Responding to 9/11 With Faith, Not Fear
By Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
Fifteen years ago on this day, I was in my apartment in the East Village when planes struck the Twin Towers and thousands of our neighbors from every religion, race, and creed lost their lives to terrorism. I remember on the day after, walking all the way to where the towers had stood. Off to the side near the Hudson River, I saw hundreds and hundreds of baby strollers, shoved together, abandoned as parents apparently ran with their children away from the destruction.
Now, 15 years later, I have a son, and I am aware that many of my friends from different traditions have children as well such as Valarie Kaur and Simran Jeet Singh, and all of us have children, grandchildren, or nieces, nephews, or young people we mentor and love. The children, whose strollers were left on 9/11 are now 15 years older. We are raising the next generation of Americans. What kind of country are we creating for them?
On that day on 9/11, 2001, and on every day since, we have had a choice on how we respond to that horrific act. Will we succumb to the temptation of fear, hatred and demonization of others? Will we turn against one another and isolate and alienate ourselves from our fellow humans? Will we lose our souls in a desperate attempt to secure our lives?
Or will we respond with faith in one another and in our God who will make a way to work good out of evil? Will we respond with a determined and fierce love for our neighbors? Will we respond with an unshakable commitment to stand together and claim one another as fellow Americans – all of us precious children of God.
Tragically, as we observe the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the political rhetoric of some has descended so low that it threatens to drag us all down to a shared destruction.
On this day we must vow to not let that happen.
We will honor the lives lost through terror by making plain to one another and to our children that we are committed to building a justice-seeking, peace-filled America that values the traditions, wisdom and gifts of each and every unique person across our nation and around the world.
As a Christian family that attempts to follow Jesus, my husband and I and our son will stand with you, my Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Pagan and secular fellow Americans and with your loved ones and your children. I ask that you will also stand with us.
Together we will say to anyone who would try to do harm, or marginalize or demean any of us, that you will have to come for all of us. None of us are alone.
I watched the reading of the names down at the 9/11 Memorial. One young man, who must have been a baby when his father was killed, just spent his summer with children in Sandy Hook who are still trying to make sense of the devastation that they experienced at such a young age. That young man whose father was ripped away from him before he had a chance to know him, is using his pain and turning it into empathy, and then comfort, and then into new life and hope.
In this fragile moment, when so much of the fabric of our nation is being ripped apart, I ask you to join that young man, and all of those who are seeking to redeem the horror of 9/11 in a commitment to be a beloved community weaving together of a beautiful society using threads of faith, justice, and peace and tied together with prayers of hallelujah so that we, together, will be co-creators of a powerful tapestry of love where truly out of many, will come one diverse human family – joined together in faith, not fear. May it be so.
This reflection was first offered at the multi-faith gathering Faith Not Fear on 9/11/16 at @MiddleCollegiateChurch in New York City.
Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is Senior Vice-President at Auburn Seminary and Editor of Voices. Which Voices leave you wanting to hear more? Email us ideas for interviews at firstname.lastname@example.org.