10 Years Later: The Lesson Not Learned

Ten Years ago today an event happened that altered how America views the world. While there has been positives gained from the experience, there are a key lesson I think America has failed at.

You may ask why would you write this now, on this day. Well, there are tons of stories stating what we have learned that have come out this past week and today, what good does those stories do if they do not also include what ‘we’ still could improve upon?

A terror attack’s main goal is to induce terror. I would say since 11 September 2001Americnas have been more terrified of the world ‘we’ live in. ‘We’ have given into the idea behind the attacks, ‘we’ have vilified a third of the world, a view ‘them’ as ‘them’ and to a greater extent dehumanized ‘them.’

‘We’ have not learned from Gandhi and MLK. ‘We’ have retaliated creating more pain and suffering. A reason given for this was the celebrations in the streets in Middle Eastern countries after the news of the attacks spread. This justified ‘our’ need to respond, see ‘they’ all believe in death to America. ‘They’ all hate us, the celebrations proves it. May I remind ‘us’ that ‘we’ did the exact same thing a few months ago. Osama bin Laden had been murdered and spontaneous celebration broke out across America, chants of USA and people went out into the streets to celebrate. How does this differ? While I think there is a difference, it does not convey a significant difference in attitudes between the two actions. ‘They’ celebrated the falling of a symbol and ‘we’ did so in return. What kind of message does this send? ‘They’ got ‘us’ so ‘we’ get ‘them’ back. For a nation that many wish to call a ‘Christian’ nation, how ‘Christian’ is that response. Last time I checked Jesus said love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you, not retaliate and dehumanize them.

The attacks were an opportunity for ‘us’ to work on reconciliation, to understand a culture different from ‘our’ own. Instead ‘we’ highlighted the differences, working hard to distance ‘ourselves’ from ‘them.’ The gospel is about creating life out of chaos, calling out the foreigner to join the banquet feast. America has chosen another path. ‘We’ responded to terror with terror, ‘we’ furthered the issues that differentiated ‘us’ and ‘them.’

My hope is in the next ten years, this will be the path ‘we’ take, one of reconciliation not hate, peace not war, forgiveness not retaliation. That ‘we’ venture to learn from ‘them,’ to understand ‘them’ on ‘their’ own terms from ‘their’ perspective. The goal would be that there is no longer a ‘us’ and ‘them’ but a collective humanity. ‘Us,’ ‘them,’ we all were created in the image of God, maybe we could treat all people with that respect.

May we forgive, there is no need to forget, we can remember, remember that that was the day we recognized all as human, every single person no matter the color of their skin, the religion proclaimed, the place of residence, etc, a day we united to say you and I are human. A day to learn to live in a global world with our fellow humans. To create out the chaos a new creation, one in which we recognize each other as human.

This has begun in the ‘Arab Spring.’ ‘They’ have learned, violence and terror are not needed to effect change. Nonviolent resistance can be just as effective, if not more so. May ‘we’ remember those lessons, from Gandhi, MLK, and North Africa.

To forgive and forget is to not learn. May ‘we’ forgive and learn, learn to love ‘our’ ‘enemies.’

How We Should Have Viewed 9/11

An Islamic community center has been proposed near, again I say, near, the site of the former Twin Towers in NY, “Ground Zero.” This of course brought controversy and the way this controversy has developed is quite frightening to me. I bring this up being the ninth anniversary of 11 September 2001.

I first think there has been an overblown reaction to what happened on 9/11. Instead of Americans waking up to realize that the world is and always has been a violent place and we could be the model for beginning the reversal of this trend. However, as a “Christian” nation (something I vehemently disagree with calling America) we do the un-Christ like reaction of bombing and invading. I remember Christ promoting peace and love, right? Maybe we should go back and read what He taught, I think that would wake us all up, as we all need grace and continually.

As Americans we have allowed this one single act, 9/11, to be our complete and full understanding of the Islamic religion. Do I believe I know the ins and outs of their religion, no, but do I have a knowledge of all the nuances of the Bible, no, do you? If we allow this one event to be are full understanding of Islam then it is perfectly fine for them to point to the Spanish Inquisition or Crusades to be the full and complete understanding of Christianity. Or, would you want someone to define you by one act in your own life, especially an act you are not even proud of? Yet this is what we are doing with 9/11.

If we truly believe in religious freedom and a just society we will welcome the Islamic community center near the “Ground Zero” (GZ) site. This center will, if it functions as proposed, be a place for young Islamic men and women to come and learn about their faith and how to live their lives in America, not as terrorists but as citizens.

A complaint I have heard about this center being so close to GZ: ‘They are building this center on hallow ground.’ If the area is hallowed ground, then America worships strip joints and bars which are much closer to GZ than this center will be. (Though I would argue many do unknowably worship these type places.) Another complaint I have heard is that Islam is a religion that believes in converting everyone to Islam. Okay, this is news how, Christianity also promotes conversion. Anyone remember the Great Commission: Go make disciples in all the nation… How is that any different, oh, right this is Islam we are speaking about so it has to be completely different and terrible.

I can understand an American having these mind frames (we cannot allow this center to be built) but Christians that happen to live in America also having this mind frame is pathetic. I agree, I do not think Islam leads to a true understanding of God, but to show hatred the way many Christians that live in America have is un-Christ like. As Christians we are called to be a better kingdom, the Kingdom of God (no, this is not America, sorry). We are to be peacemakers and live lives that promote and speak of this Kingdom. Will we always be the best examples, no, we are a fallen people saved through faith, but we can be a lot better than we have been here in America. If we want America to be a nation full of Christians (not a Christian nation, Christ did not come and die for land, He did so for people) then we need to start acting like Him. When did He ever go into a Roman temple and condemn it, never, when did He criticize where they where building Roman shrines/temples, never. He did inform the Jewish leaders of how they were misunderstanding what God has called for them. He did go to the people, Jewish and Gentile alike, to show them what the Kingdom of God is and can be. This is what we need to do as Christians. We can go to them and tell them we disagree with their view of God, if we are persecuted for this, so be it, Christ promised us persecution. Maybe the fact we are not being persecuted is a telling sign of how far we have gotten away for Christ? (That statement includes myself.)

The world is full of people with differing ideas, opposing ideologies, and with people (of all races, religions, gender, ages, etc.) prone to violence. Should we in turn respond with hate and violence to those we disagree with, not according to Christ. We should turn the other cheek; we should love them; where they are, not where we want them to be. Love them unconditionally.

As Christians (Americans who are not Christians are allowed to think differently if they wish) we should not oppose the center and should work on changing how we respond to those who may hate, disagree, or oppose us. We are to love them no matter. We were informed to Love God and love our neighbor, and everyone is our neighbor.

I ask that this 9/11 be the beginning of us, Christians, on fully committing to loving others, no matter their, race, gender, religion, economic status, age, and any other label you can think of. But, not to love them as we understand love on earth, but as God loves us, unconditionally. Will we get this right all the time, no, but I think we can improve from where we are, not matter our past accomplishments or failures.