Philip Gulley on 9/11: Why get up the decade after?

Please, share these reflections via Email (see link below) or Facebook and use these reflections in your congregation. Houses of worship nationwide plan to mark the anniversary in 9/11 Sunday services.
TODAY: Philip Gulley is a Quaker writer who is beloved for his Harmony novels and also writes provocative non-fiction aimed at stirring our consciences and lifting our hopes. He shared the following reflection at the end of our interview about his new book, “The Evolution of Faith.”

Table of Contents: All of our 9/11 reflections you can use

9/11/2011: Why Get Up Tomorrow?


The challenge we face is: Will we live up to—or down to—our expectations? After the attacks on 9/11 in 2001, my great concern was that we would become a pessimistic people, a people focused on danger, a people who see the world as brutal and fearsome. Ten years have passed, and that seems to have happened.

I’ve been thinking about Norway’s response to their catastrophe and our reaction to 9/11 here. Yes, the scale of the attacks is quite different, but I am thinking about how Norway responded in such a sane fashion after their national catastrophe. They didn’t close everything down. They didn’t overreact. They perceived this as the act of a mentally deranged man and they are refusing to change their lifestyle or their values concerning violence and the way people are treated.

I can’t imagine a more destructive thing to do to a nation than to fill it with fear to such a great extent that the country will bankrupt itself to beat back that fear. That’s what we’ve done in the ten years since 9/11. We’ve spent trillions trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We can talk forever about how we’ve won the war on terror—but in fact we haven’t. In an age when economic power is global power, we have lost. We can no longer afford to do the things we need to do so that we can continue to be a global force for good.

We’ve become a pessimistic nation. I understand why we did this initially, but I hoped that over time calmer heads would have prevailed. Now, if what I’m saying is true about our current national condition, then why get up the decade after? Why hope?

Because I believe that these things I am describing can change. Indeed, this may be the great calling of the church in this generation. Rather than continuing to raise alarms about enemies we fear in every direction—let us become the people of good news again.

Today we’re being told to fear Muslims, to fear our political opponents, to fear gay people, to fear anyone who seems different from us. Rather than taking part in that, the church has a wonderful opportunity—entirely consistent with our model in Jesus—to live beyond this pessimism in a way of life that is hopeful and that believes truly in the power of God to transform. That is good news for the world.

The current path we have chosen of suspicion and pessimism as our national culture doesn’t have to stand. We can change that. But we have to get out there and talk about this powerfully and prophetically. We have to live this out in the choices we make.

Why get up tomorrow? Because we can change the world.

Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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