Asked what lessons we can learn from the holocaust, Elie Wiesel once wearily responded, “that you can get away with it.” The sad truth is that evil is often unpunished in this world. Not only were those who died on Sept. 11 innocents, so were many who died as a result of responses to that event, and many who were guilty escaped. Any reflection must begin with loss. A young generation of Americans that had not known war faced the reality of enmity.
Genuine religion must come to grips with the potency of evil in the human heart. We learned anew that evil can be deliberate, brilliant and effective. The long planned murder of thousands also reminded us -- since America has been so blessed -- that malevolence has no border.
We learned how vast and various are the resources this nation can summon. Not all were wise or effective, but the panoply of responses, from war to security enhancements to endless essays, reflections, poetry, enlistments, monuments, dedication -- all demonstrated the inexhaustibility of this remarkable nation.
As our traditions have always taught us, love endures when other aspirations have burned away. The final messages from the doomed passengers on the plane were messages of love. They were hopes for memory, for eternal connection, for safety in God’s arms. When facing the ultimate, those whose lives were taken reminded us what truly matters.
We grasped anew that in this broken and unfinished world, there is no end to struggle. Freedom is not an accomplished reality but a perpetually renewed achievement. Darkness is not banished but rather subdued by a continual attempt to bring light. Love is not settled but forever to be recreated. Faith can knit together the world but not a triumphalist faith. Only when we live in recognition that God’s first wish is that we treat all other human beings as God’s children will we know that the deepest lesson of 9/11 has been learned.
Faith can be turned to evil when people believe that God’s word is made as small as a resentful heart. Faith can be as large as the sky and healing as a lover’s touch when we understand that God wishes goodness. The idle dream of replacing this or that faith with another is one species of human hubris, not Divine wish. God made us various, contending and unique. We must fashion a world, as we saw on that tragic day, in which we cultivate the peaceloving, embracing hearts of every faith to fix God’s broken, needful world. Ultimately what we understand about faith is that it is the most powerful force we know. Turned to darkness it can wreak horrible destruction. Moving toward the light, it can save us.
More On Faith and 9/11:
Desmond Tutu: Our post-9/11 failures
Thomas Monson: Rebuilding our souls
T.D. Jakes: Spirituality after the attack
Feisal Abdul Rauf: Radical Islam on its way out
Donald Wuerl: Peace begins internally
Katharine Jefferts Schori: Live the memorial
Mark Driscoll: Death and the hope of resurrection
Karen Armstrong: Unite through compassion
Deepak Chopra: Divided hearts, divided world
Yasir Qadhi: Americans still don’t know Islam
David Wolpe | Sep 8, 2011 10:45 AM