Eucharist: Middle English eukarist, from Anglo-French eukariste, from Late Latin eucharistia, from Greek, Eucharist, gratitude, from eucharistos grateful, from eu- + charizesthai to show favor, from charis favor, grace, gratitude; akin to Greek chairein to rejoice
When people think about 9/11, what do people think about as we look from our point in existence on this day of September 11, 2011? Do we think about the victims? Do we think about the people that gave their lives trying to rescue others? Do we think about where we were that day?
These are all ways to look at that day and there are many more. The horror of those images live with us. But along with those images of horror are images of courage, of self-sacrifice, of compassion. And then I think back to the 19 men who committed that terrible act. These were human beings like you and me. And they did this....these 19 human beings did this...
So we (as part of the Episcopal Student Association at Purdue) joined the folks of our church The Chapel of the Good Shepherd to gather at Food Finders Food Bank to package beef crumbles and sort other food, and then we celebrated the "Holy Eucharist". In the Episcopal Church, the celebration of the Eucharist is a central part of our lives. This is also true in other Christian traditions and without going into the theological similarities and differences of what it "means", it comes down to this: the connection to the supper celebrated by Jesus that was based on Jewish rituals and customs (according stories in the 'Gospels'), to having bread and wine, to having a meal with others, to giving thanks, the "new covenant", etc.
And that's what we did at Food Finders after were done with our work. On the way back I started to think back to the couple of hours we spent there, of what we did there. Then I thought about that day 10 years ago, and the 19 men...
(I ask you to take a few minutes to thing about this: what if instead of these 19 men being "Muslim" would have been "Puerto Rican"? How would my life have been for the last 10 years and for others from Puerto Rico? What if instead of "Muslim" they were Japanese Americans? What if instead of "Muslim" they were from Mexico? Or "Mormons"? Or "Jewish"? Or "Pagans"? Or "Christians"? And each group left a note of their "reasons" for doing this, religious or non-religious"?)
These 19 men did this. Then I asked myself "What if"? What if these 19 men, instead of doing this would instead....
1) Have done what millions of their Muslim brothers and sisters did that same day here and around the world going to work as doctors, nurses, police, teachers, etc.
2) Have done what millions of their Muslim brothers and sisters did that same day here and around the world in, for example, being there for a family member that was in the hospital waiting for an operation.
3) Have done what millions of their Muslim brothers and sisters did that same day here and around the world living their lives in peace....
Then that day would been different, much different. But it was not.
And I read news articles and blog entries, along with Facebook notes and comments of many of us remembering that day. And I am happy to see so many words of respect, of reflection, of asking, including plans and ideas of what we could do and what we can do to avoid this from happening again.
But it saddens me that still to this day to some people "Muslim" means "Terrorist", or "Potential Terrorist". To some some people from other faiths they come to the tragic conclusion that 9/11 was a manifestation of a religion that is incapable of love...a religion of violence. To the millions of Muslims that have never engaged in an act of violence, I thank you for your service, for your compassion, and for proving these conclusions as false with the way you live your lives.
But still, some take their conclusions further....
I have seen the following in a couple of places around Facebook, from Atheist thinker, scientist, and author Sam Harris who said in his latest blog entry:At a minimum, we must create the conditions for human flourishing in this life—the only life of which we can be certain. That means we should not terrify our children with thoughts of hell, or poison them with hatred for infidels. We should not teach our sons to consider women their future property, or convince our daughters that they are property even now. And we must decline to tell our children that human history began with magic and will end with bloody magic—perhaps soon, in a glorious war between the righteous and the rest.
I as a Christian agree that to create the conditions for human flourishing in this life is something to work for. But also as a Christian I have a daughter and I am not terrifying her with the thoughts of hell, or poison her with hatred for infidels, or that because she is my daughter she is my property and that if she gets married she will be property of her husband. And I am not the only Christian father that does not.
He goes on:
One must be religious to fail the young so abysmally—to derange them with fear, bigotry, and superstition even as their minds are forming—and one cannot be a serious Christian, Muslim, or Jew without doing so in some measure.
