What is at the heart of the next step?
I’m writing this on May 19, 2011-the day that commemorates the birth of Malcolm X. I find it ironic that I, an African-American preacher, find myself thinking about, on this of all days, the killing of a terrorist named Osama Bin Laden.
He will not order another plane to be crashed into another building. He will not train another soldier in terrorist tactics. He will not teach young, impressionable children to hate, to strap bombs to themselves, or to use AK-47s or any other weapon of war.
He was gunned down to the great pleasure of many citizens of our beloved United States of America. Many have yearned to see visual evidence of his corpse for closure and to feel that justice has been served.
We have seen a plethora of news reports and read a cornucopia of articles about Bin Laden’s killing and the Taliban’s next-in-command. Yet, over this passing of time since Bin Laden took his last breath, a key question begs to be asked, “Where does that leave us now?”
I am not asking this question from the perspective of who do we go after next. But rather, now that we have killed a killer, where does that really leave us?
Does that make the world a better place? A man who violently expressed his convictions has been violently killed. But has violence died?
A terrorist has been taken out. But does terrorism itself still exist?
There are some things we must do differently if we do not want another terrorist to rise in his place, because the same energy dynamic is present whether one terrorist is murdered or thousands of innocent people die at the hands of man. That energy dynamic is the seed of vengefulness, hatred and violence.
Rage, hostility and hatred must be wiped out, not simply the people who violently express these low vibration states of being. Stevie Wonder was right when he sang, “Hate knows love’s the cure.” Darkness cannot be cast out by adding more darkness. Rather, in the mere presence of the light, darkness automatically and willingly disappears.
I remember September 11, 2001, very clearly. It was a Tuesday, and the biological father of my stepchildren was working in New York, commuting back to Detroit on the weekends to be with the children. He had been in one of the Twin Towers the day before.
That morning, I got a call from my girlfriend (now wife). She was dropping off my stepson, who was soon to turn 4 years old, at preschool, when she saw the news report of the first plane being crashed into the first tower. I turned on the television and was surprised to see another plane crash into the other tower. I heard of yet another plane that had been hijacked and began doing spiritual healing work. Shortly after it was reported that the plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
I vividly recall having an overwhelming feeling of sadness fill me to the core of my being that day and being unable to watch any more of the news reports. It was as if I was feeling not only my pain, but the pain of the world. So I did what any God-loving preacher would do-I prayed.
Sunday, September 16, 2001, I preached on forgiveness. I learned that several others did as well. I remember having the question, “How would the world be transformed if President George W. Bush responded by calling on us as a nation to forgive?”
Well, that was not the path he chose. Apparently, he was not the person to plant that seed in the minds of our citizenry. Perhaps he needed to take his position, and perhaps President Barack Obama needed to order the killing. We all have our given roles to play in the grand scheme of things.
Indeed, in this moment, I am very clear of my role as it pertains to September 11. Yes, 9-11 signifies a state of emergency. In this case what is emerging is a call to a deeper love.
So, as a peace-loving man of the cloth, who loves God and all of God’s creatures, including the ones with whom I strongly disagree, I am sending forth a clarion call. This clarion call is for forgiveness. I am urging all religious leaders of all faiths, all heads of state, every person at every level of government, every teacher, every parent, every person of any influence to join me in observing September 11 of each year as an International Day of Forgiveness.
Hate cannot restore, but love can heal. We owe it to ourselves to love ourselves enough to free ourselves of the toxic feelings of hatefulness, vengefulness and resentment. Forgiveness is what will free us up. And through the power of forgiving, we as a human race will get to the promised land.
The way we will get there is through the heart.