Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years later...

It is hard t o believe that eight years have gone by since 9/11/2001. We all know where we were when those planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We all still remember how our hearts broke when the towers fell. We knew that thousands had just lost their lives. Eight years later, where are we in our recovery? I do not speak about those individuals who lost family members and friends on 9/11, but instead I want to talk about the United States as a community. We are a community despite our rampant individualism. Unfortunately, if takes an event of great tragedy to remind us that we are a community.

Any book on grieving will tell you that it is a process and that each person grieves in different ways, but each person must move forward, however slowly, through the process. I do not believe that our country grieved over 9/11. Yes, there were countless TV specials, as I am sure there will be today, and we place our flags on our porches and we post our special 9/11 Facebook statuses. However, I believe that we never really dealt with our collective pain and the gaping wound we suffered as a community on 9/11. We were encouraged to shop after 9/11 and go to baseball and football games. We were told to go out and buy a house or buy a Ford or the terrorists will win. Our leaders, with the exception of some of our religious leaders, never told us to grieve and so our wound never healed. Perhaps, we tried to ignore our pain and now we only bring it our one day a year. Now our unhealed and ignore wound is festering. It festers with the infection of racism, bigotry, and profiling. It led us into two wars with suspicious, at best, connections to Al Qaeda and 9/11. Our grief and our unhealed wound lead us to create a false idol of Americana, where everything is alright as long as you wear a flag pin and put your hand over your heart. We remember 9/11 one day a year and for the other 364 days we will sweep our grief under the rug. However, we must remember that when there is not grieving there is not healing and there is no forgiveness.

To speak of forgiveness for those 19 men on those planes and the countless others who planned and funded the attacks is blasphemous in the United States. How could we, as a community, ever forgive anyone who inflicted such a tragic blow to us? Let me be clear, forgiveness does not mean that Osama Bin Laden and the other perpetrators should not be held accountable and brought to justice. However, forgiveness does mean that we begin to heal the wound of our community. The radical message of the cross is that the same forgiveness that washes over us as Americans washes over those 19 men.

What unity there was in the days and weeks following 9/11 has long since passed. We are divided and angry. Perhaps the fragility of our unity was due to it being based on anger and fear rather than grief and forgiveness. After eight years, I think it is time to begin.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

People of Wal-Mart: People of God

There is a website sweeping the Internet and social networking sites called People of Wal-Mart The premise of this site is people take pictures of people at Wal-Mart dressed in ridiculous or less than desirable clothes or with mullets or funny in some other way. People look and laugh at those who are dressed worse than we are and maybe we feel a little better about ourselves. I must admit that the first time I saw this site I rolled with laughter and I wondered where people’s heads and pride have gone. Perhaps this site is like “You might be a redneck…” where people make fun of themselves a little but because they know they are guilty of the same thing. However, in reading the RCL texts for this week (Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost Year B), I may have a change of heart. James 2:2-4 NSRV reads

For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

We all get a chuckle at the guy with the socks and sandals or the woman with the tube-top a few sizes too small, but what happens when we allow our chuckle to become a prejudice? Are we placing ourselves at a higher level or class when we look at these pictures? I confess that these thoughts cross my mind when I see people in dirty jeans or perhaps those who have not bathed in awhile. What if that person was not a Wal-Mart but at church? How would our attitudes change? Too many times we judge others and ourselves by the clothes that we wear and unfortunately this happens too often at church. The biggest controversy after worship music seems to be the dress code. Should suits and dresses still be the norm or is it anything goes? Does God not care about our dress or should be present our best before God? These seem like irrelevant questions in the scheme of church growth, but what happens when growth works and the people who come in are not what the people expected?

There is nothing wrong with a little humor, especially when we laugh at ourselves. However, we must always remember that the people of Wal-Mart are also the people of God created in the same Imago Dei as the rest of us. Let us not pass over those dressed poorly in favor for those dressed in the Rolex. Remember, Bernie Madoff probably wore a Rolex.