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Columnists Respond to 9/11: Part 1

EthicsDaily.com recently posed the following question to its columnists: “Has the world changed since 9/11? If so, how?” Columnists respond below. More responses will run in part 2 on Tuesday.

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Columnists respond below. More responses will run in part 2 on Tuesday.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

Doug Weaver (professor of Christianity and chair of the religion and philosophy division at Brewton-ParkerCollege in Mt. Vernon, Ga.):
 
Soon after the attacks of 9/11 I thought about my former student, a Palestinian who now lives in New York. I was worried about his safety, not from people who know his peaceful nature, but from the possibility of random violence. When the subsequent anthrax scares multiplied American fears, I worried about my brother’s family who lives in a suburb of D.C. Since 9/11 all of our fears have become more public as well as more widespread. I must admit that during my first trip to the airport since 9/11 I watched the crowd a bit more than I read the book in my lap. We all desire security and safety and consequently, many in the post 9/11 world would forsake some of our religious freedom in America. We must be, however, even more vigilant in our support of religious liberty. Only where there is religious freedom can we withstand the bloodshed that accompanies religion gone awry.
 
Roger Thomas (pastor of NortheastBaptistChurch in Atlanta):
 
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, our family was staying at my parents’ home. We had traveled to South Carolina to be with my parents as my father continued his recovery from a severe stroke. My wife slept in that day, while my mother, my 2-year-old daughter and I got ready to leave for the hospital to visit my dad. That morning, we turned the TV on PBS and my daughter watched Big Bird, Barney, and Clifford the Big Red Dog while we were getting ready. We never changed the channel, and no news source ever broke into the educational broadcast. Only when we got in the car to travel to the hospital and I turned on the radio did we learn of the tragedy. My first impressions of 9/11 were all via audio, only later enhanced by stunning visuals. All of us will always remember where we were when the news first came to us. For me, every time my daughter laughs and sings with Barney or Elmo in the morning, I wonder what else is happening in our world. How has the world changed? Many ways. One way is that though we may still do everything the same way we always did, and my guess is most of us do, I think many have lost a sense of serenity, which perhaps really only existed in our minds in the first place.  
 
Steve Sumerel (director of the department of family life and substance abuse, of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s council on Christian life and public affairs):
 
I have now formulated at least three answers in my mind … one hopeful, one fearful, and one that is downright cynical. I have equated the 9/11 story to our preoccupation with Monica and O.J., and then felt ashamed as I put it along side Pearl Harbor. In trying to decide where I am in all of this it dawned on me that our nation is still in its first year of dealing with a major crisis. The answer depends on what day you ask me, or even what time of day. It depends on where the market is or if the baseball players are going on strike. As a nation, I think our happiness is happier, our sadness is sadder, and our anger borders on madness. We are in the first year of grief and we need time to heal.
Jim Ball (executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network and publisher of Creation Care magazine):
I would say that they haven’t changed enough. Our dependence on foreign oil helped to bring about the attacks. What have we done to reduce our dependence on such oil—as Christian individuals, as leaders in the business community, as citizens of a democracy? What has our government done? The crucifixion and resurrection teach us that God is in the business of creating good out of evil circumstances. Let’s do that in the post-9/11 world by reducing our use of oil. Walk, bike, take public transportation. Drive a fuel efficient car. Advocate for policies that increase fuel efficiency. Such activities will also reduce pollution that impacts human health. It’s a nice combination of patriotism and Christian love.
Mike Parnell (pastor of BurgawBaptistChurch in Burgaw, N.C.):
 
A point that I want to make about change in us since 9/11 is something I have seen in the movies I have seen this summer. Much of the movie production for this summer was before 9/11, but the theme of determinism is very evident in the movies. I have seen in “Minority Report,” which may be about the future but is as timely as today. There we see people arrested for the intention of crime. Does the thought of killing make it murder? Jesus says “Yes,” but legally it is not.  In “Road to Perdition” we see a man caught in a whirlpool of a life that he knows will lead to his demise, but he hopes for better for his son. In “Lilo and Stitch,” Stitch is thought incapable of change, but does. What does this say about the world? I think it speaks to the belief that we are going to have to live with an uncertain world in which we must work to resist the factors of determinism that say we will be under attack no matter what we do.
 
Everett C. Goodwin (senior minister of the ScarsdaleCommunityBaptistChurch in Scarsdale, N.Y.):
 
It feels to me like what we had perceived (maybe imagined?) as a growing sense of “world connection” has been profoundly eroded. Instead of thinking in terms of “global economy,” “global community,” international fellowship, connections and the like, we now have an enlarged view of division and distinctives in the most negative sense: “who is for us” and “who is against us” and “who is Christian, who is Muslim, who is in favor of democracy, who condones authoritarianism”—and many other examples. Choose an arena: social, political, religious or economic, and all the players seem to be suspicious of one another’s motives, intentions and plans. We now have the feel of what I imagine it must have felt like in the late Middle Ages as old unities came unstuck and everyone identified himself or herself with family and clan, or at most a small community of interest.
 
John M. Finley (senior minister of FirstBaptistChurch, Savannah, Ga.):
 
I am sure that the world is different since Sept. 11, but it is often easier to recognize the superficial changes than the profound. Almost immediately there was an American flag flying on every house on our street, and the local Wal-Mart went from selling Georgia-South Carolina maps to those depicting Afghanistan and Pakistan. Americans, by and large, seem to have reacted with more anger and pride than at any time in our history since World War II, having experienced for ourselves a real taste of the pain, suffering, and terror that much of the rest of the world encounters on a daily basis. Acts of terrorism have taught us some real lessons about our own mortality and the fragile nature of life, forcing many of us to reexamine and reprioritize the way we spend our time. Yet, a year later, one of the most frightening things to me is how many Americans approach their lives by doing business as usual. We lost our innocence on Sept. 11, but I am not sure that we are that much wiser for it.
 
Paul Montacute (director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance):
 
Not for a lot of people. They still wake up, and go to bed, hungry. They still have no clean water to drink. They lack even the most basic of medicines. Their only shelter is a tarpaulin sheet. Their human and religious rights are abused. They cannot live a life of dignity. When will we in the “North” and “West” realize that there is more to life and death on this planet than our politicians and media manipulators would have us know?
 
The image of Ground Zero in Manhattan is kindly provided by Digital Globe (www.digitalglobe.com). A larger-scale image is available at the Web site.