So then according to his reasoning I am not a "serious" Christian since I am not doing any of this, including many others like me.
He also said:
Ten years have now passed since many of us first felt the jolt of history—when the second plane crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. We knew from that moment that things can go terribly wrong in our world—not because life is unfair, or moral progress impossible, but because we have failed, generation after generation, to abolish the delusions of our ignorant ancestors.
Before I say anything else, I will say this: I agree (like Sam Harris) that separation of church of state is important. History has far too many lessons about this. I also agree (like Sam Harris) that the civil rights of atheists and other non-theists should be respected, including their right to criticize religion, and to pursue a path that can lead my Atheist brothers and sisters (along with anyone) to create the conditions for human flourishing in this life...
But when it comes to the conclusions and comments in the article, I thought I was listening to someone else; not to a an Atheist thinker but to a certain Christian who once said:I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'
When we conclude that those that think in a different way from us, or are "different" from us, are guilty OR will be guilty of the horrors in the world then Sam Harris is no different from someone like Jerry Falwell.
Jerry Falwell believed that people different from him (pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays etc) either let the horrible things in this world happen and also will either cause these horrible things themselves or potentially will do them any day because all of them who have tried to secularize America.
Sam Harris believes that people different from him (Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc) either let the horrible things in this world happen and also will either cause these horrible things themselves or potentially will do them any day because sins against reason and compassion do not represent the totality of religion, of course—but they lie at its core and only "non-serious" Christians, Muslims, and Jews and non-theists would not give in to the the delusions of our ignorant ancestors. To him faith does not point to if someone can do something like 9/11 but instead that the core of religion is something that can make me at any moment do something like 9/11 because my faith could make me come to the conclusion that I am doing the "right thing". Even more, the lives of people of faith not doing these horrible things to him is "irrelevant".
But Mario you may ask, how can you even compare the thinking of these two figures? Sam Harris is NOT like Jerry Falwell and Jerry Falwell WAS NEVER like Sam Harris. I would say yes, you are correct. But they share at least one thing: how to see others that are different from them. One thought that not having a religion like him would eventually drive this 'other' to a life of horror for him and everyone else. Another thought that having a religion would eventually drive this 'other' to a life of horror for him an everyone else. To both of these thinkers, it is only a matter of time, that history has taught us that far too many times to ignore this.
History has also taught us that the moment we start to think that WE are in some way superior to OTHERS.....
History has also taught us that the moment we start to think that OUR way is the ONLY RIGHT way.....................
But not every believer is this way, thinks this way, or acts this way.
But not every non-believer is this way, thinks this way, or acts this way.
I am happy to say that there are many Atheists who have a different way of looking at people of faith. Many of my Atheist brothers and sisters respect me, and we want to learn from one another for the benefit of all. To you I say thank you!!!! I am also happy to say that there are many people of faith who have a different way of looking at atheists. Many of us instead look at an Atheist brother and sister and know that she/he is an equal and can be a good member of society. To you I say thank you!!!
So, will we let 9/11 be about the 19 men who did that act of violence 10 years ago?
Will we let 9/11 be ONLY about the "errors" and the potential dangers of being a non-believer?
Will we let 9/11 be ONLY about the "errors" and the potential dangers of being a believer?
Or will we let 9/11 be about believers and non-believers working together, crying together, laughing together and pursuing ways to ease suffering (physical, emotional, etc) around the world like many of them do right now as we speak? Because they acknowledge their differences but do not let those differences turn to something terrible.
To many of us 9/11 is about believers and non-believers saying in a loud voice: "No, I am not 'better' than you." About believers and non-believers saying in a loud voice: "I stand with you."
About the believers and non-believers who were (like a friend of mine reminded of) among the 343 firefighters, 23 NYPD officers, 37 PAPD officers, numerous private EMS workers, and countless civilians gave their lives so that others could live. About the believers and non-believers among the 6,207 military personnel that have given their lives since that day.
And who knows...maybe believers and non-believers can find a food bank in their area, work there together for a few hours, then go together to a restaurant of their choosing and share a good meal....just a thought :)