9.11.11 – A Reflection

I was a 15-year old kid sitting in Mrs. Giedt’s  science class. Our class heard that a plane had hit a skyscraper in Manhattan. I thought, “What kind of pilot doesn’t see a skyscraper right in front of him?”

I was innocent. I thought the pilot had just screwed up. So we turned the television on in the classroom. And about 30 seconds later, the second plane hit. And I was confused. I didn’t know what had happened or what this meant. Somebody in my class said we were at war, but this wasn’t what war was to me.

War was tanks and troops invading things. War wasn’t this. I remember the newscaster covering it talking about the terrorists responsible for this event and the girl sitting next to me at the lab table leaned over and asked me what a terrorist was. It’s crazy to look back and think about how our vocabulary has changed since then.

I definitely feel like it made me grow up faster. It, at least, shook me to a point where I had the thought that we’re not as safe as I had thought. Granted, growing up in Fargo, there wasn’t much for terrorists to attack, but that wasn’t even crossing my mind when the smoke was billowing out of both towers.

The most prevalent response in my high school was completely militant. We have an imperative to kill those who killed us. But I never bought into that. There had to be a different way to move forward that didn’t involve getting hostile with anyone who had a problem with America. I had an inclination things were a bit more complicated than that. And I still do. But I haven’t put my finger on it yet.

And maybe that’s the toughest part about the whole thing. It’s all so fluid. One of the things trauma theorists talk about is that when a traumatic event is actually happening, stimuli is coming in too fast for our brain to react. The part of our brain that acts as a timestamp on events is overrun. The events physically preclude comprehension. So then what happens is that when we try to move on, the events are still free to appear to us as if they’re a present reality.

So there is some aspect of us that can never feel completely safe. When that innocence gives way to the traumatic reality of the world as it is, there’s something that’s completely lost. And all we’re left to do is trying to help restore, not as a way of erasing the trauma of the events of 9/11, but as a way of moving forward so we can help positively contribute to a world that was broken right in front of our very eyes.

What’s your recollection of September 11th, 2001? Where were you? How are you feeling about it 10 years later?


Serving a God of Death

I had just gotten back to Minneapolis when I was told I should turn on the television because Obama was set to make a big announcement. So I turned it on and at the bottom of the screen, I was told the breaking news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

And I felt like I was going to puke.

Then I hopped on Facebook and Twitter and saw some tacky nationalistic and religious platitudes. And I wanted to throw up more.

I think identity plays a big role in this. If Bin Laden was “our” enemy, who exactly is the “we”? It’s not communities of faith. It’s not Christians. It’s not the church. It’s the United States of America. One part of my identity is that I’m American. So one part of me sees Bin Laden as an enemy and is thankful that he will not be able to cause any more destruction.

But then there is another part of me that could never see death as something to be celebrated (at least as belligerently as it was last night), no matter who it is that has died. When we attempt to redeem death by inflicting more death, we’re not bringing about the kingdom of God. We’re participating in what J.R. Daniel Kirk calls an “economy of death”.  Death only begets more death. This is not the vision of the kingdom of God. In fact, it stands in diametric opposition to the Kingdom of God.

Our way out of this, our salvation, will never come by a smoking gun. It will never come by anger or vengeance. But only when we are ready to do as Jesus commands in Matthew: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

We’re all in the same boat trying to make sense of the same things. So instead of dancing on the graves of murderers, why don’t we look forward for the life that’s found in the God who calls us out of judgment and darkness and into an abundance in the Kingdom of Life that is to come.


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