9-11 Sermon

{Written for 10th Anniversary of 9-11}

It is no random chance that people in all cultures have memorials.  It is the human condition that what we remember what we cherish, and what we cherish, we remember.  It is those memories that become the foundation of a society we give to our children.

The strength of our country is dependent upon which things are remembered, because our weakness is in those things we have forgotten — lessons we have NOT learned.

We give deep condolences to the families of those who have been lost, and deep respect to those who gave their lives to save others.  We are still shocked.  It is hard enough to accept casualties of war, pictures of our sons and daughters in uniform on a post office wall or a church bulletin.  But this was different.  The people in the towers and planes were not soldiers.  They were not politicians.  They were NOT targeted because they were Christian or oil monopolists or financial backers of the Israeli regime.  They weren’t even targeted because they were Americans, because many of the victims were foreigners, some from the same countries as the hijackers.

No, the truth is more shocking: They were targeted because they were human beings. There is no reason for it.  There wasn’t supposed to be.  Evil is done simply because it can be done by those who are evil.  The tools were not box-cutters and planes but hatred; the goal was not even death, but fear.  That is the absolute definition of the word TERRORism.

There is no defense against hatred.  Scanners and pat-downs will never save us.  There is only the choice to play by their rules or not.  And that means what we choose to remember, or not.

Look at our enemy.  Some elusive “they” have forgotten we are their brothers, their sisters, their neighbors in this ever-shrinking world.  “They” have forgotten the bridges, figuratively and literally, that have been built, the openly shared opportunities of America and the Free World.  They have forgotten that for every bomb we have dropped or plea for help we have ignored, there are many more of us feeding a hungry child a world away, or building a school for children eager to learn because they never had the chance before.  They are not thier extremists; we are not our government.

But what have we forgotten?  In fighting the enemy, have we become them?  “They” will not discriminate between the innocent and the guilty, but will we?  Are we willing to accept the extremist world view that anyone not for us is against us?  Or are we willing to remember that two centuries of our nation’s warriors sacrificed in some part for the right to be different, protecting ourselves not from our differences, but from those that would use them against us.  The forgetfulness that we are all in this together, making exceptions for those associated in our minds with evildoers not deserving of that right, is the root of all bigotry.

When you rip off the labels of “Radical Islam” or “American Imperialism” or “White Power” or “Zionism”, you find countless people caught in the crossfire of judgment.  The crimes of the few become the excuse to forget the self-evident truths our Forefathers demanded be recognized.

That we all have a right to exist.  We all have a right to be free.  We all have a right to pursue happiness, and the only way this is possible is to remember we are all in this together. 

These are not rights that the government can give to us.  They are not ones we can steal from our better-off countrymen.  They are rights by which we either grant to each other unconditionally, or we do not survive. 

Have we learned this lesson, or something else?  What we choose to remember is what we choose to have learned.

From that fateful day, do we remember fear and outrage, or compassion and courage?

Just as people from every nation in the world suffered captivity in  the concentration camps of the Holocaust, people of every race and creed poured themselves hope-filled through smokey stairwells, or found the only freedom they could by slipping through an office window, so high above the streets of Manahattan.  There was not a single Church, Synagogue or Mosque nearby that did not find one or more parishioners missing the next Sunday, Shabat, or Friday Salah.

Not just as Americans, but as human beings, we have shared in the loss and suffering of 9-11.  We stand united so much as we remember this; we are divided so much as we forget.

Ken posted at 2011-9-11 Category: Prayers & Pulpit
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