, described for centuries as “Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” could also be called “Mother, Child and Womb.”
Yesterday the book, listed under PPC’s Westminster John Knox imprint, was ranked No. 779 on Amazon.com. Sales spiked higher Aug. 9, when the author appeared on MSNBC with interviewer Tucker Carlson. What sets Mr. Griffin and his book apart from other September 11 conspiracy theorists is his thesis that the church must “get involved in this issue.”
“God is truth, and churches concerned with God should be concerned with truth,” he said yesterday in a telephone interview. “If we decide 9/11 was an inside job as a pretext to enlarge the American empire, Christians above all should be opposed to empire and therefore be particularly concerned to expose the truth about 9/11.”
He questions whether hijackers were even on the doomed planes and speculates that hidden explosives, not jetliners, brought down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
“Throughout the 1990s, the neocons had laid out the programs needed for a Pax Americana,” he said. “It would appear,” he added, they orchestrated the attacks as “9/11 enabled the neocon program to become official policy.”
Certain critics question how the Presbyterians, one of the most staid denominations, became entangled in such theories. Although the publishing house is editorially independent from the denomination, its board is elected at the church’s quadrennial conventions.
“This is as legitimate as pet rocks,” said John H. Adams, editor of the Lenoir, N.C.-based Presbyterian Layman. “We are wondering why our denominational press is picking up on something like this. This was written by a process theologian, which is quite alien to reform theology, which Presbyterians believe in. Before the publisher gives the book the Westminster John Knox imprimatur, they should determine the validity of these accusations.”
The publishing house released a statement by its president, Davis Perkins, saying Mr. Griffin’s claims “merit careful consideration by serious-minded Christians and Americans concerned with truth and the meaning of their faith.” The publishers give the book top billing on its site, www.ppcbooks.com, along with favorable reviews.
During his 31 years at Claremont, Mr. Griffin was best known for espousing “process theology,” a doctrine that denies the omnipotence and omniscience of God.