Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. How has America changed since then? How did 9/11 change faith in America? What impact did 9/11 have on the soul of America?
Typically, in the midst of tragedy and its aftermath, people experiencing the tragedy have an opportunity to grow and develop. They have an opportunity to reexamine beliefs and traditions. They have an opportunity to delve deeper within their own faith traditions and to examine what it means to be a finite human being in the midst of tragedy. They also have an opportunity to reexamine long held beliefs, prejudices and attitudes. They tend to become closer to others and if they are people of faith, they tend to depend more on their faith in times of uncertainty.
However, I am afraid that after the immediate closeness we felt for each other and the praying we did together in churches, mosques, and synagogues all over the country, to use a biblical refrain, we reverted back to our old ways. Instead of using 9-11 as a spiritual bellwether—a guide for discernment in face of the catastrophic, we wanted revenge. Instead of standing courageously in the face of this evil, grounded in our faith and trusting God, we succumbed to fear and we allowed to guide us, to take over, and in the process, I believe pushed us further away from God.
Therefore, instead of reflecting and asking questions of ourselves and getting closer to one another, we began to drift apart. For instance, we started looking at our Muslim neighbors with suspicion. People who have been in our communities for years, people we worked with and known all of a sudden became representative of the evil that faced us on September 11. Our “faith” led us to wrap ourselves in the flag and challenge all people to love or leave America. We started two costly wars (which we are still raging), spent trillions of dollars, and instead of learning more about the religions of the world (especially Islam), we professed, as Cornel West says, a “Constantinian Christianity” beholding to the power brokers and merchants of war and the disciples and promoters of fear.
As we commemorate the tenth year anniversary of this tragic event, we have the opportunity now to repent and start anew. Maybe it is time to have a call to reflection. A call to reflection to do something that we should have done ten years ago—a time to listen, a time to share, to hear the stories of journey, pain, rediscovery and victory. Maybe ten years ago, the pain was too personal, the suffering too surreal, the agony too astonishing, the moment too mystifying. However now, since we can see more clearly, this could be our time to promote and propagate a faith that is more inclusive, more understanding, more compassionate, and more loving. May our work begin anew as a people of God, living out the Basiliea or Kingdom of God.