September 15, 2001
THE NATION RESPONDS WITH PRAYER
In stunned disbelief, America watched a
handful of terrorists transform commercial jets into bombs that
demolished shining symbols of American capitalism and military power.
The next day America's churches were full of
mourning people turning to God in prayer.
I attended a service across from the White
House at St. John's Episcopal Church, where most presidents have
worshiped. The service opened with the timeless wisdom of Psalm 46:
''God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way...
Come and see the works of the Lord...
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth...
Be still and know that I am God.''
The Gospel came from John, Chapter 10 which
quotes Jesus: ''I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep
know me...and I lay down my life for the sheep,'' a statement repeated
four times in a few verses. I thought of hundreds of firemen and police
killed trying to save the lives of others.
As President Bush put it, ''Today our nation
saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best
of America, with the daring of rescue workers, with the caring of
strangers and neighbors who came to give blood.''
For the first time in my memory, a President
quoted Scripture: ''Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who
grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose
sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray that they
will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the
ages in Psalm 23: `Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.'''
The supreme moral question we must now answer
is, what should be done about that evil?
A woman at St. John's prayed, ''As Christ
said, `Let us pray for our enemies.''
But as the Pope said Wednesday, ''How is it
possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has
depths from which schemes of unheard-of-ferocity sometimes emerge,
capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people.''
Edward Cardinal Egan, the new Archbishop of
New York, added, ''We call for justice. We insist that those who
have committed this crime be called before the courts of civilized
people. We must not, however, allow our pursuit of justice to descend
into sentiments of hate and violence.''
However, that draws some fine lines. Is the
problem a few terrorists or a wider Muslim challenge to Western culture
While our government had not officially
declared who was responsible at this writing, fingers are being pointed
at Osama bin Laden and his Talaban supporters in Afghanistan.
As retired Episcopal Bishop William Wantland
has noted, followers of Islam ''have also perpetrated a policy of
genocide in Sudan, oppressed thousands of people in Pakistan,
Afghanistan, and elsewhere and have raped Nigeria. We must understand
that at the bottom of all this is a hatred of all things Christian. This
is a holy war against our Faith, as well as against our country.'' On
the other hand, many Muslims in this country are as horrified as any
Christians by what has happened. Several have noted that nothing in the
Koran justifies slaughtering civilians.
The question which seems to have been avoided
in all of the media coverage is this: What fuels the hatred of America
that would drive some Muslims to commit these heinous acts?
David W. Virtue put it this way on his web
http://www.orthodoxanglican.org/virtuosity: First, Oasama Bin Laden
has a ''pathological hatred of the State of Israel, Zionism and the
United States that supports the Jewish State. Second is his hatred of a
decadent Western culture, that the Pope calls a `culture of death' which
is morally numbing our own children's minds and impacting the life of
his culture, other Middle Eastern nations and the rest of the world.''
We can see the culture of death in untrammeled
pornography and its consequences: millions of out-of-wedlock births,
abortions and divorces. If America hopes to end terrorism, it must do
far more than wipe out terrorist camps and leaders. They can be replaced
with a younger generation of America haters.
Pollster George Gallup declares, ''This most
terrible moment in American history could be one of the most
transforming if this tragedy leads us to renounce evil that can lurk in
the human heart and choose to seek the good as we know it in Jesus
Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.