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 Brooks: Porter ruined Rachel's memorial service

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LPorter101
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Brooks: Porter ruined Rachel's memorial service Empty
PostSubject: Brooks: Porter ruined Rachel's memorial service   Brooks: Porter ruined Rachel's memorial service Icon_minitimeWed Jan 13, 2016 2:52 am

From No Easy Answers:

I was really moved by the beauty of the service ... until Bruce Porter, the officiating minister, stepped up to give his speech.

Porter has since written a book called The Martyr's Torch: The Message of the Columbine Massacre. On the back cover of the book, Porter's bio describes him as "a 'man with a mission' to call Christians back to their ancient roots of fervent dedication and radical passion for Christ no matter what the cost."

That much was obvious at Rachel's funeral. With the CNN cameras rolling, Porter had come to turn the service into a recruiting rally.

"We've removed the Ten Commandments from our schools,” he told us. "In exchange, we've reaped selfish indifference and glorified hedonism. We've told our children that they were nothing more than highly evolved amoebae, accidentally brought forth from a mud pool somewhere in time. And we wonder why so many of them see no intrinsic value to life.

"We removed prayer from our schools and we've reaped violence and hatred and murder," Porter continued. "And we have the fruit of those activities before us now. I want to say to you here today that prayer was established again in our public schools last Tuesday!” Applause rang out as Porter's volume increased. Porter went on to call Rachel a "martyr" who had now “ dropped her torch and gone on to her eternal reward.” He started asking who would pick it up for her, encouraging young people to "take your schools back."

"I want to know right now who will take up that torch," he said. "Let me see you. Who will pick up Rachel's torch? Who will do it? Hold it high!"

People in the church began to stand up. Kids and parents were cheering. At the podium, Porter was growing more feverish, more evangelical, as he started to address the TV cameras.

"Hold up that torch right now!" he went on, his voice rising. "If you are watching from some other place, stand up where you are. Stand up and say ‘I won't be a victim! I will lift that torch high! The love of Jesus!’ I want you to know that by doing that, you've declared a revolution!"

I sat there in stunned silence. This was wrong. To me, a funeral should be about loved ones remembering the person they've lost, and saying goodbye. Yet Porter had another goal in mind. In one of his own e-mails before the funeral—which he reprinted in his book—the minister wrote, “CNN will be broadcasting from the funeral as a part of a press pool, and there is every possibility that millions will be joining with us as we mourn Rachel and the other students who were slain. Pray that we will be able to speak into the hearts of multiplied millions of young people the reality of Christ's love for them...”

Porter was using the incident of Rachel's death to convert as many young people to his faith as possible. This was a slap in the face to the scores of non-Christian kids who Rachel had befriended, including me.

Rachel was a Christian, yes. But she was all about acceptance, whether people looked different, acted different, or had different beliefs. She was about reaching out to the less fortunate in school and making them feel welcome. She was about living true to herself, and helping other people live true to themselves. She was about leading by example rather than by sermons. These were ideals that could be appreciated by many of her peers, regardless of their faith.

Porter noted in his speech that Rachel had reached out to people from all walks of life, and accepted them. If he knew this, then he had to expect that people from all walks of life would be at her funeral. Jewish. Agnostic. Atheist. People who were still discovering their beliefs. This funeral was for all of us to mourn together. It should not have been for harvesting new followers and making political statements.

If Porter had truly wanted to recognize Rachel's legacy, he could have pointed out how so many people had come to the service that day, or how so many kids wanted to speak in her memory. Perhaps he could have allowed more of them to do so.

Steve and I sat there for a moment, staring at the hundreds of people around us who were now standing and applauding. We didn't know what to say.

Then slowly, Steve stood up too, silent amidst the circus of cheering and clapping. He turned back and looked at me.

"Rachel's torch," he said quietly. "Not his."

When he said that, I stood up too. In honor of Rachel.

At the end of the funeral, as people were getting ready to file out, they asked the family to leave. No one was expecting what happened next.

They opened Rachel's casket.

There was Rachel. Dead. Her body, right there, in the casket for all to see. I don't know what they were trying to show people by doing this, but in order to exit, you had no choice but to walk right by it.

As we filed out, Doug was the first of our group to see her. He started crying. It was hard to watch.

Steve was next. He saw Rachel's body and collapsed on the floor in tears. Here was his former girlfriend, who still meant the world to him, and his body just failed him. Doug and I had to pick him back up and help him out of there. Of course, when I saw Steve lose it, I was right behind him. All the tears I hadn't cried up to that point came gushing out, just like everybody else, as I saw Rachel lying there in that coffin.

As we walked out, holding Steve, there was a literal wall of cameras and reporters waiting for us. Taking pictures of us, looking at us, videotaping us.

We just wanted it to be over.

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