My father who was born on September 11, 1927 died last spring. He lamented the fact that as of 2001 he celebrated his birthday on 9/11. It is now a day of infamy, while for him it had always been a day for family. My dad was a simple, religious man, not the fanatical kind that leads Christian extremists to burn mosques or Muslim extremists to crash planes into towers. Rather, he was the kind who opened his heart to people of whatever background based on his particular Christian upbringing. He knew a few words in various languages such as Polish, Japanese and German in order to make connections with people. Though he was not fluent in any ‘foreign’ language, he was fluent in the language of love. It is important in our 9/11 world that we learn to speak this language as Christians, Muslims, and those of other faiths so that we avoid such horrific tragedies in the future.
The late atheist critic Christopher Hitchens wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. In my view, bad religion poisons things; good religion brings healing and life. My dad did not limit his concern for healing and life to his nuclear or Christian family. He enjoyed people and cared for those he met from various religious communities before and after 9/11. He treated no one as a foreigner, but everyone as a friend. I wonder what would have happened if someone like my father had met Hitchens or one of the suicide bombers. My father could not have argued them out of their stances, but he may very well have loved them out of their hostilities.
So often, my parents opened their home to people of other faiths and other lands, whether Jewish, Buddhist, secularist, and the like. They would have done the same with Muslims, if they had known any. One of the ways in which we can guard against bad religion crashing into buildings and wrecking families’ lives is by opening our homes to those who think and believe differently than we do, going so far as to extend hospitality to them as members of our extended family. Let’s do all we can to guard against the day of infamy’s recurrence by making this day one for a vastly extended family, where we welcome everyone to the family table.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths.