9/11: Why We Still Have to Talk About It

Two years later, the 9/11 attacks provoke Americans to reflect on some big questions about faith and the human spirit.

 

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'Maybe the most amazing story is that church attendance didn't decline after Sept. 11'
Dr. Will Willimon, Dean of Duke Chapel, Duke University

A Gallup poll noted that there was a 20 percent increase in church attendance after 9/11 and 3 months later, it was back down. There was also a huge amount of church activity during World War Two and afterward, when people were getting back to normal. The churches in England, too, were filled during the war. But we should have learned from those historical precedents that it doesn't continue after people get through the basic crisis.

I wonder whether people came seeking consolation, but found that many times the consolation that Jesus gives is not the consolation we thought we needed. Someone told me at that time, "I just didn't find what I was looking for." Maybe what Americans were looking for, Christianity doesn't always deliver.

C.S. Lewis said that the Christian faith is a thing of marvelous comfort, but it usually doesn't begin in comfort. It often begins in the pain of asking hard questions and telling the truth. So maybe the most amazing story is that church attendance didn't decline after 9/11.

We had prayer here at noon every day after 9/11, with different campus ministers leading the prayer. We'd have 20 or 30 people each day. Then on Friday, the president called a national day of prayer, and we walked out to see about 500 people gathered. We had no microphone, no music. The leader that day was an evangelical Christian. He said, "Let us pray," and then led the people in a 15-minute prayer of confession. He confessed our promiscuity, our adultery, our militarism, our pride, our sin. Man, was the congregation mad. But that's what our faith asks from us, and it's an amazing moral achievement.

'I do not need to go back to that day to be reminded'
Beliefnet member jeanette 1

Looking back takes me somewhere I don't want, or more importantly, need to be. My eyes are on the future and I'm attempting to live in the present.

Let me share an experience I had. In Australia, spring starts in September. A few days after 9/11, I sat on the beach watching a young father dangle the legs of his toddler in waves and I watched families play in the sand, and older couples walking along the edge of the waves. I felt an enormous sadness, but I also felt that those who died would not have wanted people to forsake the joys of love, of relationships, of nature.

Denying ourselves of joy and peace do nothing to honour those. I do not need to go back to that day to be reminded. I simply need to live my life and cherish all the gifts in it.

'We have reached, not a bump in the road, but a real turning point'
Imam 'Abdur-Rahim Muhammad, assistant imam of the Islamic Center in Syracuse, N.Y.

Healing, like life, is not just an event, but a process marked by events. For those who would quickly minimize these events for reasons that disregard the impact on all of us--not just the families and survivors whose wounds are still healing, whose tragedy deserves great respect--the call to "get over it" rings very hollow.

Rather than "move on" numbly, impervious to pain, we might strive instead to move forward humbly--ready to improve and correct our lives, so that we as a nation of people can grow, the way human beings are supposed to.

Why humble? Why not proud? Because all of our religions say the same about the arrogant and the smug--and because we have reached, not a bump in the road, but a real turning point in the history of America. Where, as Dr. King asked, do we go from here? May we each, and all, be blessed to make the best effort we can. My offer is one of hope.

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