Christian leaders discuss responses to Sept. 11
December 21 2001 by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press

Christian leaders discuss responses to Sept. 11 | Friday, Dec. 21, 2001

Friday, Dec. 21, 2001

Christian leaders discuss responses to Sept. 11

By Robert Marus Associated Baptist Press WASHINGTON - Faith has assumed a greater role in public life since Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but is that necessarily a good thing? A diverse group of religious leaders recently discussed that question in a panel on some of the best - and worst - Christian responses to the terrorism.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, and the Center for Public Justice sponsored the discussion, titled "What Do Christians Have to Say Post 9/11?"

One positive outcome, said Joan Rosenhauer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is that, "We can no longer pretend that there is this distinction between religion and politics."

"There's a heightened need for a deeper appreciation of the role that religion plays in international affairs," she said.

Panelist John Schroeder of the Acton Institute said there is less controversy now about politicians and other civic leaders expressing their faith publicly. "Prior to Sept. 11, some of these actions (publicly invoking God's blessings on the U.S., asking for Americans' prayers) by our leaders - bringing God into it - might have been viewed as breaches of the First Amendment," he said.

Schroeder also observed that, since the attacks, Christians have come to realize that "Americans have a better understanding of evil than we previously thought."

Other panelists sounded a more cautious note about Christian thought following Sept. 11.

Ken Johnson, director of the social-service arm of the Azusa Christian Community in Boston, noted that evangelical Christians have often been ridiculed in the secular world because they are selective about the kinds of injustice they oppose.

For example, he said the evangelical media has been slow to condemn recent revelations about former Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson's business ties with an African dictator who has helped Osama bin Laden raise millions of dollars. "We fail to speak up against things that are unjust," Johnson said. "And that brings us into disrepute."

Panelist Nathan Wilson, a Disciples of Christ minister and activist with the Christian social-justice group Call to Renewal, said Sept. 11 "only heightened our concerns about economic justice." As a result of the economic downturn that was made more acute by the Sept. 11 tragedies and their aftermath, more than 850,000 Americans have lost their jobs - and many of those jobs were low-wage to begin with. "To bail out the airline companies without a plan to help the 140,000 workers laid off by them is unacceptable," Wilson said.

And several panelists noted that, in the post-Sept. 11 revival of faith and patriotism in American life, Christians should never confuse their identity as citizens of God's Kingdom with their identity as citizens of the United States.

Jim Skillen, executive director of the Center for Public Justice, worried that much of the expression of faith since Sept. 11 is a superficial form of civil religion. "I think a lot of what's going to happen - people praying more - it could be a very healthy sign," Skillen said. "On the other hand, will it continue after this is all over?"

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12/21/2001 12:00:00 AM by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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