Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reflections on 9/11

Last fall, September 11th fell on a Sunday.

Churches all over floundered to commemorate the 10-year anniversary in some way. The church we attended turned it into a patriotic service reminiscent of the Fourth of July. Retirees dug out their military uniforms for the occasion. The choir led everyone in a zealous rendition of "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory", an odd Civil War anthem about men meting out judgement and destruction in God's name, and volunteering to die for His cause.

But I best remember the Sunday School class. An elderly Marine was proudly sporting his old uniform. We ate donuts and went around the table answering questions from the lesson plan about how the 9/11 attack had affected us. The Marine waxed nostalgic: "When the Japanese attacked us, we knew what to do with them. We rounded them up and put them in internment camps. Too bad we couldn't do that after 9/11." I was dumbfounded. This church had been an oasis of peace and kindness for me, but the people dressing in their Sunday best to sit in the pews or sing in the choir week after week. . .was this how they felt?

My exposure to religion leads me to paint it all with a broad brush. Religion hurts people. No matter how mild a God you believe in, he is your god, not the god of the others. And this distinction alone is sharp enough to be hurtful, no matter how good or kind you want your god to be.

Either All of Humankind is one big awkward family (with other life forms being extended relations), or my family is "the set of those who share my speculations about an afterlife and the character of a Supreme Being" and everyone else is an outsider and a threat.