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A Day That Changed the World
A Day That Changed the World

Because America believes in justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Because America believes in the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Because there are those who do not believe in any of these things and given the chance, these same people would murder all of us and coldly think they have acted in the name of God.

A holy war? No—one cannot use the word holy and war in the same sentence. There is nothing holy about war. But if we are to seek the holy—if we are to find the holy we must as a people survive. We must have a safe home for our families, our loved ones, ourselves. And now we know that we are not safe and will never be safe until the threat of killing terror is gone.

We must survive because America is a land of loving people and we must be allowed to bring our compassion and love to the rest of the world. We cannot do so if we are dead and our country destroyed. Were that to happen, evil would win. Hatred and terror would eclipse compassion and love. We must not allow this to happen. Not now. Not ever.

If those who have tried to kill the United States think they have divided us they have much to learn about America but they will learn in the months and years ahead. The first lesson was given in the faces of New Yorkers—black and white, Asian and Hispanic, and yes—Arab Americans as well. For together, we stood in the epicenter of destruction—a people determined, a people with resolve, a people who said, “We are Americans: you have not separated us but rather you have united us—read again—you have “United U.S.”.

300 American flags were sold by a New York City street vendor in ten minutes—flag makers have been unable to keep up with the demand.

And silent agonies cause us to question the existence of a God, for why would a “loving God” allow such mindless evil to seemingly prevail—the famous quote of Rabbi Harold Kushner—“why do bad things happen to good people?” Some would even use the events of September 11th as a proof that there could not possibly be a loving God in any case.

But in such thoughts we presume to know what God is or is not. We anthropomorphize God and package God in human terms that we pretend to be the truth. We presume to know the meaning of life—what the Taoist would call “The Way.”

The real truth is that we do not know the truth. From our perspective it is not possible to know the “mind” of God and why bad things happen to good people. What we do know is that we have free will. What we do know is that it is we humans who choose to create evil. It is we humans who twist the essence of loving religions to make them instruments of death. It is not God that does this. It is we humans—and it is all of us—Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and all others for not one religion in the world calls for murder. Rather all the world’s religions call for loving our neighbor as we love ourselves—the great golden rule affirmed in all cultures and all religions throughout the world.

For those of us who believe in the sacred—the source of all creation—God—we would say that in these moments those who perpetrate such evil do so not only against innocent human beings but against God as well—for a piece of creation—a piece of the sacred lies within each of us. We would say that in these moments God is with us and that our tears are God’s tears. We would say that God is love and the only way to seek and find God is through love.

September 11th, 2001 the world changed forever. America was attacked. The world was attacked. Humanity was attacked. God was attacked. It will be a day long remembered. For those of us who have lived through it in New York (and Washington) it will be always be a day that will bring a deep and penetrating sadness.

But in this moment of sorrow and disbelief, America will, once again, show its majesty. From sea to shining sea, from Florida to Alaska, from Maine to Hawaii we will show the world our resolve. We will show the world that there is a reason we are called the “United” States. For we will rise from this horror and we will join all of our tremendous resources to make the world a safer place. We will not do this to seek revenge. We will do it for the good of humanity. We will show that freedom, democracy, and tolerance are what make our land and our people the most compassionate and caring people in the world. We will show that those who seek to destroy us can only unite us.

In the months ahead let us stand united. Let us join to make the world a safer place. Let us remember to go about our business with compassion and love in our hearts. Let us give thanks for the blessings of America and let us strive to live our lives in every way that our great nation stands for.

Sermon delivered at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of South Fork, NY, on Sept. 16, 2001.

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