What does life look like post graduation from graduate school? I am about to find out!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Through It All

I felt it only proper to use this blog post to reflect back on the events that happened ten years ago today. It seems a little hard to believe that it's been ten years since our country was shaken to its core. It certainly doesn't feel like it's been that long. It doesn't feel that long ago at all. Yet, there it is. I'm going to try and keep this post about the theological aspects of that day and try my best to avoid the political as I know that many people might strongly disagree with my views on the matter. I don't pretend to have all the answers or even to know what God or Jesus would have to say. I do, however, know what I believe and what I remember.
I think it's really easy for us as a country to want to have somebody to blame or to demonize for the events that happened. It's perhaps a little too easy to do so. Believe me, it's always nice to be able to blame someone else when something terrible happens. Yet, what purpose does that really serve? Does that heal any wounds? Is that really the best way to grieve for those who died? Is that the kind of response that Jesus would have advocated? In the days following it, I know there were a lot of threats made against the Muslim people. Harsh words were exchanged and even back home, a local mosque was fire-bombed. The American people were looking for someone to blame and naturally found it in the Muslim people living among us. It seemed like the easy thing to do, of course. We were attacked by Muslims so naturally the thing to do was to retaliate against Muslims, as if the entire religion was responsible for the actions of a few of its followers. That concept has never sat well with me. After all, Christianity has done some really terrible things over the centuries but that doesn't mean that all Christians should be attacked or persecuted. Doesn't the same hold true for Muslims as well? To blame the many for the actions of a few is not what I would consider to be the right course of action.
What I remember seeing in the days following it was the complete and total unity that the American people had with each other. For those few days, we were no longer Democrat or Republican, Christian or Jew, white or black. We were Americans and that common unity and harmony has, alas, seemed to vanish in the ten years since. Now, it's all about attacking and blaming each other for various things and dividing people up into different groups: white, black, rich, poor etc. Where did the idea that we are all Americans go? What happened to us all bonding together and pledging unity with each other? Sadly, we may never have that sense of unity again. I miss it. It was nice to think that for once in our nation's history, we could come together as a country and forget all our differences and be the UNITED States of America. Sadly, that era has ended and it saddens me.
What is the Christian thing to do when something like what happened on this day happens? Many would say that the appropriate thing to do was to respond with soldiers and tanks and weapons and kill lots of innocent people the way they did. I know that is how the United States did respond to it. However, I'm not convinced that that was the right response. I know to some it may be comforting to attack our enemies and kill them so they can't kill us anymore. If that is what helps them sleep better at night, then so be it. I don't think that is the way to go about it, however. I think that the God I believe in calls us to lay down our weapons and love our enemies. Love is stronger than hate and indeed is the only thing that can end hate. Many people ask: why do "they" hate us? I don't think it is quite that simple to say "they" hate us although I do wonder who is this "they" they speak of? I think what we, as Americans, tend to forget or choose to forget is that what happened wasn't just an attack on Americans or an attack on Christians. It wasn't just Christians in those planes. It wasn't just Americans either. There were people of all different nationalities and faith backgrounds on that plane just as there are on the vast majority of plane flights all over the world. It's very exclusionist to say that only Americans or only Christians died in the attacks and a complete untruth. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists all died along with French, German, Russian, Eastern European and African people as well.
What happened on that terrible day was indeed a tragedy and a horrific event and I am truly sad for those who lost loved ones on that day. However, and I say this merely as a way to put things in perspective, what's really a tragedy and something that should be lamented but isn't is the fact that by the end of the day today, over 16,000 children will have died due to hunger or hunger-related causes. By the end of the day today, over 5,000 people will have died due to complications from the AIDS virus. Yet, how often do you see newspaper headlines about them? How often do you get breaking news feeds alerting you about this fact? How many relief concerts or benefits have you seen about these causes? The world didn't stop on that day. Far from it, in fact. Small children in villages in Third-World countries still went to bed hungry, a mother with AIDS died leaving her two small children behind to fend for themselves, a father somewhere in the world beat his son for daring to disobey him and that same father then sexually abused his teenage daughter. All this is to say that we should be mourning for all these losses every single day rather than grieving for the 3,000 or so that died on that day ten years ago. I hope I'm not sounding insensitive as I do not mean to come across that way. However, I really think it is important to put things in perspective and recognize and acknowledge that tragedy happens every single day in every single place in the world and that the world really doesn't revolve around the United States. Losing 3,000 people in a single day isn't a random event and in fact in many parts of the world, it's quite common.
In the ten years since that day, over 100,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and the United States has personally spent over 3 trillion dollars on an un-Christian attempt to get back at the people who dared to expose our vulnerability and make us feel weak and insecure. Would Jesus bomb people? Not the Jesus I worship. The Prince of Peace invited us to turn the other cheek and to love our enemy. That's the Christian response to acts of violence. Anything else is following a path that I personally do not want to follow. We have seen enough violence and bloodshed in our world. Let's not add to it. Let's instead use this anniversary as a chance to make a pledge toward non-violence and peace. Let's remember those first few days afterward when we came together as a nation and promised unity. Let's return to those days. Only then can we start to heal the damage that has been done. Revenge is no way to live and does not bring comfort and peace. Together, we can make a difference. Let's make that difference one of peace this time, shall we?

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