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FIRST-PERSON: The Wellstone ‘memorial service’

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–As I study the recent “memorial service” for Sen. Paul Wellstone, five images spring to mind:

1) Old-time revival. Did you see Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa in his shirtsleeves, preaching a beat-the-devil message with electrifying cadence, pausing for amens? I thought we might have an altar call. But this “revival,” unlike biblical revivals based on God’s call to brokenness and righteousness, served the very errors the prophets and apostles castigated — the Molech of unhindered abortion; the effort to “Corinthianize” our culture. Just check out his doctrinal statement, the party platform.

2) Wynona Ryder’s outfit. No, I don’t mean one she stole. I mean the one she wore to court the other day. It was a see-through model that told the jury more than they needed to know. Unless she was working on the insanity defense, she seemed oblivious to the fact that she was on trial and that outrageous dress could harm her cause.

The Democrats are in a similar position, and you’d expect them to be decorous instead of booing Trent Lott. After all, this is the party which enabled and even celebrated a chronically adulterous and mendacious president, and which celebrates sodomy, defends race-based hiring, “borks” honorable judicial nominees, champions slaughter of the innocents, even at the moment of their birth, and cozies up to special interest groups intent on making our public schools more godless and our society more litigious. You’d think they’d be more careful about traipsing around in front of the national opinion jury in an unseemly outfit.

3) The bulldozer incident. When I was a kid, I always read the news briefs that lined the left margin of the Arkansas Gazette front page. The stories were often funny and amazing. I’ll never forget the one about the poor fellow who was driving down a two-lane highway with his arm crooked outside the window. As he met and passed a truck hauling a bulldozer, the dozer shifted and the blade neatly severed his arm above the elbow.

The marvel was that he drove on for several miles before he noticed that it was missing. In shock, he’d missed the fact that he was bleeding to death.

It was obvious that many at that Minnesota rally had suffered the tearing of vital moral nerves and arteries. They were hemorrhaging for all to see, but they drove blithely on, chanting political slogans when they should have been mourning with dignity. Clearly they were in spiritual shock, and one hopes they’ll notice before it’s too late.

4) Monty Python. Remember the “Army Protection Racket” skit on Monty Python’s Flying Circus? This was the one in which the leader of a hapless criminal family tried to shake down the commander of British armored unit — “Colonel, your tanks could get broke.” They didn’t understand that you got protection money from small shopkeepers and not from the military.

As Wellstone supporters tried to “wave the bloody shirt” (a favorite technique of agitprop, agitation/propaganda), they came off like those goofs in the skit. You’re supposed rouse the rabble over martyrdoms, not tragedies.

5) The funeral article. My first year in the pastorate, I did 30 funerals and ended up writing a piece called “Funerals for Those You Barely Know.” Looking at the Democrats, I’m almost stirred to write a sequel, “Memorial Services for Those You’re Happy to Use.”

A relatively young senator and his family have been tragically killed in a plane accident. It’s time to reflect on their lives and eternal prospects. Rather, many seem keen on using his death to intimidate his opponents and to finesse an election. Even Frank Lautenberg over in New Jersey is trying to pull a “Win One for the Gipper,” with the Gipper being Wellstone. If this new campaign technique works, Wellstone’s death may prove to be quite useful to those beaming mourners at the memorial service. “Thanks, Paul.”
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. For more reflections by Coppenger, logon to www.listten.com or evanstonbaptistchurch.org.

    About the Author

  • Mark Coppenger