The Thoughts and Opinions of a Disciples of Christ pastor and church historian.
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Thoughts on a 9-11 Anniversary
Note: I decided to write a separate piece on 9-11 for the Troy Patch. I am reposting here for your reflections.
Today is the eleventh anniversary of the tragedies of 9-11-2001. These numbers speak loudly to us as a nation. Many of us remember that day vividly, watching with horror as planes hit the Twin Towers in New York and then the Pentagon. Later in the day we would hear word that another plan went down in a field in Pennsylvania. What its destination was, we can only speculate. Could it have been the Capitol or the White House? There’s no use in speculating, just remembering and honoring the memories of those who died, whether as passengers and crew of planes or the people trapped in buildings, or the Responders who gave their lives to save others. But this day will forever frame our sense of identity and presence in the world. It has encouraged both the best and the worst in us.
Last year people gathered to remember the 10th Anniversary. Many of us did so here in Troy. The Troy Clergy Group in partnership with Troy-area Interfaith Group gathered together at St. Anastasia Catholic Church to remember and to pray, sharing our thoughts from a variety of faith traditions, from Hindu to Muslim, Jewish to Christian. Ten years before, and eleven years ago now, I was serving as President of the Greater Santa Barbara Clergy Association (California), and it fell to me to help organize a service of remembrance. It was important that we do this for two reasons – one was to remember and honor those who had died, and the other was to send a message to the broader community that we should not seek vengeance on neighbors who happen to be different.
In the intervening years the United States has engaged in two wars, one of which we’ve recently removed ourselves after nearly nine years of involvement, and continue to be engaged in another that has gone on for more than a decade. The rationale has been two-fold – vengeance and deterrence. The vengeance part has, hopefully, dissipated, but we’re not sure about the deterrence. Indeed, our military engagements may in the end make us less safe than otherwise. But my point today isn’t to talk about wars. Rather I want to focus attention on building relationships.
9-11 has at times tapped into reservoirs of bigotry, hatred, and fear. It has created distrust and anxiety. Before 9-11 probably most Americans didn’t pay much attention to Islam or the Muslim world. Since then, it has been ever present on the minds of many. A President could face attack, and the form of the attack could be tarring him with being a Muslim. Now, President Obama happens to be a Christian, but so what if he was a Muslim? Would that in and of itself be a problem? Not for me, but for some it is a problem (and that’s putting it nicely). We remain, as a nation, fixated on Islam. We tar a religion and peoples who are as diverse ethnically as any on earth, a religion that is different than mine, a religion that has been in conflict with mine, and mine with theirs over the centuries, as evil or as terrorists. We put up walls and live with views colored by stereotypes.
On this eleventh anniversary, is it possible to honor the dead and their families by building bridges across religious and ethnic barriers? Is it possible for us to lay down the arms of these culture/religious wars, and recognize in each other true humanity? Can we stop and check the ways in which we relate to one another. Can we not embrace that old motto, the motto I wish had become official, e pluribus unum? .
I want to close an excerpt from something I wrote days after 9-11, inviting the community of Santa Barbara to gather to remember, to grieve, and build relationships across potential divides:
Although the religious community does not speak with one voice, as our theologies and values often differ, we are joined in a common concern for the loss of life and a collective loss of security and safety that is the aftermath of Tuesday morning. We find our vulnerability unsettling, and consequently, we have been and will continue to come together in our various houses of worship to pray for the victims and their families. From our pulpits and in our study groups, we will consider the causes and the solutions. Therefore, we must come together and support each other, whether Christian or Jew, Muslim or Buddhist, Hindu or Humanist; at a time like this, our differences matter less.
May our remembrances of that day draw us together today, rather than tear us apart. May we not forget, but let us remember in a way that builds peace and justice, rather than anger and mistrust.
Mark 11:1-11 (John 12:12-16) New Revised Standard Version 11 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosan…
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done…
John 15:9-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[a] any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one …