"At Seattle Pacific University, students, faculty and staff began a new academic year against the backdrop of what seemed to be a different world. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, they joined other Americans and people around the world in asking the most difficult of questions: How can human beings perpetrate such terrible acts upon each other? Where is God in the midst of these horrific events? What does it mean to live out the Christian gospel in a troubled and dangerous world?
Seattle Pacific is building community and airing questions this quarter through weekly prayer services for the world; small-group Bible studies; a Christian-Muslim dialogue led by Dean of the Chapel Tim Dearborn; a series of community forums such as Understanding the Arab World, The Place of Just War and Responses to Terrorism; and a "Wall of Hope" for posting prayer requests and thoughts about the crisis. The University has also reached out to those most affected by the tragedy, for instance sending Professor of Psychology Les Parrott to "Ground Zero" in Manhattan to provide trauma counseling for firefighters and ironworkers, and training to clergy and social service personnel. In his Opening Convocation address, President Philip Eaton called on the SPU community to "put on new glasses" and envision a better world. In response to that call and to explore the events of September 11, Response asked several individuals for their personal reflections on the tragedy and thoughts about how Christians can respond to the new world realities. Five essays appeared in the printed issue; those and three more are included here in the Online Response. Online, you'll find a "Community Bulletin Board," with messages that came in from students and alumni as the events unfolded. To read these messages in full or to share your own thoughts with friends at SPU, go to the Online Response Bulletin Board.
Make Me a Channel of
I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the greater Seattle Pacific University family for your prayers, e-mail messages and phone calls. I've had little time to respond, but I want you to know that I read all of them with humble gratitude for your expressions of support and care.
I was away from Washington, D.C., at the time, but watched in horror the attack on the World Trade Center. Then I learned of the attack on the Pentagon and that all but three people from our staff were safe and accounted for. Thank the Lord those three were out of the area and escaped altogether. You can imagine how difficult it was to account for the Pentagon's 22,000 people.
I lost many of my close friends and associates in the attacks. It was the Lord's unchanging grace that sustained me through this tragic time. Quickly, 90 percent of my and my staff's time became devoted in ministry to the survivors, families of the missing and dead, and rescue and recovery teams. The mental and emotional stress on those who performed the remains recovery is indescribable. Twelve hours a day, around the clock, our chaplains were at the site of the attack to pray with and encourage the recovery workers.
Every place I go in the Pentagon, people ask if I will come to their offices and pray with them. In addition to the chaplains on my staff, we have called to active duty 20 Army Reserve chaplains to minister to our terrorized, grieving personnel.
Getting back to "normal" will be a long-term process. Bringing healing to those who grieve will be our focus for the months and years ahead. But out of the pit of despair, our God gives us his blessings. People are seeking the Lord and his grace for comfort, support and emotional healing. At the end of "two-a-day" operational updates, I pray with the senior Army leadership for the Lord's courage, grace and strength to face the horrendous task of responding to terrorism.
Our nation is rallying as a people united in spirit and purpose. Christians must respond with lives that echo the spirit of the Prayer of St. Francis: "Lord, make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow your love."
Those who directed and carried out these barbaric acts of terrorism must be brought to justice. We pray that God will give the military leadership wisdom and understanding of the awesome responsibilities they now face. We need to pray that the right solutions will come to light and the right decisions will be made to rid this world of the terrible threat of hatred, and that peace, justice and harmony will be perpetuated throughout the world. But we cannot act out of revenge, for we are people of faith whose Lord and Savior prayed for forgiveness for those who nailed him to the cross.
We must demonstrate through our lives that Christ loves all peoples. Across America, peaceful, loving Muslims need the friendship of Christians whose lives convey the message of the second greatest commandment to "love our neighbors as ourselves."
Major General Gaylord T. "GT" Gunhus is U.S. Army chief of chaplains. A 1962 Seattle Pacific graduate, Gunhus is charged with administrative oversight and pastoral care of 2,323 active duty National Guard and reserve chaplains worldwide. In January 2001, he was honored as the SPU Alumnus of the Year. Gunhus and his wife, Ann, live in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Think Globally, Love Globally
How do we respond to the devastation of September 11? Many responses come to mind: Prayer. Care for the injured and bereft. Increased security, increased vigilance. Just punishment for the masterminds behind the carnage. Stronger international cooperation against terrorism. Immersion in Scripture. But there is one more response: American Christians will want also to become better global citizens.
