I’m sure there was a lot to be learned from 9/11… lessons about emergency response, lessons about airplane security, lessons about national morale, and heck—the very invention of the term “homeland security.” The attacks on our soil surely shook us all, but there was one really important concept that seems to have been lost on everybody: how to prevent it from happening again.
It’s not a complicated answer. Al Qaida’s attack on the U.S. was motivated by religious fundamentalism. So the lesson learned should be to oppose and quell religious fundamentalism. But we did the opposite. We turned to our own churches and gave them even more power over society than they already had. We propagated Islamophobia, drawing sharper divides between faiths than those that had inspired the attacks to begin with. We launched two holy wars, fighting fire with fire as we’ve attempted to assert our “Judeo-Christianity” world-power authority over those who don’t fit the mold. And we did it all because we’re insecure, because we’re a nation who relies on faith—God shed his grace on thee—to find meaning and value in the potential we have to be great.
It’s ten years later, and look where we are. Islamophobia is a multi-billion dollar industry. War persists without end, though the Arab Spring brings hope that change will come not at the hands of an outside force but from within those nations who will no longer suffer tyrants. And on our home soil, we have creeping Dominionism, the effort to impose Christian dominion over the “seven mountains” of society: government, education, media, arts & entertainment, religion, family, and most importantly, business. As Christian leaders motivate fear of Islam through so-called “creeping Sharia”—the absurd idea that Muslims have already started taking over our communities and instituting strict Sharia Law—they are using this fear to impose their own control over society. And while some like Pat Robertson and Matt Barber now play coy as if they’ve never heard of Dominionism, let alone the fact they contribute to it on a daily basis, Dominionism is more visible and present in mainstream America than ever before and well connected to the entire religious right. Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer rally this Summer (which featured a wide array of religious right leaders making cameos), was predominated by some of the top names in Dominionism. Both he and Rep. Michele Bachmann have close ties to the movement and our frontrunner Republican presidential candidates.
The answer to Muslim fundamentalism is not Christian fundamentalism. Both are warring factions, fighting for power and control over society. The creeds that inform them do little to distinguish them. Both need to be opposed.
The attacks on 9/11/2001 taught us how destructive religious fundamentalism can be to mind and heart. Until we learn to resist fundamentalism’s lust for hegemony, we will continue to fall victim to the very primitive notions that caused 9/11. The time is over for sadness, confusion, insecurity, and fear. It’s time for courage of conviction, organized inclusion, trust in one another, and confidence in the power of diversity. We must avail ourselves of a society in which all people can live freely without imposition of one faith group or another. The goal should be harmony, not “safety.”
It’s been a while since I’ve taken time out to critique the privilege religion has over society, but I hope that today, whoever’s out there reading this thinks of nothing else. Where would we be today if ten years ago, we realized that the scariest threat to our world is shallow, insecure thinking and that the answer is to reach out to one another rather than cloistering ourselves off and forcing everybody else out?
Where would we be if we treated people the way we want people to be treated rather than just the way we think our particular version of God wants us to be treated?
Until we learn that lesson, we are no safer than we were ten years ago today.