The Common Good

What Have We Learned Since 9/11?

Sojomail - September 9, 2010


"We came to have a peaceful conversation with the pastor, to hear his grievance, to ask him to follow his own Scripture about his enemies. His Scripture teaches him to love his enemies."

- Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, after meeting with preacher Terry Jones, whose church is planning to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday. (Source: USA Today)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" - our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

What Have We Learned Since 9/11?

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support

This Saturday, we commemorate the ninth anniversary of 9/11. It is with pain and sadness that we remember the day the towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked, and another plane full of passengers crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after brave citizens stopped the terrorists from hitting their target. For nine years the anguish of lost loved ones and the feeling of vulnerability we all felt as terrible acts of violence were perpetrated on our soil have stuck with us all.

At this time, it is also appropriate to ask, What have we learned? How have we grown as a country? How have we healed, or how have we, in our hurt, turned around and hurt others? These are not either/or questions. We have, in fact, done both: healed and wounded, learned and regressed, grown and shrunk back from the challenges before us. The challenges before us today lie in our ability to move forward in healing and building the cause of peace while remembering the lessons and lives lost in the past.

But rather than showing that we have grown in understanding, this anniversary has been marred by two events that show how the extremes can still control the discourse, both in America and around the world.

First, there has been near-universal condemnation of the Quran burning planned for this Saturday by Terry Jones and his Florida church. Opposition has come from Muslims, Christians, Jews; Republicans and Democrats; civilians, politicians (including the president), and generals.

What Jones doesn't seem to understand is that the message he is really sending is a sacrilegious slap in the face of Jesus Christ. If Jones and his followers go through with their plans to burn the Quran, they might as well burn some Bibles too, because they are already destroying the teachings of Jesus. Jesus called his followers to be peacemakers, and to love not only their neighbors, but also their enemies; instead Jones and his church have decided to become agents of conflict and division. Jones needs someone to tell him that Americans should not judge all Muslims by the actions of a small group of terrorists -- and I hope somebody tells Muslims around the world not to judge Christians, or all of America, by the actions of a radical fringe like the members of Dove World Outreach Center.

But just as the proclaimed faith of the terrorists bears no resemblance to the faith of most Muslims, the actions of Jones and his followers bear no resemblance to the faith of most Christians. Jones knows that his actions are legally protected, but if he follows through he should know that he makes a mockery of the teachings of Jesus and even puts our country and U.S. troops in danger.

If you are a pastor, especially an evangelical or charismatic pastor who might have a way to connect with Terry Jones, please contact him and tell him you are praying that he won't do this. If you are a Christian (and especially those who are members of a church in the Gainesville, Florida, area), please look into some of the other events that are being planned that day. Use this as an opportunity to be a prayerful presence for peace, love, and reconciliation -- for Jesus' sake. And send a message to the world about what our faith is truly about.

Second, an issue that many people are much more mixed about: Will building an Islamic community center within two blocks of Ground Zero help bring healing? Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who had the vision for the center, is a good friend I have known for many years. I've had the pleasure working beside him in building bridges between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. His heart and commitment to the work of reconciliation between people of different faiths and backgrounds has always shone through in everything that Feisal and his wife, Daisy Khan, do. They are genuine peacemakers, and I know this controversy about their dream of a community center pains them deeply. I do not doubt for a second that every action they have taken toward building this Islamic community center has been with peace and reconciliation in mind.

When the story first broke in The New York Times this past December, it was met with little interest. The fact that a moderate Muslim leader, who had lived and worked in the community of lower Manhattan for 25 years, was planning to build a community center was not considered controversial. Unfortunately, there were those who saw this as a political opportunity to create conflict and division and stir up ideological passions by distorting Imam Feisal's mission and purpose. He told the nation last night that if he had ever imagined that his plans would cause this much hurt and distress, he never would have proposed building the center at that location.

I do not believe the center of the debate is merely the community center's proximity to Ground Zero. Across the country, the building (and even existence) of mosques is being protested, others mosques are being vandalized, alarming attacks on individual Muslims are occurring, and now, an obscure and marginal group in Florida is planning to burn the Quran in the name of their extreme brand of Christianity -- getting the pastor's face on the front page of USA Today.

This conflict is really about the role that faith will play in America. It is about whether or not we will accept Muslim Americans as true Americans or second-class citizens. It is about whether we will blame millions of American Muslims and 1 billion Muslims worldwide for the actions of a small number of Muslims who try to use their brand of faith to murder innocent people. It is about whether or not the country will embrace a Muslim who seeks peace and wants to help rebuild lower Manhattan or reject him because of his religious beliefs.

This is a test of our character; and we dare not fail it.

E-mail E-mail this article to friends
Facebook Share this article on Facebook
Comment Comment on this article on the God's Politics Blog

Building a Movement

Human Trafficking on Craigslist and Around the World

The recent decision by Craigslist to block access to the "adult services" section of its site has brought attention to the issue of sex trafficking in the United States. Unfortunately, human trafficking is on the rise in our nation and around the world -- not only sex trafficking, but also all types of human slavery.

There are an estimated 27 million people in modern slavery worldwide, of which more than half are women or children. We are not powerless to fight human trafficking -- you can help make a difference by supporting passage of the Child Protection Compact Act in the U.S. Congress. The proposed legislation was specifically written to combat child slavery.

