September 11, 2010

Never Forget

I just wrote this in August, but I think it bears repeating on this solemn day.

I am just one person. Does anything I do make a difference in the universe?

All of my life I've prayed Luther's Common Table prayer before most meals.

The night of September 11, 2001, when the world burned, my family gathered at our kitchen table for our meal. When the prayer was finished, I added, "Let there be peace on earth" from the song of the same name (one of my favorite songs.)

We decided that night to add that phrase to our prayer until there was peace. We are still praying the prayer.

My son is in college now, my husband and I often don't eat at home, or have a formal family meal. Whenever we pray that prayer, we add the first line of the familiar song.


When my son was in Lutheran confirmation ten years ago, I was determined he and his classmates be exposed to faith traditions different from our own. I did not want him to experience just the rote memory of Luther's Small and Large Catechism in a vacuum.

In the early 1970s, Lutheran confirmation involved something called "Questioning" in which confirmands were hauled before the church, and an inquisition of sorts took place. We were all terrified of fire and brimstone. We were also warned about the most terrifying thing of all: women who spoke up in church.

I wanted my child to have a faith tradition, to accept or reject when he came of age. That choice would be his alone, as was mine. I didn't want my choice of religion shoved down his throat. I wanted him to understand and explore faith, values, and morality. Or lack of it.

I am proud to say he is a young man of high moral character. While our beliefs differ now, I believe I provided a foundation on which to build his life.


When I became an adult, I changed "brands" of Lutheran, and found grace and peace in the accepting attitude of the ELCA. Women can speak! Women can be pastors! Gays are accepted! Communion is open! Singing is good! (They finally figured out women were running the church all along.)

My son's confirmation pastor was open to my planning visits and speakers for the children. Over several months, the group visited a Latter Day Saints church and our local Jewish Temple as well as others.

By coincidence, I asked an acquaintance who is president of our local Islamic Society if he would speak to the group on September 12, 2001.

The talk had been planned weeks in advance. When the horrible events on September 11 unfolded, I called him and told him "he was off the hook, if he wanted."

He said, "Now it is even more important that I speak to the children."

All of the children and most of the children's family members attended. The word got out, and several hundred people from the community came through the open doors.

I don't remember the exact words this devout Muslim said, except what the opportunities of America have meant to him and his family.

What I do remember is the impact of this humble man standing in a Christian church talking about his faith.

While he was talking with us, someone ran a truck into the Islamic Center in our town and set the truck on fire. They also spray-painted foul graffiti on the side of the building. This happened at the very moment he was promoting healing in his own community.

I believe that there are evil and despicable terrorists who want to kill Americans, and who proselytize and undertake Jihad. I believe there are groups of radical Jihadists planning evil things, and willing to die to do harm to us.

I do not believe that two billion Muslims speak for the terrorists.

I don't know all the details about the Islamic community center proposed two blocks from Ground Zero.

What I do know is this. Peace is the way, and I saw peace and love on the face of a small man who spoke at my church on September 12, 2001.

Does anything one person does make a difference in the universe?