with thanks to www.washingtonpost.com 10-02-01
So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell."
From Rilke's Book of Hours,
translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
(NY: Riverhead, 1997):
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand."
We, American religious leaders, share the broken hearts of our fellowcitizens. The worst terrorist attack in history that assaulted New YorkCity, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, has been felt in every Americancommunity. Each life lost was of unique and sacred value in the eyes ofGod,and the connections Americans feel to those lives run very deep. In thefaceof such a cruel catastrophe, it is a time to look to God and to each otherfor the strength we need and the response we will make. We must dig deep tothe roots of our faith for sustenance, solace, and wisdom.
First, we must find a word of consolation for the untold pain and sufferingof our people. Our congregations will offer their practical and pastoralresources to bind up the wounds of the nation. We can become safe places toweep and secure places to begin rebuilding our shattered lives andcommunities. Our houses of worship should become public arenas for commonprayer, community discussion, eventual healing, and forgiveness.
Second, we offer a word of sober restraint as our nation discerns what itsresponse will be. We share the deep anger toward those who so callously andmassively destroy innocent lives, no matter what the grievances orinjusticesinvoked. In the name of God, we too demand that those responsible for theseutterly evil acts be found and brought to justice. Those culpable must notescape accountability. But we must not, out of anger and vengeance,indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocentlife. We pray that President Bush and members of Congress will seek thewisdom of God as they decide upon the appropriate response.
Third, we face deep and profound questions of what this attack on Americawill do to us as a nation. The terrorists have offered us a stark view oftheworld they would create, where the remedy to every human grievance andinjustice is a resort to the random and cowardly violence of revenge evenagainst the most innocent. Having taken thousands of our lives, attacked ournational symbols, forced our political leaders to flee their chambers ofgovernance, disrupted our work and families, and struck fear into the heartsof our children, the terrorists must feel victorious.
But we can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world createdin their image. Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but alsoemotional oppression to further its aims. We must not allow this terror todrive us away from being the people God has called us to be. We assert thevision of community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and the sacredness ofhuman life, which lies at the heart of all our religious traditions. Americamust be a safe place for all our citizens in all their diversity. It isespecially important that our citizens who share national origins,ethnicity,or religion with whoever attacked us are, themselves, protected among us.
Our American illusion of invulnerability has been shattered. From now on,we will look at the world in a different way, and this attack on our life asa nation will become a test of our national character. Let us make the rightchoices in this crisis - to pray, act, and unite against the bitter fruitsofdivision, hatred, and violence. Let us rededicate ourselves to global peace,human dignity, and the eradication of the injustice that breeds rage andvengeance.
As we gather in our houses of worship, let us begin a process of seeking thehealing and grace of God.
with thanks to www.washingtonpost.com 10-16-01
Return to main pagePage Posted: 28 September 2001