twin towers: what to remember?

 

Let me briefly tell you about two friends of mine from years gone by.

The first was in many ways a tall tower of a good man. He was a very hard worker. He was honest and trustworthy. He was often a man with great self-control. He was very good to his wife.

But, he hated and despised anyone who even remotely looked like they could have been from somewhere in Asia. Deeply so. As in the deepest bitterness I’ve ever seen in a man.

Why? He was a Navy veteran of WWII. He had served aboard a ship that was docked in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. His ship was one of the few that was able to get underway and make it out of the harbor during the attack. Following, he helped collect the bodies, and parts of bodies, burned and blown to bits, out of the water, off the deck, and off of his clothes.

He became an atheist that day. And forty years later, whenever we happened to be together and saw someone of Oriental descent or it was getting close to December, it was easy to see the anger, rage, and resentment that made his blood boil all day long. Some of his rants felt like fire; they seemed to melt all good away.

The second man was also a tall tower. In fact, he was one of the finest men I’ve ever known in life. Far more than hard-working, honest, trustworthy, self-controlled, and good to his wife, he was an obvious embodiment of the all that is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I saw him in a great many settings across the years, but never saw him express even a hint of anything less than genuine care and love for every person he ever met. Not once.

It wasn’t because he was an Army veteran of WWII. Since he had served in an elite special ops unit known as Merrill’s Marauders (aka: Unit Gallahad) he had seen and experienced, in ways far beyond what words can describe, some of the worst that war can bring to combatants and civilians. The horror of it all was so complete that he very rarely spoke of his experiences at all and when he did, he always did so briefly … trailing off in a broken voice with tear-filled eyes.

He had been a Christian before he became a soldier. And he would tell you, thanks be to God, that the horror and terror he endured, and inflicted, didn’t destroy his faith in God. But, it radically changed it. Anger and bitterness, hate and resentment: he was done with for good. He simply had no room for such in life anymore. He had experienced enough taking of life; he was determined now to give it and share it with all, no matter who you were.

Now I ask you: what made these men different?

Who, what, and how they chose to remember.

Period.

One remembered inhumanity and evil, and so, grew cold and hard, remembering only that. He sailed the rest of his life through in darkness. Another remembered savagery and suffering, but did not stop there, choosing rather to remember it all in light of a still present, ever good, holy, and generous God. He marched through the rest of his life in the army of God.

One, due to memory, chose a path of unforgiveness and so, chose a life of living dead. Another chose, due to memory, the way of forgiveness and so, chose life with, and of, God, here and now.

Neither of these two towers stand anymore in this world. But, their lives still stand in my mind as witnesses of, and monuments to, the choice we each make every day: to move on to love, forgive, and hope, or to cuddle up with anger, hate, and despair.

May God help us all to choose well. To choose God, to choose his ways, and to make him our tower, and strength, and shield. Daily. And nothing less. Lest more innocent and guilty alike die daily, a thousand deaths.

“… if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. … put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth … set aside … anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. … Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. … as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. … forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts …” (Colossians 3.1-3,5,8-15)

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

9/11, fear, priorities & terrorism: The Emotional and Spiritual Aftermath of 9/11 and Boston

“Strikingly, nearly three out of four Americans say that terrorism prevention is equal to or more important a priority than things like the preservation of families, immigration, healthcare, unemployment and education. Even 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, it would seem the threat of terrorism remains a powerful public motivator in America. For example, in a head-to-head prioritization, Americans rank terrorism prevention with nearly equal importance as family preservation (40% rank it higher and 38% rank it lower. The remaining 22% said they should be equal priorities.)

“The generational differences of opinion reveal an intriguing pattern when it comes to terrorism: Millennials, currently ages 18 to 29, are among the most likely to prioritize preventing terrorism above other social concerns.”

Football & full-contact sports: * Our Shaken Faith in Football; * Is Football Too Violent? 11 Reflections on My Christianity Today Essay

* “If the NFL is effectively admitting that the game of football causes physical harm to the tune of nearly a billion dollars, does it behoove Christians to reconsider the game’s violence? I think it does.”

