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Ten Years Later
Ten Years Later - A Community Gathering Renewed
a follow-up to Making Sense of It: A Community Gathering, A Foundation for the Future in November of 2001
All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church

The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, 2011 November 6

Ours is a time of economic stress and political corruption; and religious prejudice is enflamed by ignorance and deliberately for partisan gain. A few days ago, following months of nasty messages, a mosque in Wichita was burned. Now the Mayor of Independence continues to support a speaker for his prayer breakfast Nov 17 who publicly states that “the Koran and Hadith, two of Islam’s sacred books, explicitly tell Muslims to kill Christians and Jews.” 

Since Sept 16, 2001, the Sunday after the terrorist attacks, when members of the Interfaith Council responded to Congressman Moore’s invitation to bring the community to affirm our support for one another’s faiths, leaders within several faith community whom I could name repeatedly have mischaracterized other faiths and sown suspicion in our community.

Yet this morning, as I went to worship, I saw thousands of Muslims at Bartle Hall observing Eid al-Adha, the diversity within Islam beautifully embraced by an overwhelmingly welcoming Kansas City. Indeed, since 9/11, interfaith organizations and programs have multiplied and become mainstream. CBS-TV, Harvard University, and many other recognitions have come to our work in Kansas City.
I am not a Muslim, but I care about Muslims, as I care about all faiths, for unless we cherish each other, division will doom us all. Together we flourish.

In religious literature we can find at least three metaphors to describe what happened Sept. 11: CRIME, WAR, and DISEASE.  Each metaphor has its virtue, and the situation is so complex that no one metaphor is sufficient.” To summarize:

CRIME.— All faiths seek justice. Whether it is the Hebrew Ten Commandments or the Hindu Laws of Manu, religions have offered a framework for behavior. This first metaphor has been useful in most societies when individuals or groups disobeyed the rules of society. Before 9/11, terrorism was treated as a crime.

WAR.— With 9/11 the United States shifted to characterizing terrorism as war.
    The Western religious heritage supplies many precedents. By divine command, Joshua waged war to conquer pagan Canaan. Christianity, at first pacifist, developed the theory of “just war.” In Islam, war is permitted in certain very restricted circumstances, including no harm to non-combatants and property.

DISEASE.— The third metaphor, found in  personal images as the “Medicine Buddha,” suggests that ailments arise from venoms such as greed, ignorance and hate. If our outlook is poisoned by selfishness, misunderstanding and enmity, we cannot possibly perceive why we are afflicted.
   The disease metaphor has been neglected these past 10 years, so a few more words. 
   Gandhi, who initiated the modern non-violent movement on Sept. 11, 1906, taught that the process of peace involves seeing the evil within ourselves and the good within our enemies. Jesus warned about beholding the mote in another’s eye without removing the beam in our own. The Buddha said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love.” Jesus taught, “Love your enemies.”
   Such instruction is a difficult pill to swallow. But may it be an effective prescription, at least part, to a cure of souls and nations?
   The  medicine for the healing of our nation’s spirit and the world’s disquiet is displayed in the inspiring panels displayed here tonight. 

The unanimous declaration of our Gifts of Pluralism conference ten years ago summarizes what we are still learning, to be restored with nature, the self made whole, community in covenant: The document elaborates: 

THE ENVIRONMENT.--    NATURE is to be respected more than controlled; it is a process which includes us, not a product external to us to be used or disposed of. Our proper attitude toward nature is awe, not utility.

SELFHOOD.--   WHO WE ARE IS DEEPER THAN WE APPEAR TO BE; this mean our acts should proceed beyond convention, spontaneously and responsibly from duty and compassion, without ultimate attachment to their results.

SOCIETY.--   THE FLOW OF HISTORY TOWARD JUSTICE is possible when persons in community govern themselves less by profit and more by the covenant of service.

Each of us can take steps forward by further strengthening our friendships with those of other faiths. And together, let us become the first city in the nation to celebrate our commitments by building an interfaith exploratorium, to beckon others to join us in the journey of awe and thanksgiving and service, a call at the heart of every faith.