Bahai News - Faith leaders temper anger with perspective ept. 18, 2001

Faith leaders temper anger with perspective

Some call for a pacifist stance, while others say hate canít be a motive for retaliation

By Linda Leicht

As Americans waved flags and sang patriotic songs over the past week, some have called for a more restrained response to terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Pleas for restraint and justice came from Pope John Paul II, former South African President Nelson Mandela and even Cuban President Fidel Castro.

That, however, is a minority view: Recent polls show most Americans believe the United States should retaliate, even if innocent people die in the process.

Theresa Stocker of Springfield was one of those people. Then she heard Father Dennis Dougherty’s sermon Saturday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

“He told us to take a look at what we might have done to cause this,” Stocker said. The priest called on the congregation to ask God to guide the country to find a way to rectify the situation without going to war.

“I probably feel like the majority of Americans,” Stocker said. “We should just go over and bomb them.”

It was the words of her priest that made her “stop and think ... to not be so vengeful,” Stocker said.

Dougherty wasn’t the only Ozarks minister offering that message to filled churches this weekend.

The Rev. J. Rod Kelley is a retired Navy chaplain and the pastor of Ozark United Methodist Church.

“This horrible tragedy was hatched and implemented in hearts that were filled with darkness, anger, revenge and bigotry,” he told his congregation. “If we allow this act to create anger, revenge and bigotry in our hearts then we are like those who did it.”

Father Andrew Moore at St. Thomas the Apostle Orthodox Mission said the Bible addresses responding to attack, “but we must retaliate with resolve and not with hate. ... If we incorporate hate into our resolve, we become the terrorists. We have to keep ourselves from becoming that.”

The church has had services all week since the terrorist attacks, Moore said. His messages have focused on love.

“We have to keep fleeing back to Christ who loves all of humanity,” he told his congregation, “even despite that which is most horrible about us, most fallen. Christ never ceased to love mankind.”

Rabbi Rita Sherwin also spoke of a God who loves all mankind. “We need to be on guard so as not to blame an entire group of people for the actions of a few,” she told a congregation of Jews and non-Jews at Temple Israel on Friday night.

Park Crest Assembly of God had more people in church Sunday than on Easter, said its pastor, the Rev. Scott Temple. Temple also stressed the message that “God doesn’t hate anybody” — including those who were denounced by religious leaders Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who called the attack God’s retribution for feminism, abortion, homosexuality and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I disagree with those who conclude that this reveals God’s judgment on America,” Temple said. Instead, he said the attack was made by “people who are angry with America for our stand with Israel. ... That is a righteous stand in God’s view.”

Father Ken Chumbley, rector at Christ Episcopal Church, made some special comments to his congregation Sunday.

“Christians of deep faith and good will have differing opinions on what should be the response of this country to those barbaric acts of terrorism,” he said. But he hopes the response will lead to an understanding of the “underlying causes of terrorism ... poverty, injustice, despair.”

Dr. Roger Ray, pastor at National Avenue Christian Church, told the large crowd in church Sunday that comments like Falwell’s and Robertson’s are “an effort to co-opt the energy and the rage.”

His sermon called on the country to use statesmanship, not attack, a stand that did garner some negative response from the community and his congregation.

“I hope that there will be some deepening of character in response to this,” he said.

Carl Haworth of the local Baha’i community shared that hope. Baha’i principals are not pacifist, but encompass the belief that response to the attack should be made on a world stage, he said.

“The governments of the world should come together as a body,” said Haworth, an Army veteran with service time in Vietnam.

The small community met Sunday and talked about the attacks. “It’s a topic that’s on everybody’s mind,” Haworth said.

The pagan community has also responded to the issue. “Our rage, terror and confusion at having been attacked can generate enormous energies that can, with a little thought, be converted to constructive and healing energies,” the Rev. Pat Allgeier with the Greenleaf Coven said in a written statement.

She called on people to become more aware of the struggles of rest of the world. “A little respect and consideration goes a long way,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

©Copyright 2001, The Springfield News-Leader

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