* “I just wrote this Christianity Today piece on football violence in light of the NFL’s nearly $765-million settlement with injured players. It’s stirred up a bit of interaction on Twitter, so say the least … [And so, here are a] few thoughts based on the response to the essay.”

Gun violence, shootings & youth: Program Fights Gun Violence Bravado With ‘Story Of Suffering’

“… Cradle to Grave, a violence prevention program … brings small groups of at-risk youth to the hospital to show them what getting shot is really like.”

Nonviolence & pacifism: Christian Pacifism: Relevant Beyond Syria [required reading]

“… many people fail to realize that Christian pacifism goes beyond just being philosophically opposed to war and violence — it’s about being a peacemaker. Instead of anti-violence and anti-war — it’s pro-peace. It’s not just about avoiding war and violence, it’s about bringing peace. There’s a big difference.

“Christian pacifism is proactive, doing everything possible to bring about peace (without the use of violence). Pacifism isn’t an ideology reserved only for when nations and armies go to war, but it’s a personal decision that should be incorporated within our everyday lives.”

Syria & war: * 9 Questions about Syria You were too Embarrassed to Ask [required reading]; * Respond, But How? What We’re Missing On Syria; * I Support War with Syria, Almost; Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West [satire]; * Brutality of Syrian Rebels Pose Dilemma in West; * Intervention in the Third World: A Case for Masterly Inactivity [required reading]; * Shane Claiborne’s Statement on Syria; * What I – a Pacifist – Would say to Obama About the Crisis In Syria [essential reading; outstanding!]

* “If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren’t exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What’s happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it. Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions.”

* “When a head of state is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of his people and has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians — the world needs to respond. … Doing nothing is not an option. But how should we respond, and what are moral principles for that response?”

* “War against Syria? Sure! Let’s do it! I’m game. I think it sounds like a great idea, personally. Or, it would be a great idea if …”

* “… while the United States has said it seeks policies that would strengthen secular rebels and isolate extremists, the dynamic on the ground, as seen in the execution video from Idlib and in a spate of other documented crimes, is more complicated than a contest between secular and religious groups.”

* “Cast your mind back to the 1950s, the last time U.S. policy was in the hands of an experienced and crafty general, who knew well the foolish advice military men often give civil authorities and could see through the machinations of the hydra-headed creature he baptized “the military-industrial complex.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower was President from 1953-61, a time when America’s superiority over the rest of the world was far greater than it is today. He received countless invitations and demands for U.S. intervention but always refused them. Only once, in 1958 and at the request of Lebanon’s president, Camille Chamoun, did Eisenhower agree to station troops for a short while. He withdrew them as soon as possible, three months later, without having fired a shot.

“Eisenhower’s record of nonintervention is worth studying … Ike recognized that getting involved in a military adventure was very easy, especially if you had the resources. But getting uninvolved was quite another matter and entailed the very real risk of humiliation and defeat. He therefore concluded it was best to say no–and did so.”

* “… you cannot fight fire with fire, you only get a bigger fire. You fight fire with water. You fight violence with nonviolence.”

* “I don’t believe Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the need for disciples to adopt an enemy-loving, non-violent lifestyle was ever intended to serve as a mandate for how governments are supposed to respond to evil.”

this went thru my mind

 

Churches of Christ & LGBTQ: * All God’s Children: Loving our LGBTQ Friends As We Love Ourselves by Sean Palmer; * Mid-South Newspaper Ad Attacking Homosexuality Stirs Controversy

* “I love gay people. For many, it’s surprising to hear a Christian minister say that …”

* “Churches of Christ, and other Christian congregations in the U. S., have the perception of being repressive, exclusive and intolerant.  Young people are leaving institutional Christianity by droves.  There’s not an ad, no matter the author, that can adequately address these concerns.  And, by the way, if I were going to take a page out in the Commercial Appeal, I’d probably speak of the transforming love of Jesus for all.”

