9/11 Pulpits

This Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11/01 attack on our nation.  I'm one of many blogging about it.  Do I have anything unique or original to say?  Probably not, but here's what's on my mind.

Being a pastor myself, I've been wondering and praying about what kind of words will come from all of my other colleagues who have been entrusted with a pulpit and a microphone this weekend.

No doubt, in some churches, the people will hear a message of confusing Christian nationalism; a big jumbled mess of the cross, the flag, and Constitution.  For those preaching this message, they have at their disposal hundreds of slick, well-produced videos displaying Christian scripture and imagery against the backdrop of the stars and stripes.  Some will hear that we need to "take America back" (back to where or when?).  Some will hear vague, implicit suggestions that we brought this on ourselves by kicking God out of American life (although I wasn't aware we had the power or authority to remove God from somewhere He wishes to be).

No doubt, in some churches, the people will hear a message of the evils of other religions, particularly Islam.  We have a ripe opportunity, should we want to take advantage of it, to continue to demonize and lump and segregate.  When a peaceful, progressive group of Sufi Muslims wanted to build a community center (not a mosque) in Manhattan that would be open to everyone, we proved once again that we see the 9/11 attacks as an act of Islam instead of an act of terrorism.

No doubt, in some churches, the people will hear a message of the fantastical illusion that we are really all the same.  They will hear a good and well-intentioned message of reconciliation that also minimizes or denies the deep differences that exist between people and our religious beliefs.  Although there are times that we must get beyond "the things that divide us," it is also sometimes those very particularities that give our lives the meaning and clarity that we crave.

No doubt, in some churches, preachers will declare that "Christ is the hope of the world" but in saying so will actually mean that Christians are the hope of the world, not recognizing the difference.  Religious supremacy, though it is part of the problem, will be touted as the solution.

But it is my hope and prayer that from most pulpits there will be a thundering confidence in the teachings of the man we claim to be our Savior.  No longer can we say "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt 5:9) while using rhetoric that divides and angers.  No longer can we say "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21) and continue to repay evil with evil.  No longer can we say that God loves the world (John 3:16) and wants all to be saved (Ezek 18:23) while wishing for and taking pleasure in the destruction of our enemies.  "For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?"  (Luke 6:32).  No longer can we give lip service to things like love and forgiveness but resort to some kind of ethic of necessity and claim that they don't work when the rubber meets the road and we're faced with actual adversity.  As the saying goes, anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.

There's no problem with the phrase "never forget."  Indeed, we should remember and honor those who lost their lives and the sacrifice of the brave first responders.  But in context, "never forget" often seems to mean "never let go of anger and vengeance."  As with any other tragic, or untimely death, we cannot bring them back, and it is not more death and destruction that will provide the peace and comfort that we seek.  I believe God wove certain moral precepts into the fabric of creation.  Do we believe in our own convictions, or not?

Those who Jesus called "salt of the earth" are to be the infusion of what's good and right while the rest of the world is trapped in the relentless downward spiral of action/reaction and an eye for an eye.  Those who Jesus called to be the "light of the world" and "a city on a hill" are to take the moral high ground that we claim to have, showing that the way of peace is good and true and right.  May we have the courage to preach and live the teachings of the Jesus in a time and on an anniversary when we need them most.

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