As the American at IMES, I feel compelled to share with you the following prayer:
Remembering once again the lives lost in the sick tragedy of 12 years ago today, my prayers are with all of the friends and families still suffering from the loss of their loved ones. Yet, it forever remains my hope that we can move forward with hearts of forgiveness, tenderness, reconciliation and love as we attempt to break free from the vicious cycles of violence and vengeance within which we humans too often find ourselves. With God’s help, may love prevail!
The events of 9-11-2001 were indeed a gruesome tragedy. Murderous men with murderous intent violently and indiscriminately murdered thousands of men, women and children in the pursuit of their religio-political goals. In response, an angry and bewildered America (my 19 year-old self included) began over a decade long and, in my personal opinion, misinformed, mismanaged and misplaced campaign of military invasion and occupation, known of course as “The War on Terror.”
However, this post is not meant to be a political discourse. But a theological reflection upon the human condition, upon sin and redemption.
Our world is broken. And this fallen reality within which we exist is defined by a deep and abiding brokenness pervading every facet of our collective experience.
One of the most pervasive realities of this brokenness manifests itself in the vicious cycles of sin and suffering within which we often find ourselves held captive. With violence and vengeance being perhaps the most pernicious cycle of all.
We live, it seems, in a world defined by violence.
And yet, our God offers us a way out.
We are offered freedom from the vicious cycles of violence and vengeance within which we are imprisoned. We are offered self-sacrificial love.
We are invited to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile, to not only tolerate but in fact love our enemies. We are commanded to forgive not seven but 77 times and to make peace with our brother or sister before we even come to God in worship. Through Christ, God is redeeming the world to himself, and through Christ we are given the ministry of reconciliation to a broken and hurting world. As our Lord tells us, blessed are the PEACEMAKERS.
As the Body of Christ, as God’s own temple, we are charged with the responsibility of being active agents of redemption, reconciliation, restoration and peace. As such, our lives and communities must overflow with forgiveness, tenderness, reconciliation and love.
Time to Forget?
So, as each year goes by and as my Facebook news feed is once again dominated by calls to “never forget,” I feel more and more compelled to ask the following questions:
- To what end and for what purpose must we to “never forget?”
- Must we continuously fan the flames of vengeance and violence?
- Must we continually value our personal security over love, freedom and peace?
- Will we forever fear an amorphous and intangible evil existing “somewhere out there?”
- Will we forever turn a blind eye to our country’s neo-colonial ambitions in the name of counter-terrorism?
To remember rightly in a world of misinformation is always a necessity, but I can’t help but think that all these annual calls for “perpetual remembrance” are supremely unhelpful and only serve to delay the path towards forgiveness, healing and growth. It is truly time to put this last decade behind us and move forward as a nation and as a world. It is time to break free from the memories of that fateful day, and awaken to the dawn of a new way to be human.
Yet, there are lessons to be learned from our remembrance. Remembering 911 rightly informs me:
- That we all live in a single, interdependent global community inextricably joined together in a complex web of action and reaction;
- That things are always more complex than they initially appear and that if we are to responsibly interpret contemporary events and offer an appropriate response then a thorough knowledge of modern history and contemporary events is of utmost importance;
- And that if we don’t actively learn to forgive and seek “the things that make for peace” violence will always beget additional violence.
So, in the sage words of the Didache, in perhaps my favorite passage from non-biblical Christian literature:
There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.
The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you.
And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy.
While spiraling the down path towards death, God steps in and offers us a way out: self-sacrificial love.
So, I conclude once more with the following prayer:
Remembering the lives lost in the terrible tragedy of 12 years ago today, and in the years since, my prayers are with all of the friends and families still suffering from the loss of their loved ones: American, Arab, Afghani, or other. I am still hoping that we can move forward with hearts of forgiveness, tenderness, reconciliation and love as we together attempt to break free from the vicious cycles of violence and vengeance within which we humans too often find ourselves.
With God’s help, may love prevail!