Since the so-called end of the Cold War, many of us have not given much thought to the rest of the world except as occasional business, tourist or short-term mission connections. Those days of ignorance are over. We have been hit in the solar plexus with the truth that we are globally connected and cannot cut loose. To think about the rest of the world overwhelms us. Masses of data pour over us, jumbled in sound bites that juxtapose great human tragedies with beer ads. How can ordinary citizens like you and me know enough to make intelligent comments on global issues?
Of all people, Christians are to love our neighbors. When our neighborhood expands to include the globe, then we're called to love globally. How? Some of the most important steps may be the simplest: Pray as you read through the newspaper, especially the world news section. Befriend foreigners who live in your city. Develop strong relationships with your church or denominational missionaries. Ask business people to talk about their global involvements. Teach a church class on the biblical basis of mission, tracing global issues from Genesis to Revelation.
Yet we can do all this with a patronizing smile, keeping others at arms' length. Loving our neighbors means something more. It means being vulnerable. It means entering into their pain. When God in Jesus came to live among us, he shared our troubles and felt our hurts. Do we empathize with those in other countries?
Globalization has hurt a lot of people. Despite the many benefits of transnational business, a global economy is blamed in many parts of the world for massive unemployment, a sharp rise in prices and decline in wages, the reduction of public services, environmental degradation and a growing distance between the rich and the poor. And when labor must follow jobs in a borderless world, many leave behind spouses, children and parents, obliterating family closeness. Do we feel that pain? Becoming global Christians does not mean creating a paternalistic relationship with believers in other countries. It means being siblings under a heavenly Father. We have much to give in answering some needs, but our brothers and sisters have resources we can no longer live without. We must listen, for example, to how believers in Indonesia and Sri Lanka have learned to live with the constant threat of terrorism. We must learn from believers in Rwanda and Croatia about forgiving known and unknown enemies. And believers in the Near East have much to teach us about responding to extreme forms of Islam.
The Earth all of it is the Lord's. We cannot be healthy American Christians today and ignore the world. A global concern is not optional. It comes from the heart of God.
Longtime SPU faculty member Miriam Adeney is the author of six books, including God's Foreign Policy: Practical Ways to Help the World's Poor (Regent College Press, 1993). Her latest book, Daughters of Islam: Building Bridges With Muslim Women (InterVarsity Press), will be released in January 2002. This essay is based on an article published in the October 22, 2001, issue of Christianity Today.
Good, Evil and the Human
The responses of the Seattle Pacific University community to the September 11 tragedies have made tangible the wisdom of Micah 6:8 found on the welcoming sign next to the SUB: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
Within two hours of the attacks, faculty, staff and administrators at the Camp Casey Retreat were gathered in worship. I will never forget Robbin O'Leary leading us in "When Peace Like a River" as tears of grief began to flow. Over the following weeks, the student-organized "Wall of Hope," candlelight vigils, prayers, forums, faculty discussions over "What would Jesus do?" and the earnest question of students, "How could they hate us so much?" are an indelible and cherished part of my experience.
Also cherished is the afternoon my family and I shared with the Muslims of Seattle's Northgate mosque. We drove past the mosque the day after it was hit by an arson attack, and we noticed a group of people waving signs and inviting passing motorists to show their support for religious tolerance. We stopped to get a closer look, were warmly welcomed, and soon found ourselves waving signs as well. Several hours later I was losing my voice because of the incredible show of solidarity by passing motorists.
As a Christian historian who has studied the Middle East and Islam for 30 years, I struggle to place the events of September 11 into some kind of perspective. Beneath the obvious changes of the past months are less obvious but no less important continuities. In some ways, what we have witnessed is nothing new. When Voltaire wrote in the 18th century, "What can you say to a man who tells you that he would rather obey God than men, and that therefore he is sure to go to heaven for butchering you?" he was responding to centuries of religious warfare in Europe in which Christians had been killing Christians in the name of religion.
The answers to such cycles of violence are even older, contained in the teachings, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ the center of our community, the source of our hope.
Nothing could justify the murderous actions of September 11; neither are the victims of September 11 honored by a refusal to ask the question "why?" Who among us would argue that suicidal terrorists are born murderers? The victims will be honored by our efforts to ensure that their children and grandchildren will never again be visited by such tragedy.
An e-mail from a student in my sophomore Common Curriculum course "The West and the World" was a reminder of how much my students have to teach me. It was a quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: "If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"
Don Holsinger, who chairs SPU's History Department, developed an interest in the Middle East and Islam after he and his wife taught English in Algeria 30 years ago. He later returned to Algeria with his family to research the history of a Muslim community in the Sahara Desert. This year, his Winter Quarter course "The Rise of Islamic Civilization" and Spring Quarter course "History of the Modern Middle East" will explore the historical roots of the current crisis.
