A Faith for Thought – Memories of 9/11

People of my age remember where we were when President Kennedy was shot. For subsequent generations, it is a remembrance of where we were on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon were attacked.

It is difficult for me to believe that 9/11 happened fifteen years ago. I was serving a church in Rhode Island, and there were many immediate reactions. Some people had to spring into action so they took trains to New York City to do something, anything. Others seethed with anger and stoked their patriotism. Still others withdrew – fearful for themselves and family members. All of us were separated from victims by just one or two degrees – our neighbor’s sister was a flight attendant, a classmate was on the 104th floor, cousins of NYC firefighters throughout our town. Everyone had a connection to the terrorist tragedy.

In the aftermath, I had many conversations with clergy colleagues about how we might advocate for a different U.S. response to the expected military one. What might a Habitat-style “blitz build” of infrastructure in Afghanistan look like? Would it be possible to overcome evil with good, we wondered? One of us knew President Bush’s pastor in Dallas; could we advocate restraint through a pastoral connection?

I share this Faith for Thought with some embarrassment that we did not advocate or act more for peace in the days between 9/11 and the Invasion of Iraq. I was good at offering consolation to the many who came back to church in the months that followed, but I was slow to offer any prophetic challenge. I’m saddened that the ensuing fifteen years have not brought any reconciliation between people of the world, but instead mostly chaos and calamity – much of it U.S. induced.

The Bible passages selected for this Sunday are an interesting blend of seeking forgiveness for personal sin, and pericopes regarding communal shortcomings in the face of the Almighty. The Gospel lesson (Luke 15:1 – 10), reminds us of God’s rejoicing in response to repentance. These passages present opportunities for us to share more about the brokenness of the human condition and how remembrances of national trauma are times to seek God’s nearer presence more firmly. They are also opportunities to offer challenge to our congregations.

Nicholas Kristoff, in quoting Brian McLaren, helps us frame a foundation for our faith: “What would it mean for Christians to rediscover their faith not as a problematic system of beliefs but as a just and generous way of life, rooted in contemplation and expressed in compassion?” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/opinion/sunday/what-religion-would-jesus-belong-to.html?_r=0). I believe this should be our defining work in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. After 9/11, we knew the despair of disorientation. The Bible and Kristoff’s query offer us direction for our faith and action.

With you on the journey,

Campbell Lovett  

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