At least three generations of my family have born the scars of war and political instability. We were and continue to be politically insignificant people caught between the oppression of Japanese imperialism and the unmatched destructive capacity of U.S. military might, casualties of the post-V-J-Day political vacuum that gave rise to an utterly corrupt government that stole from, oppressed, massacred, and imprisoned (without due process) the people of Taiwan. My brother and I and so many of our Taiwanese-American cohorts were born and raised in the U.S., but we’re still riding the multi-generational aftershocks of trauma, enduring a virtually silent epidemic of addiction, mental illness, chronic health problems, and other maladies.
My identity is a mixture of second-generation American, second-generation survivor of nation-state conflict and genocide, and bicultural orientation – all centered around a faith that embraces the restorative justice that Jesus Christ demonstrated on a Roman cross, one of the most formidable symbols of irresistible political oppression and terror. As a result, I don’t reflect on the tragedy of 9/11 through a nationalistic lens, but a strictly human and crucifixion-centered one. I mourn all loss of life caused by senseless violence – the 3,000 lives lost on American soil on 9/11/01 because of murderous, bloodthirsty men, the 8,000 American lives sacrificed in battle in the Middle East and elsewhere since 9/11, and the 300,000 human beings in the Middle East and elsewhere that our own military and government have killed because of our national policy of retributive justice.
All of them bore God’s image. All of their deaths are tragic to their Creator, the one we Christians call Lord God and Savior. And the violence our country has committed has begotten more violence, more bloodshed, more anguish, and more vengeance – for our enemies as well as ourselves. And as Jim Wright says, after all this, we’re still afraid. We still feel terrorized.
As a nation, we were dealt a severe trauma – one from which we have not yet recovered because not only has the trauma of 9/11 been woven into our national identity, but with it a deep sense of dishonor that serves as a relentless source of fuel for the doctrine of justifiable vengeance. We’ve become bent and shaped under the weight of our chosen trauma narrative, just as the people flocking to ISIS have.
As people of the Cross, however, we have another way. We can absorb the sin and wrath of our enemies as we pray for them and entrust them to the God who loves, pursues, forgives, and heals. We can remove the wall between us and our enemies at the foot of the cross, where we all stand before a holy God as equals – equally guilty, equally bloodstained, equally broken, and equally free to receive forgiveness and transformation.
A Prayer on 9/11 Remembrance Day*
As we kneel before You, Lord,
To pray for evil men,
We must begin by telling You of
Our utter ambivalence.
Our hearts are stirred to violent emotion,
A torrent of outrage and pain.
Appeals that invoke destruction fall
So easily from our mouths.
See, we’re caught up in a web of lies
That entangles us in pride;
It tells us in a thousand ways
That We are more than They.
The lies make cheap the blood of Christ,
A mockery of the Cross,
They abate our sense of dire need
And set Them beyond its reach.
THEY struck us first, below the belt,
We answered back in kind –
One hundred-fold what we were dealt,
Though WE still feel behind.
Then out of the storm of our indignation,
It comes to us –
Love your enemies, resist them not,
And pray for them tonight;
For they reflect my image too,
Just like you and yours.
Such madness, Lord, who can endure?
Bring justice, wrath, extinction!
Avenge this evil quickly now,
Be true to who You are!
And then we hear a frightful thing:
A long and silent pause.
It hangs there like a dreadful fog
Before You speak again.
You were once my enemy
You struck me on the cheek
I turned my head the other way
You thought me far too meek.
A crown of thorns you pressed into
My head until it bled.
You drove the nails into my hands
Then deep into the wood.
You mocked me while I gasped for air,
You dared me to display
Some proof of my divinity,
Some reason to obey.
And though I hung in agony,
Receiving spit and scorn,
I prayed for you, My Enemy,
Forgiveness, grace, and mercy.
“His blood be on us and on our children,”
Chanted it, you did.
This was indeed my will for you
Just not the way you meant.
For though my blood was shed by you,
My life I freely gave you.
Although you took it eagerly,
Your sins it washes clean.
Now quickly, intercede for them,
As I did for you,
That strongholds, not their souls, would be
Pulled down, destroyed, and crushed.
You fight not flesh and blood, you see,
But dark and unseen powers;
So take up heavenly weapons now,
Put on the armor of God.
Pray until you see the light
Break through the darkness and the night;
Your labor and travail will bring
My Kingdom to the earth.
Trembling, now we understand
We are no more than They;
We killed the King of Glory,
We killed You – all of us.
Yet love You freely offered us,
And love You offer Them,
Your Kingdom comes not by the sword,
But by a foolish Cross.
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy now.
Bind up the wounds that fuel our hate,
Our thirst insatiable,
And fill us with the fullness of
Your living water springs.
*Adapted from a previous post from February 22, 2015.