When Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell rose to give the keynote speech at a community memorial service for terrorist attack victims, listeners no doubt expected a mixture of prayer and solace similar to what a handful of ministers already had delivered during the two-hour session.
Instead, Caldwell, the Windsor Village United Methodist Church preacher and frequent spiritual adviser for President George W. Bush, promised the crowd of 4,000 last week that he would "rock your boat." He proceeded to do it with a sermon partly built around his wife Suzette's observation that angry Americans should blame not Osama bin Laden but rather the church.
"Now whyyyyy is that?" Caldwell shouted. "Because the church has failed to walk and operate in the power and authority that has been given only to the body of Christ."
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Congressman and House whip Tom DeLay smiled and applauded behind him onstage as Caldwell continued.
"May I break it down for you?" exhorted Caldwell. "Break it down. Break it down. Break it down."
Caldwell's point, at least as near as The Insider could get it, was that Christians had fallen down on the job by failing to pray for the souls of nonbelievers.
"Had we as a body of Christ been focused and faithful and praying for bin Laden," declared Caldwell, "I don't know what would have happened. But I sure know he could have been shaken by the power of God.
"Don't forget this is power over practicality. With men and women some things are impossible. But with God all things are possible. It is not ours to reason, it is ours to be obedient. Had bin Laden been in our prayers for the last five years, who knows what would have happened, but we've not prayed for him. Just because a person is Muslim, crazy or a terrorist does not mean he or she cannot be arrested by the power of God."
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The message is a bit different from President Bush's recent pitch: "bin Laden -- wanted dead or alive."
A wave of murmurs swept through the bleachers during the event at Sugar Land's Mercer Stadium. "I know y'all don't like me right now," shouted the minister. "I don't care. Somebody has dropped the ball. And waving flags and putting 'Honk if you love Jesus' bumper stickers on the back of your cars and wearing crosses is insufficient for ushering in the kingdom of God during these dangerous times of the earliest 20th century."
He then called for true Christians to "pray for folk we like and folk we don't like, folk we respect and don't respect, folk we want to kill and folk we want to live. It is ours to pray for them as Christians."
No word on whether George and Laura will be instituting the Osama bin Laden prayer hour at the White House anytime soon.