Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
When the planes began to fall from the sky on September 11, 2001, time stood still. My husband (a captain at Midway Airlines) and I (an international flight attendant) were enjoying our second cup of coffee. We were getting ready to go buy cupcakes to take to school for our son’s birthday when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. We knew instantly that our lives would never be the same again.
My husband’s company folded the next day on September 12, and the company that I worked for ended up filing for bankruptcy, cutting my pay and benefits. More important than money to us (and make no mistake, with 4 children, 2 in college and 2 still at home, money was important), was the radical change to our life style. Prior to 9/11, walking into an airport, and onto an airplane had been no more nerve-wracking than walking into an office; I loved flying, loved traveling. Yet the day I returned to work, the day international travel resumed, my workplace was fraught with fear. Armed soldiers patrolled the airport with machine guns. It was months before I left home without fearing that I would never return. Please understand I had no respect, no admiration for Osama bin Laden. His plans to attack the US directly and negatively impacted my life. It cost my family our livelihood, and cost me my sense of security. It temporarily caused me to live a life based on fear. My faith in God kept me going; it kept all of us going.
Sunday night, when the announcement was made that Osama bin Laden had been killed, it dredged up all of these feelings, all of these memories. Yet when I saw dancing in the streets of Washington, I also remembered dancing in the streets of other countries when our Twin Towers fell, and I was sickened. I realized that both were equally wrong. As a follower of Christ, I cannot celebrate retributive justice because it is an “eye for an eye, and Jesus called us to be more than that, to do more than that.
As a former flight attendant, and wife of a pilot, I understand that life is not always black and white. I understand that feelings of distrust and hurt run very deep. I understand that sometimes we want justice where none abounds. As a life long Quaker, and now as the pastor of Whittier First Friends Church, I believe that justice does not come from the end of a gun barrel. I believe justice meted out this way perpetuates more violence. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr wrote:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it…Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Dr. King lived and died believing these words. His life of non-violence dramatically changed our world.
My prayer for our country, our leaders, and our world is that we can find a way to end the darkness of violence, the darkness of war and retribution, and live into the very hard work of light and love.