Jennifer Butler: After 9/11, choosing love over fear
Someone asked this morning, “What year were the terrorist attacks?â€ The answer, “Six years ago, 2001″ struck me. Was it that long ago? It seems like yesterday.
Even as I know 9/11 has been used politically to whip up fear; I will admit it: I am afraid. I find my fear, and therefore my courage intensified by the confluence of 9/11/01 with first day of my married life with Glenn, who was moving to New York City that day to join me, arriving to find us walled off from one another. This morning I went over our catastrophe plan again, and we told each other with a kiss, “have a good day.â€
Today the spiritual struggle for me is what it was in 2001. In 2001, as NPR informed me of the first plane striking the twin towers, I calmly alerted my interns at our office across from the United Nations. As the NPR station went dead (it was in one of the towers), I turned on TV to monitor events. As more planes hit and rumors spread the prayer, “Where there is fear, let me sow…â€ I couldn’t complete the sentence in the turmoil, so I made up the words, but it helped. A few days later I found St Francis’ prayer in Union Square Park in a makeshift vigil surrounded by people of all nationalities and faiths, many wrapped in American flags.
My tradition tells me that I am to act out of love, not fear. From “Fear not!â€ to “Perfect love casts out fear,â€ my marching orders are clear. We often think of fear and love solely as uncontrollable feelings. But they are also choices. I have a choice every day and every hour: be guided by fear, which leads to more violence, or choose hope and love, which leads to creative solutions.
Are these naÃ¯ve words; empty clichÃ©s? “God gave us not a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.â€ The opposite of fear is power. The opposite of fear is self-discipline and love. This is what I learn from my staff, from all of you, when you choose to sit down with those who supposedly are our enemies and hammer solutions. When you forge coalitions to retake your communities from intolerance, greed, fear mongering, corruption, abuse of power. When we cross divides, speak the truth, sacrifice comfort to do what is right. And when we push our national leaders to do the same.
Rev. Jennifer Butler is Executive Director of Faith in Public Life