On this 9/11 afternoon several dozen peace minded members of our community, including some our Muslim neighbors, attended a PowerPoint lecture at the Court Square Theater on "Sharia: the Threat to America," one that turned out to be a numbing two-hour demonization of all things Islam. The spirit of the meeting was almost the opposite of the hour-long vigil many of us had attended on the south side of the Court House nearby the night before, a time of expressing lament but also of affirming hope and goodwill, of singing and praying together around the theme of "Turning Toward Peace." It was hopeful rather than hateful.
I encouraged like-minded friends to attend today's event to be a prayerful and respectful presence, to add a scattering of God-flavored "salt," we hoped, among the total of perhaps 150-200 people present. Or, as it turned out, maybe a dash of pepper, with a number of insightful questions being raised by some of our friends in the Q & A time--queries and concerns that were met mostly with sarcastic dismissals or further lecturing by the speaker. To be fair, not everyone who differed with him was always as respectful as I had wished, either.
Most of us wore something black as a sign of our mourning both the horrendous loss of life at 9/11/01 and the hatred, suspicion and violence that have followed.
Sponsored by members of the Valley Family Forum, ACT For America, and members of the local Tea Party Patriots, today's event was led by one of the co-authors of the Sharia report, who spent much of his time generalizing, stereotyping and attacking any and all who disagree with him and his worldview, including bashing former President Bush, most of the members of Congress and pretty much the entire Washington establishment.
Not surprisingly, the title of his newest book is to be "Too Stupid to Live," a categorization sure to include most of us.
After a day like this, when we are all reliving the awful events of 9/11, I find it hard to know how to respond. Just more information, someone has said, is the solution only to the extent that ignorance is the problem. And ignorance remains a serious problem for all of us, to be sure, but it's pretty clear that America's problems are much deeper than that, involving the kinds of fear, hatred, and prejudice as old as the human race.
So today I'll simply post something I wrote for our house church newsletter nearly ten years ago, soon after the 9/11/01 disaster:
Ridding the World of Terrorism
Terrorism. We must rid the world of it, we’re told, using every means necessary.
The only problem is, even the deadliest military force in the world isn’t strong enough to root it out. In fact, the more violence we use to destroy our enemies in retaliation, the more of the world’s moderate majority are likely to rally to join fringe elements dedicated to destroying us. When it comes to winning the hearts and minds of the millions needed to join us in this effort, even nuclear weapons are far too weak and ineffectual, and their use would cause us to be seen as worse than those we seek to punish.
What force, then, is strong enough? Like the terrorists we accuse of ignoring their own Islamic teachings about respect for human life, far too many Christians have disregarded their own scriptures which say, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” We have overlooked passages that tell us to “Be still (means, literally, ‘Stop fighting!’) and know that I am God,” and that “God will make wars cease to the ends of the earth,” and will “break the bow and shatter the spear; burn the shields with fire.” For too long followers of Jesus have set aside their Master’s commands to love their enemies and to feed them if they are hungry, give them water to drink if they are thirsty. Relying instead of on weapons of massive destruction, we have helped escalate the cycle of violence and genocide that threatens us all.
If we were to actually take the teachings of our faith seriously, we would blanket impoverished countries like Iraq and Afghanistan with prayer, bread, medical supplies and other forms of aid instead of responding with sanctions and with deadly weapons. This kind of incredibly surprising response, coupled with working with other peaceful nations to bring about actual perpetrators to justice, may be the only way to gain the necessary support of the world’s moderate millions in attacking and rooting out terrorism. It would result in far less loss of life and would cost a fraction of what it takes to engage in another war.
Will any other response rid the world of evil doers?
I don’t think so.
P. S. You may also want to read my August 27 blog on Sharia Mania. And as always, your comments are welcome.