I am not in the mood to shout "God Bless America", drape myself with American flags, and observe the high holy day when the Muslim Horde attacked our freedoms.
On the day after the attack, I organized a worship service for the community. I gave this speech:
This is a day of mourning for the victims of the unspeakable violence yesterday in New York City and at our nation's capitol. We stand with those who have lost loved ones with deep sorrow. Our sorrow will never reach the depths as that which has been experienced by those who have lost fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, life partners, children, loved ones.The bad parts turned out to be true.
The act of terror and violence against innocent people is inexcusable. There is no reason under heaven for an act so cowardly and so despicable as violence against innocent men, women, and children. Violence at this magnitude is beyond horror. It is not justified now, nor ever. The scars will remain with us for as long as any of us here will live as well as with the lives of our children and our children's children.
In response to this we feel justifiable rage. The Psalmist echoes our feelings even as we may not dare to speak the words aloud: "O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! (Psalm 137:8-9)
Our anger and sorrow is deep and will grow deeper still as we hear more about the victims and as we absorb the anger and the anguish of the nation. It will be tempting--so tempting--for us to seek vengeance quickly, something, anything, to soothe the rage.
It is at this point at which we need God. It is at this point at which we need to express our rage and anger toward God. We direct it toward God not because God caused it, but because God receives it. God became one with us on the cross in Jesus Christ for our anger and for our rage and for the injustice of the suffering. We must give our rage to Christ, for only Christ is large enough to receive it and to melt it.
The enemy is not the Muslim people or the Arab people. The enemy is violence itself. Violence bred by injustice and uncontrollable rage which has turned to hatred. The answer will not be more violence bred by more rage and more hatred and more injustice. This will only lead to the deaths and to the suffering of more innocent people and it will not bring peace to our world.
Yet, we must bring the perpetrators to justice. This is not an attack on the American people. It was an attack on the very fragile spirit of human life and morality. Violence is the evil. Justice will only come as the world itself puts the perpetrators of violence on trial. Virtually every nation has condemned this act of terror, including the Palestinian people. Muslims, Christians, Jews all have condemned this evil.
Now it is time for Muslims, Christians, and Jews, to seek peace. We must together seek peace with justice. We must work together for justice. We must work for a justice that will put these doers of violence on trial so the world may speak with one voice against violence and any who enacts violence. It is not the way to solve conflicts.
We must also work for a justice that is not blind to the cries of suffering and oppressed people. We may have the opportunity now to ask ourselves: "Why are so many of the Arab people so angry at America?" Asking that question in no way justifies or excuses the unspeakable acts of evil and terror that have been committed. But if we seek justice with peace for all people on this fragile globe we must truly seek the answers with openness and a desire for truth. It will take a miracle for this to happen. It will take a miracle of God for us to work for a true and lasting peace with all of our neighbors.
We must pray for that miracle. Else I fear for the survival of the human species. I do not think that I overstate that concern. Our technology and our weapons of destruction and our vulnerability to misuse them is so great that we human beings could make for our own destruction unless we learn the difficult, the courageous, the humble, the Christ-like way of peace.
To love our enemies does not mean that we do not do everything in our power to end violence and to bring the doers of violence to justice, and sometimes that requires force. Force blessed and enacted by the agreement of nations united for peace. To love our enemy means that we recognize that we become the enemy we despise when we let that hatred and rage consume us. We are to love our enemy for ourselves as much as the enemy.
I read passages from the Hebrew Psalter, the Muslim Qu'ran, and the Christian Gospel to demonstrate that these three great and peaceful religions are just that--great and peaceful. The people who faithfully pray and practice their beliefs around the world all want the same thing we do--to live in peace with neighbor, to seek happiness, to enjoy life, to live freely. We must not let those few who insist on violence to destroy that hope of peace and freedom that God has planted within our souls.
In these critical days and weeks to come, the leaders of our nation and of the world need our prayers to work a miracle. May we pray for that miracle each day. As followers of Jesus we can do no less.
Ten years later, I am not in the mood for more speeches or gatherings or remembrances.
In 2003, on the eve of an illegal and immoral war promoted by lies and the liars who told them, a couple of my colleagues and I put together this little item for the media:
As clergy, we believe our faith dictates that we voice strong opposition to a pre-emptive strike by the United States against Iraq. We come from different religious traditions and have different criteria when a state is justified in using force. However, we are unanimous in our view that a military strike by the United States against Iraq at this time is not morally justified.The bad parts turned out to be true.
While we deplore the past actions of Saddam Hussein, he poses no clear and immediate threat to the United States or the nations of the world. A unilateral, pre-emptive strike by the United States would be viewed by the vast majority of the world's population as an act of aggression on behalf of U.S self-interests, even if self-interest is not our motivation. If the United States sets this example, other nations might claim justification for attacking their weaker neighbors.
Peaceful alternatives have not been exhausted, but must be pursued through the United Nations. Iraq has been and can continue to be contained by a cooperative effort led by the United Nations. If Saddam is a threat, he is a threat to the world, not to the United States alone.
An attack against Iraq would lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent people, including children. It would further destabilize the entire Middle East. We cannot afford to increase tensions between the West and the Arab world, or escalate the spiral of violence around the globe.
Peaceful alternatives to war are not flashy or terribly exciting, but war will not lead the United States nor the world to the security we seek. Peacemaking is hard work, but the way of peace is the narrow road that leads to life.
I am not in the mood for more wars and lies about wars.
"Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn't the TV news is it? Here's what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we're hooked on."I think our beloved Kurt told the truth.
--Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country, p. 42
He wasn't in the mood either.
Since 9/11/2001 the United States government has behaved badly. This attack turned out to be just what the neocons in the Bush White House needed to carry out their agenda.
I am so cynical now (and I am not alone) that I wouldn't be surprised to discover that individuals and groups within our government looked the other way or were even actively involved in the implementation of these attacks.
The best film on this topic is 9/11 Press for Truth. There is nothing "conspiratorial" about this film at all. It is about people who lost loved ones on 9/11 and who had questions. These questions were never even asked by those with the power and responsibility to ask them.
Here is the trailer.
You can also watch it on-line.
It is your midnight movie.
That is, if you are in the mood.