Pray for a Righteous
As a Christian professor, I take my occupation very seriously and have personally considered my response to September 11. For one thing, I see my students very differently now. When I look at my class of 21 freshmen, for example, I realize that some of them may soon be on the battlefield for me.
What ideas and beliefs will they carry into combat? I want them to see that love of country is a great virtue and that to participate in this war is to perform a great deed. I never want to undermine their service but to help them through it, and to be remembered as a professor who believes that what they are doing is right. Pray for our enemies? No question. But pray, too, for our soldiers. Thank God for them and pray that they will fight well and not risk their lives in vain. We should not see prayer as the alternative to combat, as if the Christian response is to pray, the worldly response to fight. Those willing to sacrifice for their country in order to protect it pray with their actions every bit as much as those who pray petitions of mind or speech.
War is an unfortunate result of the human condition. It is indeed a terrible state of affairs, but it comes as no surprise in the course of human history. Christians should hope that we win this war and win it quickly.
There is a sense in which my whole career as a professor has been an attempt to prepare students for this time. I believe in the greatness of the West, of America. I believe that our culture and our country are worth dying for. I have no illusions of national perfection, but I have great enthusiasm for America's legacy. I try to impart these values to students.
The position in much of academe is pacifist. In my conversations with faculty and others, I have taken the "just war" position. I believe that the government's failure to respond forcefully to the acts of September 11 would result in nothing but contempt for our nation. It would be a complete abdication of its duty to protect the American people.
It should not be said that Americans somehow "brought this upon themselves." The people to blame for the atrocity are the ones who committed it. This is not to claim that American foreign policy has been perfectly fair and just. But even if our dealings with Israel and the Middle East are not in proper balance, to suggest that we had it coming and our nation should accept blame for what happened is ludicrous. Nothing legitimizes the deliberate killing of thousands of civilians.
Those passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who attacked the terrorist hijackers of their plane are great heroes. Flight 93 is a microcosm of the entire world. There are those who want to hijack freedom. The rest of us should do what we can to stop them.
Phillip Goggans is a specialist in ancient philosophy and natural law history. He is president of the Washington Association of Scholars and a member of the American Catholic Philosophical Society. Among the courses he teaches at SPU are "Faith and Philosophy," "History of Ethics" and "Belief, Morality and the Modern Mind."
We Must Be the
During the days immediately following September 11, I asked myself how we as a church should be responding to this terrible tragedy. Do we take up an offering? Do we hold prayer services? Those are good church things to do. But what I found myself returning to again and again is this: We must be the church.
As the church, our primary role is allowing the face of Jesus to be seen in the midst of evil and tragedy. What does our traumatized society see of Jesus? The New Testament makes the audacious claim that Jesus is to be seen in the community of Christ's followers. It is when the face of Jesus is seen in us that we are most clearly the church.
When the church is most clearly being the church, the face of Jesus shines with hope, faith and love.
Hope for God's people is confident assurance that Jesus is Lord and will one day reign over all. In the post-September 11 world, the church must offer not just fear-generating scenarios of the end times, or strong condemnations of the evils of America now being judged, but rather a hope-building message of a God who loves us, and a Jesus who stands with us in the midst of this tragedy.
Faith in God is not a vague belief in something or a set of ideas to which we ascribe. My faith is in a person and that person is Jesus. How does that faith express itself? Four services of worship and prayer were held that tragic week at First Free Methodist Church, including a packed, SPU-led service at Friday noon. Even in shock and sadness, the faith of the church is framed in worship, praise and prayer.
Love for all people, even our enemies, is what the Scripture teaches us. As the face of Jesus in difficult times, we must resist any temptation to vent our anger on Middle-Easterners or Muslims or Afghanis. The face of Jesus seen in us is the face of love, love expressing active compassion for those in need, love mourning with those who mourn, love suffering with those who suffer.
Where was God on that terrible Tuesday? God was where God was on the first Good Friday: in Jesus, suffering along with us and suffering for us. And we have the privilege of being that face of Jesus to a world that needs to see his face these days.
We may not be able to completely eradicate terrorism in the world or to give airtight answers to theological and philosophical questions about the problem of evil. We may not be able to reach our arms around the thousands who have lost loved ones to terrorism. But we can and we must be the face of Jesus in hope, faith and love to those whom we encounter.
