The Anger Industry


Mine was not one of those Catholic families that kept a photo of John F. Kennedy right next to the image of the Sacred Heart. In fact, family lore has it that my Republican grandmother, who died days after JFK was assassinated, declared on her deathbed that she was going to be seeing that young man soon and intended to set him straight on several matters. (And let's just say I don't think she wanted to tell him we should have stayed out of Vietnam.)

Yet I'm more surprised than I guess I ought to have been at the ferocity, durability, and sheer volume of the conservative anger aimed at Ted Kennedy in the weeks since his death-an outpouring I fully expect to continue as we dissect his 532-page, posthumously published memoir, True Compass. (As I write, we are still twenty-four hours away from the scheduled delivery of my pre-ordered copy. But who's counting?)

Based on reader comments in response to Kennedy's obit in the online magazine I edit, Politics Daily (, I can attest that an astounding number of my fellow Christians are (1) quite confident that the senator is in the hot place and (2) unconcerned about how this judgment might affect their own standing with the Big Guy. The cleaned-up version of a typical comment was along the lines of “Burn, baby, burn.''

How could so many adherents of a belief system in which the possibility of redemption figures so...

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About the Author

Melinda Henneberger, a Commonweal columnist, is the former editor-in-chief of