Dark Days

Christmas, 2001


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1998: Christmas Remembered
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I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head,
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Many of us have no trouble believing these verses after the terrible year that has been 2001. For us Americans, it was the year that terrorism finally became a clear and present reality in our lives. In the past we have felt ourselves immune from the fear and terror which have held so many millions enslaved, from Israel to Ireland to Indonesia, Chechnya to Kosovo to South America. Now the fear and terror are ours too, and against our will we become citizens of the world. It is not a citizenship of which to be very proud.

I am personally very troubled and sad. These events have affected my feelings, perhaps out of proportion for one who had no friends or family killed or injured. I grieve for the thousands of innocent victims.

I fear the forces unleashed in our land in response to the terror. It seems that persons in positions of authority have used the pretext of national security to advance their own personal and corporate agendas. We are told that if we speak out against drilling for oil in Alaska, or building a "missile defense shield" which would have been useless on September 11, or the potential escalation of the use of detention centers and military tribunals - if we voice our opinions on these issues, we are told that we are aiding and abetting terrorism. I do not understand this. Our right to honest disagreement as American citizens, under the First Amendment, seems imperiled.

I fear that we are too willing to give up our liberties for the promise of "security." I sense a major essay topic for the near future here, but for now I repeat the quote on my home page from C.S. Lewis:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: If you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.

"And in despair I bowed my head..." for I do not see comfort in the aftermath of the tragedy. I must admit my skepticism of the next verse of the carol:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead, nor does he sleep;
The wrong shall fail,
The right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.

I'm not so sure.

How does "the right prevail"?

What is "right"? Is it "our side"? How do we know that?

We are very quick to characterize those whom we believe produced the terrorist attack as "evildoers." In our minds, there's no question they are evil. I will admit the evil of their deeds in the murder of the innocents. I'm not arguing that point.

But in the minds of millions in other countries, we are seen as the evil ones, receiving retribution for our evil deeds. How do we deal with this perception? Do we write it off as unworthy of comment or analysis? Do we say, "they are so obviously wrong, we can ignore them"? Or do we dare to investigate why they feel such hatred for us? If we do not give some thought to the mindset of the terrorist, we will be forever at the mercy of future attacks.

Here is what bothers me the most: the evil deeds of September 11 were done in the name of religion. The attackers were absolutely certain they were serving their God, who wants them to kill as many nonbelievers as possible. A bloodthirsty God indeed. But the radical Islamic fundamentalists are not the only ones who hate in the name of their God.

In Pakistan and India the Muslims and the Hindus have been enemies for generations. The Israelis have been at war with their Palestinian neighbors and their allies virtually since their nation was reestablished in 1948, all in the name of God. In northern Ireland, a continuing hatred of one Christian group for another has produced the "troubles" which have spread far outside the borders of that region.

Does our God tell us to hate those who are different in their beliefs?

Right now I despair of our experiencing peace. I am in agreement with these words written by Bono, of my favorite band U2:

Heaven on Earth
We need it now
I'm sick of all of this
Hanging around
Sick of sorrow
Sick of pain
Sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be
Peace on Earth.

Jesus could you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth.
To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

Jesus this song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth
I hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history don't rhyme
So what's it worth?
This peace on Earth?

©2000 Universal International
Music Publishing B.V.

Jesus said:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40

Do we really believe that love is the essential, the cornerstone of our being and our behavior? Why don't our actions reflect this?

A man who claims to know and speak God's will said of the events of September 11:

"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.'"

Jerry Falwell

To seize the opportunity to blame the mass murder of innocents on segments of the American people who do not agree with his limited vision is a sad commentary on the state of our "Christian" leadership.

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus - who will step forward and say, "In the name of love, this must stop"?

I don't see any responders. All are still operating on the premise of "My God is better than your God." All are willing to eliminate the others in the name of their one true religion.

Peace on Earth?

Not this year.

I am troubled and sad.