+Ask your member of Congress to combat child trafficking around the world by sending an email via Sojourners' website.

Inside Sojourners Magazine

All Who Labor: Is Sabbath Only for the Privileged Few?

"One of the persistent themes of my spiritual life over the last decade has been an effort to figure out what Sabbath-keeping might look like for a North American Christian in the early 21st century. I am not alone in longing for a Sabbath; in recent years a bumper crop of thoughtful books about Christian Sabbath-keeping have appeared, and almost every time I give a lecture or lead a workshop on something pertaining to Christian spirituality, someone in the audience asks me about Shabbat."

+Read more on Sabbath-keeping from author Lauren Winner in this month's Sojourners magazine.


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Glenn Beck: Does He Really Matter?
by Chuck Gutenson

In the course of our various responses and challenges to Glenn Beck, some have questioned why we have bothered. It is a fair question.
+ Click to continue

Beck: Calling Obama Racist was 'Stupid,' 'Ignorant'
by Jim Rice

The night before Glenn Beck's rally in Washington last month, Beck visited the studio where host Joe Madison does his XM radio show.
+ Click to continue

Flipped: A Film Review
by Brian McLaren

A lot of contemporary movies picture American suburban life as banal, hypocritical, and morally bankrupt -- a deceitful place where manicured landscapes and plastic surgery cover up empty, desperate realities.
+ Click to continue

Quran Burning is a Sacrilegious Slap in the Face of Christ
by Jim Wallis

The extremes now seem to dictate the political discourse -- extremists in caves who invoke their distorted brand of Muslim faith as they murder innocent people; and extremists in a Florida church who want to "send a message" to a billion Muslims around the world by threatening to burn hundreds of copies of the Quran in the name of their distorted brand of Christianity.
+ Click to continue

Throwing Out the Enslaved Girl With the Bathwater
by Elizabeth Palmberg

So far, Craigslist isn't explaining its dramatic decision last weekend to replace with the word "censored" its entire "adult services" section, a listing which activists and state attorneys general had protested as rife with the pimping of girls and women -- some of them under 18 or otherwise trafficked.
+ Click to continue

Which Corporations are Buying Your Candidates?
by LaVonne Neff

The midterm election season is upon us, the first since the Supreme Court's January 21 ruling that allows corporations to spend as much as they wish on political advertising -- as long as they disclose their involvement.
+ Click to continue

Is the Cordoba House "Insensitive"?
by Allen Johnson

According to a recent CBS poll, 71 percent of respondents said "no" to the question, "Is building a mosque near Ground Zero appropriate?" To another question -- "Do the developers have the right to build a mosque near Ground Zero," 67 percent answered, "yes."
+ Click to continue

Angel Island: History Repeats Itself
by Craig Wong

My name is Craig Wong, and I represent religious leaders of Chinese ancestry who recognize today's egregious immigration situation as a dark repeat of our own experience in 1900s San Francisco.
+ Click to continue

Craigslist Attorneys Threaten Georgia Anti-Trafficking Activists
by Letitia Campbell

Researchers and advocates hope that having a better understanding of who buys sex with young females and how they access these girls will help them to design more effective strategies for preventing the prostitution of children.
+ Click to continue

A Commentary on Caring for the Unemployed
by Jim Wallis

Scott talked about what it feels like to not have a job based on his conversations with people who are unemployed. He captured the loneliness, despair, and even sense of failure that people often experience -- even when their joblessness is not their fault.
+ Click to continue

Friday Links Round-Up: Awesomeness Reminders. Board Game Cafes. Conflict Minerals.
by Jeannie Choi

Here's a round up of links from around the web you may have missed this week.
+ Click to continue

Reclaiming Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy: Rejecting the Cup of Bitterness of Hate
by Johnathan Smith

Last weekend, the nation had an opportunity to reflect, commemorate, and celebrate the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.
+ Click to continue

Human Atrocities in Congo: What Can We Do?
by Julie Clawson

Between July 30 and August 3, a reign of terror was released upon villages in the Congo's eastern mining districts. Some 200 to 400 Rwandan and Congolese rebels raided villages in the North Kivu Province and gang-raped nearly 200 women and children.
+ Click to continue

Faith in the Park51 Muslim Community Center
by Joshua M.Z. Stanton

Faith cannot exist without doubt. The lack of certainty enables us to engage in the holy, human endeavor of believing when we do not have empirical proof.
+ Click to continue

Hope for the Holy Land
by Lynne Hybels

Two years ago, as I listened to the escalating rhetoric of hate in the international media, I became haunted by the thought that Christians, Muslims, and Jews are going to blow up the world.
+ Click to continue

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

T-Shirts That Teach. Start a conversation everywhere you go with Sojourners' tees on faith and social justice. Click here for more information. Starting at $10.

Faith and Finances: Christians and the Economic Crisis. Sojourners’ new discussion guide gives a faithful perspective on money, power, and stewardship. Great for Sunday school classes, small groups, sermon preparation. Download now.

Wisdom for your commute: Download audio talks by Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Lucy Winkett and more. Shop the SojoStore.

Scared of being ‘left behind’? What does Revelation really teach us? Explore this question with Sojourners’ four-part study guide, Christians and the Apocalypse. Use it this Sunday with your small group - available online. Click here.

Click Here!

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: | Advertising: | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.