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9-11-2013

Today is the 12th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks in New York City. I don’t think we’ll ever forget that day. That day was a landmark day in America – a day where everything changed. It was a day we mark time by, like the day Kennedy was shot, or the day the Challenger shuttle exploded. We changed after those days. We lost some of our innocence.

It is important to remember that just a few people took part in that plan, not an entire religion. We can’t paint everyone with the same brush. This is a country that was founded on religious freedom. The Puritans came here because they wanted to be able to practice religion their way, without persecution. This is part of what makes America amazing. People from all around the world come here to be free.

Yet we stopped being free after that day. We all stopped being able to live freely without the government watching us. We are tracked, photographed, interrogated, and frisked. Our every move, cyber and real, is watched. We can’t get on a plane without being scanned. Our passports and IDs have security features they didn’t have before. Young boys who are any shade of brown are at a risk for murder by cop just for walking down the street.

We are all hyper aware. We are all on our toes. The collective paranoia is a bit much.

Sure, life is a lot safer and saner here than in much of the rest of the world. Bomb blasts aren’t normal. We don’t hear of attacks so often that we are immune to them. They still shock us. Being kidnapped and tortured is still something that doesn’t happen here on a daily basis. We still think we are fairly civilized.

But there is still a lingering fear that we are headed that way.

And while we are fairly enlightened enough to say that not all Muslims are terrorists, we are wary. While we can admit that the Westboro Baptist Church, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggart don’t represent all Christians, at least their actions haven’t killed anybody. There is just bombast, not bombs. Their actions result hard feelings and ugliness – but not death.

I want to trust all Muslims, but I don’t. I want Islam to be a religion of peace, but if you judge a tree by its fruits there’s a poison apple there. Sure, there are many many more Muslims who are peaceful than jihadist, just like there are many more Progressive Christians than Fundamentalist. But I’m wary. I’m afraid. I think deep down many Americans are, but don’t have the words for it. We want to be kind and forgiving and trusting, but we hesitate.

I want everyone to be able to follow Creator in the way that they are called to follow their Creator, no matter whether they use the name Jehovah or Allah or any other name, or none at all. We have the same source. I want everybody who lives in America to feel free to live their lives the way they want to live them – up until it infringes on other people being able to live their lives. If someone doesn’t like Western culture – if they think it is too extravagant, too ostentatious, too carnal – then don’t participate in it. It is totally possible to live here and not do any of those things that define average American culture.

The Amish do it.

Instead of attacking what they don’t like, they live their lives as an example. But just as they don’t want to be forced to live life the standard American way, we don’t want to be forced to live life their way. This works for Amish and Muslims and anybody.

There has to be a middle ground. There has to be trust. There has to be dialogue, not debate. It isn’t either-or. It is yes-and. We can live in peace. We can share.

We can all get along. Teach us by example. Show us peace, by living it.

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