Sep 2010 11

What should be guiding our prayers at this time of year as we remember 9/11 as both Christian believers (and more specifically as GECNY, a local church in Astoria) and New Yorkers? It struck me today, what with the furore surrounding Ground Zero and the mosque, that all sides in this are displaying a ‘partly-justified righteous anger’ as the victims in the whole situation.

What do I mean by this? On the one hand, Americans are victims in that they have had their loved ones viciously torn away from them at 9/11 and their national pride massively wounded and they therefore feel that this justifies their appeal for sensitivity regarding the location of the mosque. The Muslim world, on the other hand feel that, however horrific the events of one day, no American can ever truly understand the feeling of being a victim until they have stepped into the shoes of a Muslim and experienced the centuries-long victimisation that the Muslim world has experienced at the hands of the West.

Since both sentiments are ‘partly’-justified (for although both parties are truly victims in some sense, no side is completely in the right), it seems that both appeals must be heard and therefore little or no progress can be made.

That is… until we look upon the face of the man who became the ultimate victim, having no fault of his own whatsoever. This man was Jesus Christ. He willingly enduring the ultimate humiliation of dying on a cross for the sake of those who had wronged him. His death is considered today by Christians to be redemptive (and therefore the only hope for peace) because he was:

  • (1) the only one who truly understood that only giving your life for the ‘good’ (ie. not suicide bombing) of your enemies can break the cycle of violence and death and…
  • (2) the only one with the power to do so,
    • (i) as God, it being in his nature to give of himself, and
    • (ii) as man having no fault of his own and consequently no bondage to death and evil.

As Thomas Schmidt put it:

“The contemporary culture of victimisation, where fundamentalists of the right and left whine in harmony, can hardly comprehend a God who embraces victimisation in order to redeem people, one at a time.”

Both sides are full of pride; Americans with a self-righteous form and Muslims with a self-pitying form. The church is no exception, for rather than point to Christ, we point to ourselves and how we are so above these petty disputes, and so make ourselves into hypocrites…

Our prayer, therefore, as a church, must be not to put ourselves forward as the solution but to appeal to God to turn people’s heads to look upon Christ on the cross — him we proclaim — who now reigns above all in resurrected power and who is able to save all who call on his name, both Muslim and non. Only then will this impasse be breached as the glory of Christ on the cross emanates within and without our society through people giving themselves for the sake of others, even (especially) their enemies.

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