I’ve been trying to decide for a week or two now exactly what it is that I’m feeling about the way we are approaching this tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The FPK asked me the other day if is was just plain wrong to have all the hoopla. Certainly my preaching friends are struggling… at least those who struggle with way that our patriotism and Christianity can get cobbled together in very unhealthy ways.
It’s that lack of health, that dis-ease, that I feel. Christianity in our culture is not at its best. Various streams of our faith have become laser-focused on aspects of belief that we raise up as idols to the exclusion of the rest. Patriotism has also become entangled with jingo-ism and dogma over and against the ideals of religious and intellectual freedoms. Clearly, combining the current versions of Christianity and patriotism are not a good recipe for health, much less shalom.
So, when I saw churches planting flags in their lawns and putting “God Bless America” on their signs this month, I had to wonder just what they were trying to say… to believers, to the unchurched or de-churched, to followers of other religions, and particularly to their Muslim neighbors.
This isn’t to say that we should ignore this date completely. I have heard some stories this week that moved me. And reminded me of the very real damage done to so many families that day. I cannot even imagine how hard it was to lose friends, family members and/or colleagues in a violent act of this sort.
But I worry that we get so wrapped up in remembering the horror of that day and the way we responded as a country, that we lose way as believers. We lose sight of the ways that God has been with us, in spite of the brokenness and evil in the world. We lose sight of our responsibility to work for reconciliation over division. And we forget about hope, humility and forgiveness as marks of faith.
The work of knowing, forgiving and loving (over and over and over again) is the work required to move toward reconciliation and true peace and unity. It is hard to imagine our churches and political structures- just here in the States- achieving any real and lasting unity. We are much more likely to seek out alliances against a common threat.
I suppose I will spend some time remembering tomorrow. And praying.
It is in the remembering of shattered lives in prayer that we point to a true source of hope. It is in the confession of our part in the brokenness of the world that we approach humility. It is in the seeking of forgiveness from others that we learn to forgive ourselves and those who seek to do us harm as well.