It is the 10th anniversary of 9-11 and I am sharing sermons and essays written over the past decade concerning this event. The following piece appeared on September 12, 2005 in the Lompoc Record. I invite you to read and consider the message that I sought to share some six years ago while serving the community of Lompoc as the pastor of First Christian Church in that community.
9/12/05 Four years ago yesterday the world watched in horror as planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols of American economic and military power. Many Americans gathered in the days following in their own houses of worship and in interfaith services to pray and find comfort and hope. Much has happened in the intervening years, but the shadows of Sept. 11, 2001, continue to haunt us.
For a moment there was a sense of oneness 7 only the most jaded rejoiced in the destruction 7 but that moment is long past. A new era of fear emerged, with terror as its watchword and the suspicion of others its driving force. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror filled the news, panicking us into setting aside precious freedoms.
Yet, these well-publicized wars are not the only threats to the oneness we treasured just four years ago. There is another war that drives us apart, one being fought by culture warriors who use demagoguery and fear to push political agendas. Playing a significant role in these culture wars is religion, which often serves as the match that ignites these clashes of culture and civilizations. Though globalization through technology revolutionizes the way we do business and talk with each other, religion pushes us further apart. Religion could be a balm of healing and hope, but too often it feeds our anger and justifies our violent responses toward the other.
As we pause to remember this anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, while still reeling from the effects of Katrina, it is appropriate to remember a time when Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and others stopped to pray and console each other. Yet, even then there was more than one voice issuing from the people. Some called for unity and healing, but others called for revenge and war. Unfortunately, some of these latter voices emanated from within my own Christian community. Some chose that moment to call Islam an evil religion and insult its Prophet, as if our own traditions had never spawned acts of evil and terror. There have been glimmers of hope, examples of people reaching across boundaries to embrace each other, but too often these acts have been overwhelmed by the harbingers of fear, anger, incivility, and intolerance, which often invoke a violent and vengeful God in calls to join in wars of culture and terror.
I write from within the religious community to offer a challenge to this same community: Might we be partners for peace instead of continuing the downward spiral of hate and violence? I believe God calls us to work together for peace and justice in the world, while building bridges between all our communities 7 religious, political, economic, generational, ethnic. This will require us to attend to the voices of peace that are present in each of our traditions, beginning with the golden rule: Do to others what you would have them do to you. As a Christian, I am reminded that Jesus not only called on me to love my neighbor, but to love my enemy as well. I can only do this, if I/m willing to see myself as an enemy. When I do this, I will let go of my self-righteousness and my blind spots that keep me from seeing my neighbor and my enemy as children of God.
So let/s start the process by getting to know our religious neighbors. We can read up on Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and we can participate in interfaith gatherings 7 maybe even share in a meal. When we do, we will discover that our neighbor is very much like us. Will this change the world over night? No, but it is a start toward a society that has abandoned hate, violence, incivility for love and justice for all. Let us remember Sept. 11 by helping lay the foundation for a bridge of hope in Lompoc.
"The Forward View" is a progressive look at local issues that runs every Monday.
The Rev. Bob Cornwall is pastor of the First Christian Church of Lompoc.