Faith, fear, forgiveness, meanness & politics: * Ain’t Skeered by Alan Stanglin; * The Kingdom of God and the Politics of Christianity by Doug Bursch; Putting Down the Hatchet by Ben Irwin

* “Isn’t it good to know that we Christians are immune to the scare tactics? Isn’t it comforting to know that we serve an almighty and loving King and that we belong to an eternal Kingdom that can never fall? Isn’t it a wonderful truth that we aren’t afraid of anything?”

* “My God is not the God of partisan politics, Facebook rants, and slanderous email forwards. My God does not take pleasure in tearing the other side apart. There are only two categories in my faith: those who have received the grace of God and those who are still rejecting that grace. It is not my job to defeat the enemies of God, it is my job to bring them the same love and grace that set me free. I don’t desire to be right, I desire to reconcile people to a God that will set them free.”

* “May we stand up and speak out for the causes that are dear to us. But may we always remember that on the other side of every issue, every debate, every election is a human being made in God’s image and loved just as dearly as we are.”

If only: Note From a Leader in the Military

“On October 1, 2001, President George W. Bush did not give the following speech to a special session of Congress.”

Learning: Ministry Inside.98 by Jim Martin

“Far too many people shut down long before they die.  Long ago they quit growing, stretching, and learning. In many instances, they have lost the joy in their lives. Your life doesn’t have to be like this.”

sermon follow-up: remember

Much of the world is remembering 9/11. Unquestionably that event, and particularly what we have chosen to remember about it, colors our thinking and perception of things. No doubt we’ve all learned some things from that day ten years ago and all of the days that have followed it. Those lessons may or may not be the right lessons to have learned, but we all surely claim to have learned something from 9/11 and that learning has affected our living ever since.

I want to hold up before you a memory, a living memory. I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, and am still learning, as the events of 9/11 have interfaced with him whom I follow, our Lord Jesus Christ. For by far the dominant memory that is to shape our thinking as Christ-followers is not the destruction of two towers, but the raising up of the Christ on a cross. Not the rejuvenation of a site of destruction, but the resurrection of the Son of God from the grave. If we are remember anything or anyone at all as Christians, we’re to remember Jesus Christ.

Think about what I’m saying; the Lord will give you understanding about everything. Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and descended from David. This is my good news. (2 Timothy 2:7-8 CEB)

As I remember Jesus Christ – the Christ of Scripture, not of emotion or tradition – these are some of the things that come to mind as I simultaneously my Lord and 9/11.

I remember Jesus Christ saw his Father as his source of strength. He said, “I honor my Father.” (John 8:49). This is what his life was all about: honoring the one from whom his strength flowed. The Father was his sustenance and the source of all nourishment to be shared, and is still shared, with us. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32). Now not everyone sees life, or their life in particular, this way. Most appear to see God and his strength as one among many sources of strength available to them. Some leave God out of the equation altogether. But as worshipers of the true and living God, we’re called to see things differently than the masses. “Some people trust in chariots, others in horses; but we praise the LORD’s name.” (Psalm 20:7)

I remember Jesus Christ lived his life completely free of resentment, slander, and violence. It might be impossible for us to do so completely, but it is our supreme task in life to imitate Jesus Christ as closely as possible. When we’re tempted to lean toward resentment, slander, or violence as ways to handle, or even as solutions to, life’s complexities, we as Christians see those things for what they are – temptations from hell – and so we take our stand against those temptations. This is what our Savior did and he is our Lord. I remember he said, “Don’t you think I’m able to ask my Father for more than twelve legions of angels right now?” (Matthew 26:53). And he could have … but he didn’t. When the suggestion of taking up arms was proposed to him, I remember how he looked the person making the suggestion – ironically, a very close disciple of his – right in the eye and flatly said, “Enough of that!” (Luke 22:38) Yes, when I remember 9/11 and view it through the lens of Jesus Christ, I can come to no other conclusion than this one: resentment, slander, and violence have no place in the lives of disciples of Christ.

