The Anniversary of 9/11 – A Challenge for Welcoming the “Other”
Sep 09, 2011 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 0 Comments
This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, which were hit and destroyed by planes on September 11, 2001. The incredibly shocking images of that event will remain etched in the minds of many for years to come.
On the one hand are the emotions that surge up when we see the photographs or watch the surreal videos that were filmed even as that heartbreaking disaster was taking place. On the other hand are the reflections, which that event can generate—reflections on the meaning of our individual lives and on the future of the country and its relationship to other nations (especially the Muslim world).
This anniversary also should impact our understanding of our Christian faith and mission. The latest issue of Christianity Today (September 2011; vol. 55, no. 9) has a helpful piece titled “How I have changed since 9/11.” Ten leaders representing a variety of constituencies share their thoughts on how that event has impacted their view of Christian calling and ministry. I found the last sentence of the contribution of the Methodist bishop Will Willimon particularly striking:
“I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own son.”
Some citizens now are wary and suspicious of outsiders, especially those who may be of another race, religion, or country. Sometimes outsiders get lumped together as possible terrorist suspects. We have seen this occur in the immigration debate: It is said that the border needs to be reinforced to keep terrorists out, as some might have infiltrated with those who come looking for work. The “war on terror” then becomes a driving force to stifle immigration reform. In these times, this can be powerful rhetoric, but this sort of emotive stereotyping is not constructive.
How should we engage the “Other” after 9/11? Has that gruesome disaster altered in a negative way our view of the strangers in our midst and our Christian call to welcome them? To echo Willimon, should not 9/11 instead be a powerful reminder of our ultimate loyalties and commitments in an evil world? As Christians we are called to pray for our enemies and love them (Matthew 5:43-44; Romans 12:20). How different than the nation’s and the world’s sense of “duty”!
In no way do we minimize the horror of that day. 9/11 confirms the fallenness of humanity and our capacity for destruction and death. It confirms the need for the cross and the depth of the grace of God. It also should confirm our calling to love our neighbors—whoever they might be—with that grace in the power of the Holy Spirit.