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April 2, 2004
Be Careful. And Pray.

A hard day for news yesterday -- the two flaming cars, the unrecognizable black shapes that we knew had been living human beings minutes before. Our newscasts obscured some of the worst images, but we know that other reports did not, that people throughout the world were looking upon someone's son, someone's brother, someone's husband, mutilated beyond belief. And most of all, the incomprehensible delight at this carnage on the part of those who watched and danced with joy at the sight of it.

Where on earth are we?

In every way, the devil scored big. There was death, and there was malicious rejoicing at death. There was and will be fear. There will be a failure of nerve on our part, an empowering of voices of division here, who will point to these atrocities as evidence that the people of the Middle East do not have human values as we know them. Aren't really human beings.

Where do we go from here?

They are human beings. Even those who danced and clapped. As human beings, they are responsible for their actions, and their actions will certainly have consequences. More than ever, it falls to people of faith to pray with earnest intelligence for everyone in this terrible news story, those for whom it is easy to pray -- the victims, those who loved them, those in the region for whose immediate safety we fear -- and those for whom it is difficult.

Prayer keeps us all in the same race: the human one. It is when we ourselves cannot reach across the gulf that separates us, when we simply cannot begin to understand, that prayer must hold the place of humanity in our souls until such time as we can. Until such time as things change. Completely in the dark about the future, full of fear and sorrow and anger, we must pray -- because only prayer will protect us from wading into atrocity ourselves and making a home there. Impossible that we might be in danger of doing so? Are we too modern, too intelligent? Too western? No. We cannot risk such comfortable ideas about ourselves. Evil begins when human beings decide not to examine their own actions. We recoil from the terrible images we saw on the news yesterday. It was up close and personal killing of innocent victims. But all killing is killing. Careful, careful, be careful: our more detached methods of killing leave people just as dead as any other. Be careful. And pray.

I do not believe that a person can pray for another and then rejoice at his death. I know that suicide bombers die and kill with a prayer on their lips, but they are not praying for their victims: they are praying for their cause, and for themselves. But if we were to pray earnestly for those with whom we are in enmity, I do not believe we would be able to treat them as something other than human. Prayer brings us all into the realm of the human, and it can keep us there.
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