Nine years after the tragic attacks on 9/11, what have we learned? Have we learned to folly of fanatical expressions of our religious faith? Have we learned that turning whole cultures of people into an enemy is short-sighted and stupid? Have we developed a deeper awareness of other faith’s, extending hands of friendship and fellowship to create peace- and grace-filled relationships? There is a strong sense that America is actually less tolerant today than nine year’s ago. The current furor over burning the Koran (thank God, literally, that this isn’t happening after all…) is just the latest indication that getting along with others is not really a core Christian value. Nope, we seem to have a need to win, to be right, to be superior, and to punish any and all who disagree with us.
So how does this make us different from those we rush to condemn? Almost a decade ago, a fringe segment of a radical terrorist movement committed atrocities in the name of God. Immediately, voices around the world condemned these acts, including a majority of Islamic leaders and practicing Muslims. The acts of terrorism were not the will of Allah, nor were they the desire of the majority of faithful Muslims. They were the acts of some troubled and twisted minds, led astray and deluded as to what true faith is all about.
I simply know too many Muslims whom I admire, respect, and understand. Their is not a hostile, hateful, hurtful bone in their body. They seek a world of peace — and, yes, they believe Islam is the true faith, just as I believe Christianity is the true faith. We disagree — and we love and honor one another. We are brothers and sisters despite our differences. We are part of a human community, and we each believe that the others don’t fully understand our position, otherwise they would see the wisdom and believe as we do. I don’t hate them for that, and they don’t hate me. We talk about our faiths, and we sometimes get angry. But anger doesn’t damage our relationship.
And maybe this is the point. We HAVE a relationship. We know each other. We like each other. We care for each other. And in the context of a relationship, we are able to rise above our differences to find common ground. When “others” are merely faceless masses, there is no possibility of relationship. It is easy to hate and despise people who are stereotypes or caricatures. We do it all the time with politics, and it is easy to do with religion.
But it has only been nine short years since we paid the price for religious fanaticism, intolerance, stereotyping and pointless aggression. It has been too recent for us to forget the important lessons the experience taught. Responding in kind makes us no better than the people who committed such heinous crimes. There is a better way, and it is time we committed ourselves to living the better way. Hate is no answer, acting out of anger is a losing proposition. September 11 should be a reminder to us all that the healing power of love and grace are needed now more than ever.