Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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Kathleen Parker: Making Sense of Things

Columbine memorial protests show poor taste

By Kathleen Parker

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on May 2, 1999.

Political correctness has no shame.

In the wake of one of the nation's most heinous tragedies, some liberal Christians, blacks and Jews apparently are outraged by last Sunday's memorial service for the slain at Columbine High School because -- are you ready? -- the service was "too evangelical and too white."

So ran an article in The Denver Post on Thursday, the same day the last child -- the only black child killed in the rampage -- was laid to rest. The protesters have promised to file formal letters of complaint to Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, whose office helped plan the event.

Imagine this: Your child has been killed by an insane classmate. You're still curled in a fetal position under the dining room table (even as one of the killers' mothers manages two days after the shootings to get to the beauty parlor). You're trying to figure out how to breathe, and some self-serving, self-righteous religious/racial critic-at-large is mad about how you mourn.

I'm white -- I admit it. I was reared by Christian parents, sorry. So you could say that, technically, my particular ethno-religious group was covered. But you would be wasting your breath, because I don't give a rip. On this day, such personal posturing trivializes the monumental loss of these families.

Here's the official rub: The memorial service was partly organized by the state of Colorado. Ergo, say the protesters, the service should have been "inclusive." Of what? All Colorado residents? Since the service was televised, how about the whole world? What about that other solar system everybody's talking about?

Present on the stage, in fact, were retired Gen. Colin Powell, person of color; Rabbi Fred Greenspahn, Jew; Vice President Al Gore, environmentalist; as well as various Christians, including Franklin Graham, son of evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham.

Not good enough, say the critics. "I felt like he was trying to terrorize us into heaven instead of loving us into heaven," the Rev. Michael Carrier, president of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, said of Graham.

I admit that when I listened to Graham on Larry King a few nights ago, my mute-button finger was twitching. He did go on about Jesus in talking to King, who is Jewish, such that I thought to myself, oh, shut up. On the other hand, that's Graham's shtick, and he is an evangelist, after all. You were expecting incense and tambourines?

The Rev. Patrick Demmer, president of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, a predominantly black ministers group, was upset by the group's limited palette, which he described as "pretty vanilla."

"Having faces of color on the stage isn't enough," he said. "Why didn't they have any blacks or Hispanics or Asians speaking?"

Lighten up. You could expect better behavior from 10 toddlers with one cookie.

Let's say that, philosophically, the critics are right. Let's say that any state-sponsored "religious" function should fairly represent all denominations and ethnicities. Let's ignore the fact that the majority of those killed were Christian, white kids. At what point do we draw the line? Do we stop at Jews and Christians? What about Buddhists? Rastafarians? Atheists? And while we're on the subject, what about the Goths?

More important, how dare anyone exercise the arrogantly poor taste to criticize a memorial service only days after these kids were killed and only hours after some were buried? What sort of spiritual leaders are these? There's a good question to ponder as you kiss your children goodnight.

As a matter of record, all those who participated in the service did so voluntarily. Businesses and individuals donated every item and minute to the service, which fact helped Rabbi Steven Foster of Temple Emanuel cope somewhat with his distress. Still, he said, "The service still didn't pass the smell test."

A minor offense compared with the stench of this protest.


[Posted 04/30/1999 7:17 PM EST]

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