Thursday, September 11, 2014

... from thence he shall come

Thirteen years ago, our nation experienced an horrific act of violence when men who claimed to act on behalf of God hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The intersection of religious zealotry, politics, and the nihilism of a Middle Eastern underclass conspired to destroy and kill on 9/11/2001.

I was the mother of two young daughters that day. I watched the events unfold live on television in a surreal nightmare of waking time. Everything would change ... but what that meant was not clear. My immediate thoughts were how to explain the unexplainable to a three-year old and a seven-year old. Hell, I didn't even know how to explain this to myself! There are no words to make sense of senselessness. I grieved that two little girls were exposed to such a horror as this and dreaded what it would mean for the world they would know.

Thirteen years have passed. My little girls are not little anymore: one is in college and the other a junior in high school. They have only known of their country at war and yet a war largely ignored and hidden from their eyes. The body counts and images of Vietnam I grew up with on television are replaced by the denial of "reality TV." Pictures of the caskets of our war dead taken when they arrived at Dover AFB ... suppressed in the media. War is a unreal reality for them and they do not know its cost.

What have we learned in thirteen years? I still do not know exactly. We've learned to be more polarized - "us" versus "them." We do it in our politics and in how we view foreigners. We've learned that our soldiers and their families pay a horrible price for being sent to fight when we don't always have a clear understanding of who the enemy is. We've learned that many of the factions we once sided with are now against us. We've internalized more violence and seen it spill into how we treat each other as we watch professional athletes beat their intimate partners or shoot them in bathrooms as they cower in fear or see those charged to protect us shooting unarmed youth. We are an anxious, fearful nation - a collective raw nerve.

I have no answers ... only grief and lament. Not only for the dead on 9/11 and for all who have died on both sides of wars that seem not to end, but also for the death of the world I once knew.

I cannot shake the old wording of the Apostle's Creed that I learned as a small child. Concerning our belief in Jesus Christ, we said he was:
... conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I doubt the existence of hell or heaven as places, per se. Rather, I believe they are states of existence in which we live - and it is much of our own making. We either live in the presence and awareness of God (heaven) or we reject and estrange ourselves from the presence of God (hell). But regardless of my own understanding ... I still pray that from the "heavenly thence" Christ will come to judge the quick and the dead and I long for the day when that which seems irreparably broken will be healed and set right.

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