Tag Archives: extremism

Reflecting on September 11

I remember the day when, shortly after September 11, 2001,  my mom asked me if anyone bullied the Muslim kid at school.

“No,” I said, “not that I’ve noticed.”

And I hadn’t noticed anything. But as we all know, not all American Muslims fared so well, and even if those I knew weren’t being bullied, there is no telling what sort of distress they felt inside that I couldn’t see.

So today, as I struggled to think about how to pose my reflections on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, one thing comes to mind: love.

And it is only proper that love should be the prevailing message, because the things which we remember are the ramifications of an ideology of hate, the destruction accomplished by terror. I believe that the objective of extremism is not solely the destruction of life, but the induction of hatred in others. So we see that from hatred, hate also rises.

That hate is manifested in many forms, from the violence that fuels war across the world to the doctrine that continues to raise terrorists around the world to the bigotry and intolerance of Islamaphobia here at home. So our reflections on 9/11 must not be only about the twin towers, flight 93, the pentagon, and those who died, but also a somber recognition that our struggle should not be a fight against other human beings, but against hate.

It is a fight that can only be won with love. I am reminded, then, of Jesus’ simple, yet profound words.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 4:43).

“‘Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

However you define neighbor and enemy, these words are clear: we are called to love. This must be our response, particularly on the day where we remember those who have lost their lives to hate.

I leave you with a verse on which I’ve been reflecting, as a final thought today:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brotheror sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their borther and sister whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

1 John 4:18-21

Share Button

Reflecting on the Death of Osama bin Laden

Screen capture from digital edition of The Daily Illini. May 2, 2011.

 

Sunday night found me fixed to my computer.  A friend’s email tipped me off to breaking news, so, naturally, I turned to the authority in up-to-the-minute news: Facebook.

A few hints of Osama bin Laden’s death had already leaked, and a Google search confirmed the rumor by sheer magnitude even before I landed on something reputable.  When I finally came to the live stream at whitehouse.gov and waited for the President to speak on the matter, I pondered what this means to our country – a symbol of terror and extremism finally put to rest.

Later, as I watched celebrations unfold in major cities across the country and on Facebook profiles around the globe, I quickly began to search for a place of deeper understanding in light of mixed emotions.

My faith teaches me to love my enemies.

Jesus said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.
So while my thoughts jump between September 11, 2001 and May 1, 2011, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve missed the point. 

The death of Osama Bin Laden is certainly a significant development in the global war on terror.  It is an incident that was long ago deemed necessary by those responsible for making such decisions, a task for which I thank God I am not responsible.  But we must not allow ourselves to believe that another murder is going to solve the problem.  There was no victory on May 1, 2011.

Destruction of our enemy, although perhaps necessary to quell the threat of terrorism in the present day, will only motivate a violent response and serve as fuel for the voices of evil that teach young children to kill others out of national pride or religion.  It will not prevent terrorism in the future.

If we want to destroy terrorism, our fight does not involve a gun or a missile.  It involves relationships. I have often mentioned Terry Jones, a Florida “pastor” who put the Koran on trial.  And often I ask — what if he had a Muslim friend?  How would his actions be different?

The same must be granted Osama bin Laden.  What if he had lived in a world where no one is portrayed as the “other,” where all are granted respect by default, where bigotry and prejudice did not exist?  What if he had a friend who could put a face, a name, a personality, or a life to the populations he has dedicated his life to destroying?  For a man who had become so evil, it would have had to begin early – before the ideology of extremism claimed him.

If you cut off the head, another will take its place.  But if you teach a generation the language of cooperation, the technique of service, and the power of love, then you train an army that will change our world to a more peaceful place.

As a Christian, I believe that the love Christ demonstrated is the key to bringing peace to the world.  And in Jesus that love manifested as compassionate service, was communicated through a story, and ultimately, profoundly demonstrated in personal sacrifice.  So let’s start in the same way – with acts of service, with compassion, with stories.  Let’s reach across faith lines and show the disciples of extremism that the differences which led them to destroy can inspire us to work together.

Share Button