Thus, I call myself and us to remember who we are during these difficult days. I urge us to avoid pat, simplistic answers. May our words be words of hope, faith, love, remembering "Christ in me, the hope of glory." Christ in us. That's the church being the church.
H. Mark Abbott has pastored Seattle's First Free Methodist Church, adjacent to the SPU campus, since 1982. Born and raised in India to missionary parents, Abbott previously served as an adjunct professor and lecturer at Houghton College, Fuller Theological Seminary and South India Biblical Seminary. He is the author of numerous magazine articles and the book Spirituality in a Mixed-Up World.
A Moral Voice in 21st
The evening of September 11, 2001, I received a telephone call at home from a student who had enrolled in my Geopolitics class at Seattle Pacific University many years earlier. As we shared our despair at the events of the day, we recalled foreseeing this terrible situation in our class discussion, but that fact did not help mitigate our sense of sorrow and anger.
I thought about how I had tried to teach students about geopolitical affairs in a world that seemed so evil. The hope I offered students then is the same light I see today: the growing strength of a moral voice through international law founded on a Judeo-Christian heritage.
Students often greeted this news with skepticism. How could the rule of law offer protection in such an evil world? Yet the recent attacks are a good case in point about the strength of international law.
In our book, Engaging Geopolitics (Prentice Hall, 2000), Dr. Fred Shelley of Southwest Texas State University and I argue that technology has pushed the limits of the "geo" in Geopolitics. Geography will offer small protection to states in the 21st century world. Increasingly, actors on the world stage will not be representatives of states but will live in the shadowy world of terrorism and organized crime. In addition, they will have access to technologies that are both stealthy and deadly, from biological weapons to backpack-sized nuclear devices. Against this onslaught, states will have an increasing challenge to mount a traditional geography-based military defense.
Thirteen years ago, David Martin and John Walcott in their book Best Laid Plans: The Inside Story of America's War Against Terrorism (Harper & Row, 1988) wrote: "Terrorism is a threat to law and order, not national security. The law treats terrorists as criminals and helps strip the veneer of martyrdom and heroism from their crimes."
What the hijackers did was murder and they were criminals. But what they did was not ordinary murder - it was also a crime against humanity as defined by international law created after the Nuremberg principle: murder of a civilian population. Any members of the criminal group still alive and apprehended could be brought before a new International Criminal Court, designed exactly to prosecute cases involving non-governmental agents who commit crimes on this scale.
What does this mean for the Christian? I find hope and comfort in knowing that an emerging body of international law has been based on the very principles of our faith set forth by theologians like Thomas Aquinas, even as his precepts of what constitutes a "Just War" for the Christian may be applied to our response to the September 11 attacks. Unfortunately, 21st century geopolitics suggests that military defense may be an elusive solution against enemies who hide and strike unexpectedly. The unity of an outraged world voice from all countries, acting in the name of law and human decency everywhere, may actually prove to be the most "practical" solution.
Who might be willing to believe this could be the best recipe for security in the coming century? We who know the power of the cross and choose to be people of hope might be the first believers.
Kathleen Braden, associate vice president and dean of student life, is also a professor of geography at SPU. Co-author of Engaging Geopolitics and numerous other academic publications, Braden is national secretary of geography of religion and belief systems for the Association of American Geographers.
The Voice of a Different
Fear. Noticing airplanes overhead. Turning on the news when I get home to discover what new violence may be taking place. Feeling that my everyday work is not as important as I thought. Praying for the world, crying out for peace and justice.
If you are like me, your once routine news-watching has become a blur of anguish, criticism, relief, uncertainty and of peace only with the assurance of a loving God who works through all things for good for his people.
Yet I don't believe the world has really changed. What has changed, I think, is many Americans' views of the world. We in the United States have come face to face with our own vulnerability, and it is frightening. Blessed with peace on our own soil for as long as anyone living can remember, we now feel susceptible to the cyclical violence that many nations have borne during our time.
United States foreign policy has certainly shifted. The ongoing military and diplomatic campaign seems to me to be leaving behind historical restraints of due process and returning to the Cold War policy of nation-building for expediency. Americans grapple with the need to seek justice for a terrible crime while holding concern for an impoverished, war-wearied nation.
As a student of international affairs, I have been following this fall's events with a scholarly and professional interest as well as a personal one. I have for over two years been exploring the nature and implications of peace in all its aspects. Far more than the absence of war, peace in its fullest sense calls for all people to live in well-being and sustainable, stable community. I want to pursue and build peace through my own career, but more importantly through my life. That is my calling in today's world, and I venture to say that it is a call for every Christian.
