It is good and right to feel angry. Lewis Smedes wrote: "Anger is the executive power of human decency." Anger in the face of injustice is evidence that we contain within us the nature of God.
The most helpful thing said by anyone after the attack: “Pray for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security, wisdom of the grace of God--that as we act we not become the evil we deplore” – Rev. Nathan Baxter at the National Cathedral.
The least helpful thing said by anyone after the attack: “...our responsibility...is....to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.” - President Bush. Alexander Solzhenitizyn was right when he said: “If only it were so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." (I must also say that I thought President Bush’s address to Congress was magnificent.)
We must recognize the similarities between the terrorists and ourselves (relates to the above two points). We, like them, have done evil in our attempts to achieve justice. Prime examples: We killed innocent people in Hiroshima. Innocent Palestinians are killed in the West Bank today by weapons we pay for.
We must recognize the differences between the terrorists and ourselves. I affirm Reinhold Niebuhr’s observation during World War II that it is important for us to make relative distinctions. There is a great deal of difference between innocents being killed as "collateral damage" (I hate that phrase) and innocents being the primary target (I recognize that the distinction may be lost by the victims).
Two scripture passages we must not cut out of our Bibles:
“...it is not for nothing that they (rulers - government) hold the power of the sword, for they are God’s agents of punishment, for retribution on the offender.” Romans 13:4 (NEB)
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also... You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:39ff (RSV)
The most notable worship service held after the attack: The one at Wedgwood Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. Two years ago, Wedgwood Baptist had its own terrorist attack. A gunman opened fire in the church, killing seven and wounding seven others before killing himself. The Sunday after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the congregation sang, "He's got Osama bin Laden in his hands ..."
©2001 C. David Hess