Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 28, 2002
Bishop calls for Sept. 11 reality check
We're a little ways into the new year and some distance from the Sept. 11 events and the swift military response. Now that the initial anger has subsided, we might come back to the original question - "Why" - which was so quickly dismissed in a rush of patriotic fervour.
Immediately following the dreadful events, thoughtful people like Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Eduardo Galleano, Noam Chomsky and Pope John Paul tried to answer the question, but their thoughts were not deemed helpful to an administration which required public support for an all-out war on terrorism.
Subsequent legislation, both in Canada and the U.S., has made dissent or dialogue even more difficult. All the more reason to speak out without fear.
One of the better responses has come from Bishop Peter Story of the Methodist Church and a former member of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After expressing his deep grief for the loss of innocent lives and his admiration for the valiant response of so many ordinary people who ministered to those who suffered, Story tackles the more difficult questions.
Story was saddened "to see the Church laid so supinely at the disposal of Caesar and his chaplains enabling the head of state to use a house of worship to rally a nation to war.
"Did it occur to anyone," he asked, "how much this action resembled the use made of mosque pulpits by some Muslim fundamentalists?" Touching upon subsequent statements by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who accused " a slew of scapegoats" for the Sept. 11 events, Story asks, "When will we have the courage to identify all fundamentalism as the well from which all hatred drinks?
"To weep with Jesus over the city's wounds is a pastoral imperative, not to ask the question why we do not know the things that make for peace is a dereliction of our calling."
In view of the broad public support for the war in Afghanistan, an Alberta minister of the Church admitted recently, "The sermons are tuned to the clink of the collection plate."
Story recognizes that it is never more difficult to bear witness to the Jesus way of non-violence than when we feel ourselves to be under attack, yet "that surely is the time when such witness is supremely relevant.
"I have often suggested to American Christians, " Story continues, "that the only way to understand their mission is to ask what it might have meant to witness faithfully to Jesus in the heart of the Roman Empire."
American preachers have a task more difficult perhaps than those under South Africa's apartheid.
"We have obvious evils to engage," says Story. "You have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white and blue myth. You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion and caring of most American people, and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the Earth.
"You have to help good people see how they had let their institutions do their sinning for them. This is not easy among people who really believe their country does nothing but good."
Story mentions how globalization has enriched the shareholders of Wall Street and brought destruction to the poor whose protests are "swept aside with tear gas and disdain."
While Story affirms that the world's majority believes in the basic goodness of American people, he emphasizes, "They long to see your goodness translated into a more compassionate way of relating with the rest of the bleeding planet."
Let this be our New Year's resolution.
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