Questions of peace are not simply geopolitical, but they also confront us here and now. In encouraging a friend, caring for a child, helping build civil law for communities, ministering in a church and contributing to a stable business environment, many Christians are already working daily for peace. Peace means trying to see life from another's perspective. It means ending cycles of violence in families, communities and our world. And, I believe, it means seeking well-being for all members of our communities and our fellow people worldwide.
What is my hope? That we as the body of Christ may be the voice of a different way. Whatever our individual political opinions, we are first of all representatives of his way - a way of peacemaking, forgiveness and love for one's neighbors and enemies.
Emily Cochran is double-majoring in political science-international affairs and European studies-Russian. The senior from Hillsboro, Oregon, plans to go to graduate school in conflict resolution and political and economic development before seeking a career with the United Nations or another organization involved in peace-building.
My heart and my prayers go out to the American people. We understand your pain and shock, for we live with conflict every day. Ours is a tense and fearful atmosphere, especially as our children go to school in downtown Jerusalem, an area often targeted by terrorist bombs. One of our 7-year-old son's classmates lost a parent to the conflict.
Crossing the checkpoint into Bethlehem nearly every day is quite an ordeal. Many of our students at the college have had their homes struck by Israeli machinegun fire. One of our teachers was hit in the leg as she left class. The college buildings are damaged and we have canceled or rescheduled the night classes. Many of the young people have left the country because they can't find work. The college has had to enlarge its food distribution program.
Though people in the Middle East generally like Americans, they tend to believe that the ethics and values of Americans and Christians are one and the same, and so U.S. government policy toward the Middle East can become an obstacle to the gospel. In ministering to Muslims, we must help them make the distinction.
The ministry of "Musalaha" is a strategy for dealing with these obstacles. The word is Arabic for "forgiveness" and "reconciliation." For these results to occur, you must find a neutral and easily accessible place for Palestinian and Israeli Christians to meet. The Desert Encounter program we sponsor is a journey that allows different groups from both sides to work together to negotiate the hardships of the desert. Survival forces them to relate on a different level and to communicate openly. In so doing, they reach a certain level of intimacy and changed perceptions.
In America, Christians are largely ignorant about Islam. They need to learn of its richness and complexity in order to reach out to Muslims in love, to avoid dehumanization and demonization. Radical Islam, a small minority, not only opposes American and Christian values, but also opposes the regimes of Muslim states like Egypt and Algiers. It is against the concept of a nation-state and believes that all Muslims should live under one political/religious leader. It is a reaction to modernity and globalization and reflects the inability of many Arab Muslim countries to improve the socio-economic situations of their people.
The Koran does not teach terrorism, but neither is there a specific teaching like the teaching of Jesus to love your enemies. I am not downplaying the threat, but we must respond with the gospel and look at their grievances, for these are obstacles for them in understanding Christianity. Christ's obedience on the cross compels us to obey his commands for unity, which is essential in our proclamation that he is savior of the world.
The Palestinian church can bless the American church in its understanding of Islam and the people of the Middle East. We would ask you to pray for protection for our families and communities, as we pray for yours. Pray for a peaceful and just end to conflict. Pray that believers in the Holy Land will be an example of reconciliation and a light in the darkness.
Salim Munayer is academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College and director of Musalaha, a ministry of reconciliation between Jewish and Palestinian Christians. Munayer lives in Jerusalem with his wife and four sons and is co-author with Phil Goble of The New Creation Book for Muslims. He visited and lectured at SPU November 13-14.
Seattle Pacific students, led by ASSP President Emily Cochran, opened the year with a candelight march from Martin Square to the Student Union Building "Wall of Hope," and a covenant-signing. Here are the words adopted by the SPU community:
In response to the tragedy of September 11, and in light of our current international crisis, we the undersigned members of the SPU community of students, faculty and staff, mourn with those who are grieving and commit to pray for our international leaders. We commit to act humbly, love completely and live differently. We commit ourselves to care for every member of this campus, our city, and all whom we impact in the world by expressing to them God's love, believing that every person is of great worth and is precious to God. May our different ethnicities, backgrounds and faiths be a reminder that God has called us to respect and care for all people. Rather than living with division and strife, we will love. "Love one another as I have loved you."
"I believe we live in a changed world, and
is a moment to put on new glasses, to see the world differently, and to
through how our lives should be different."