Imagine a country where fundamentalist extremists, with tens of thousands of unquestioning followers, can justify violence by blaming it on the supposed sins of certain fellow citizens. Welcome to America.
One week ago, just two days after the terrorist attack of September 11, Reverend Jerry Falwell said on national TV that America got "probably what we deserved." Falwell blamed gays, lesbians, feminists, the ACLU, and People for the American Way for making God mad at America: "I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" - "I totally concur," said Reverend Pat Robertson, Falwell's host on "The 700 Club."
Falwell and Robertson have clearly demonstrated that they are in full agreement with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in their criticism of secular American society, and their desire to start a holy crusade against it, the end of which is government by the clergy and [their narrow interpretation of] religious doctrine.
I'm still waiting for President Bush to say what he plans to do with these particular evil-doers, and whether it will be through targeted missile strikes, air raids, or ground invasion.
But seriously, for a more reasonable religious response to last week's events, read this letter, signed by progressive clergy from all of America's religious groups:
"We, American religious leaders, share the broken hearts of our fellow citizens. ... In the face of such a cruel catastrophe, it is a time to look to God and to each other for the strength we need and the response we will make. We must dig deep to the roots of our faith for sustenance, solace, and wisdom...
"... we offer a word of sober restraint as our nation discerns what its response will be. We share the deep anger toward those who so callously and massively destroy innocent lives, no matter what the grievances or injustices invoked. In the name of God, we too demand that those responsible for these utterly evil acts be found and brought to justice. Those culpable must not escape accountability. But we must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life.
"... The terrorists have offered us a stark view of the world they would create, where the remedy to every human grievance and injustice is a resort to the random and cowardly violence of revenge - even against the most innocent.
"... But we can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image. Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but also emotional oppression to further its aims. ... America must be a safe place for all our citizens in all their diversity. It is especially important that our citizens who share national origins, ethnicity, or religion with whoever attacked us are, themselves, protected among us.
"... Let us make the right choices in this crisis - to pray, act, and unite against the bitter fruits of division, hatred, and violence. Let us rededicate ourselves to global peace, human dignity, and the eradication of injustice that breeds rage and vengeance. ..."
Click for the full text of the letter and all signatories