The Role of Religion after September 11th
The Role of Religion after September 11th
Fellow world kings, presidents, and leaders:
In a time of despair and emptiness, the world we knew has changed forever. Perhaps in this day and age, it is difficult to fathom why anyone would mastermind the attacks of September 11th. In the time that has followed that fateful day, news organizations have ingrained into our brains images of planes crashing into buildings, people jumping from windows many stories up, abandoned shoes among the rubble, and — of course –images of the victims and their families. As madness and insanity engulfed our nation, some of us blame God for the things that have happened and for not helping us out when we really need his help. You cannot blame God for our own problems, as he is not the one who is responsible for our sins and miseries. In these times of hopelessness, we need to live in a Kingdom of Heaven. In order to live in this Kingdom of Heaven we are reminded that blessed are those that are hungry, blessed are those that are poor, blessed are those that are weeping, to make peace with our brothers and then come back, and to turn the other cheek. If we are reminded of these things we can only merely begin to live in harmony with the world.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Jesus does not mean physical hunger and thirst, which may foster either goodness or despair and greed. A hungry person has a gnawing sense of emptiness in his stomach. He knows “I need food.” But a person who is well fed isn’t looking for anything to eat. So Jesus is talking about spiritual hunger, the hunger of a heart that senses a need for spiritual food. That is why we come to church to be fed, and we read the Bible to feed on the Bread of Life. But people who are satisfied with what the world has to offer never feel hungry for God. Let us not forget all the starving children who live in war everyday, because they are the ones who (according to Jesus’ teachings) will overcome us in the Kingdom of Heaven. God represents righteousness and the kingdom of the heavens is the realm of righteousness. At the most, only a few can attain righteousness. Consequently those who simply persevere in their desire for righteousness are worthy of reward.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) Actual poverty is not a blessing. Rather the poverty spoken of is the poverty of the human condition. The poor know they could do with warm clothes and a shelter for the night. The contrast is rich people who imagine that money solves every problem. They can immediately get what they want with their credit card. So they don’t need to look to God. They think they have it all. So we are reminded that all those who have nothing will have everything in the Kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Matthew 5:4) And if you see someone crying, you know he or she is sensing a need. Little children cry when they are scared or lonely or in pain or just needing to be cuddled, and they look to their parents to come and be with them. “Blessed are you that weep now” does not mean that God wants us to be unhappy crying all day. But he loves to bless us when we run to him like little children crying for the love of their parents. Some of you parents will remember how your teenage children suddenly didn’t want your love any more. You felt it when all they cared about was falling in love, and the love of their friends. And God feels it when like teenagers we no longer cry out to him for his kind of love. But what did Jesus mean when he said “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). It certainly does not mean that happy laughter is bad. But there is plenty of bad laughter around. On a school playground you can see mean kids laughing and mocking an unfortunate child. “Mary is retarded. Mary is retarded.” Some people laugh and sneer at everything good and beautiful. When you are laughing at poor people, and mocking immigrants, and despising simple-minded people, you are not crying out to God for the wisdom of the Spirit to care for them and love them.
“When you are offering your gift to the altar, if you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23) Clearly this saying assumes the continuation of Jewish sacrificial offerings. The still unforgiving grievance clearly destroys the purpose and meaning of the sacrifice. To offer a gift of love to God while still hating your brother is contradictory: you can’t love God and hate your brother. It is not that the sacrifice is less important but the grudge against the brother destroys its integrity. So if you have thoughts of revenge in times of war, you cannot love and live the life if God at the same time.
“If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other one also.” (Luke 6:29) Usually a slap on the right cheek would have to be give by the back of the right hand of the slapper, increasing the humiliation. To turn the other cheek is a provocative invitation. It exposes the act of the slapper as morally repulsive and challenges him. To continue to act in the same way is simply to reveal himself as an uncivilized person. So because someone attacks war on us, we should let them because it will show how less of a person they are and they will have their punishment is the Kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are poor for yours in the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. And blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. When you are offering your gift to the altar, if you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other one also” At first sight the words sound very paradoxical, but they make us think about the blessings that Jesus wants us to enjoy and to live peacefully.