I remember Jesus Christ wept with those who wept. I remember “Jesus wept” with, and for, those who grieved the death of a loved one, one also loved deeply by Jesus himself (John 11:35). I remember how on one occasion, as if with exasperation and a groan in spirit, he looked “into heaven and sighed deeply.” (Mark 7:34). We know that sort of sigh. We’ve sighed it ourselves when we’ve looked toward heaven and thought, “It’s just shouldn’t be this way. How long, O Lord, how long?” We weep with those who weep. Not merely for “the Americans” who lost their lives one day in the Twin Towers, but quite deliberately for the hundreds from fifty-five other nations who lost their lives as well that same day in the same place. We weep not only for the thousands of American troops who have lost their lives in the wars spawned from the events surrounding 9/11, and the tens of thousands more who have been maimed for life or their lives ruptured and their families fractured forever, but weep also for the hundreds of thousands more who, civilians and enemies alike, have been suffered the same, or worse, and are remembered by many as only so much “collateral damage” or a “victory.” No, when true Christians weep, they weep not for our nation alone, but for the world, and with our Lord who weeps no other way.

I remember Jesus Christ praised good in whoever he saw it. It mattered not their ethnic. It mattered not their language. It mattered not their nationality. It mattered not their religion, past or present. I remember how he looked at one, not of Israel, and declared for all to hear, “I haven’t found faith like this in Israel!” (Luke 7:9) If we praise only those who are like us, how are we better than the pagans? We must mimic our Master and do likewise. We must not dole out our praise of good to only those who are most like us. We must swim against the strong, continual current of partiality and hate that envelopes the lives of so many and, instead, live lives of impartiality and love.

I remember Jesus Christ loved all, including his enemies. I shudder to say this. I’m fearful to say it, but say it I feel I must. Some of my most horrific memories surrounding 9/11 and since don’t involve people leaping from a hundred stories up lest they burn to death. They aren’t about workers sifting through and breathing the ashes of those incinerated in the flames to try and find one yet alive. They don’t revolve around encounters with those who are still struggling daily with nightmares in their sleep from terrors they experienced on the battlefield years ago. Rather, they center on hate-filled words and vengeful anger from the lips of my brothers and sisters in Christ – yes, even from some of you – about “those people.” They turn on e-mail forwards which spouted horrendous declarations not at all like the Spirit of Christ, but all in the name of the red, white, and blue. Lord Jesus, forgive us! Would that I could banish these memories from my mind forever! Perhaps someday I’ll be able to do so, but may I sooner die than forget how my Lord’s own battered, bruised, and bleeding lips spoke from the stake, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34) Lord, make me and mine like you.

I remember Jesus Christ laid down his life for everyone. I remember how he didn’t just talk about love, but that he walked all his days exemplifying God’s love. His life was pure witness to his true words and his death undeniably sealed the testimony. I remember how he said, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) And he did. And his “friends” were all … including his betrayer, Judas. And so I recall how that if anyone will hear God’s call through my life, it will surely only be when my life matches my Lord’s words and ways. It will only be when I lay down my own life as he did with his. I ask you as I ask myself: how else will the Prince of Peace who spoke and lived the gospel of peace, work peace through you and me unless we too are deliberate, diligent peacemakers, laying down our lives daily for all to the end that his peace would come? This I remember.

But most of all I remember Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, that he rules from heaven now, and that he will return. I remember the greatest of the good news of Jesus Christ. “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) And indelibly stamped on my memory are his words, “I will return.” (John 14:3) Yes, this I remember; him, I remember.

My brothers and sisters. Friends and family. Neighbors and guests. Strangers and aliens. Citizens and foreigners. Church. Remember. Remember vividly. Remember demonstrably. “Remember Jesus Christ …

amen

“On 9/11 I thought, For the most powerful, militarized nation in the world also to think of itself as an innocent victim is deadly. It was a rare prophetic moment for me, considering Presidents Bush and Obama have spent billions asking the military to rectify the crime of a small band of lawless individuals, destroying a couple of nations who had little to do with it, in the costliest, longest series of wars in the history of the United States.

“The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.

“September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son.” – William Willimon, Christianity Today forum, “How Evangelical Leaders Have Changed Since 9/11,” Sept. 7, 2011