In the terrible terrorist attacks of September 11, thousands of our fellow citizens were buried under the rubble. The rest of us have been buried under the rubble of words that followed. It is hard to criticize such words; all of us utter trivial platitudes in moments when events simply exceed our capacity for reflection and insight. Some words are always appropriate—prayers, for example, for those who have suffered most directly from the attacks. But I confess that, apart from such prayers, I have not been much helped by most of the Christian talk I have heard. Much of it, indeed, has seemed strangely irrelevant, as if we have lost the capacity to bring our theological talk into any serious relation with the world we inhabit. This seeming irrelevance may—as I hope—reflect nothing more than my own narrow range of experience, but there are things Christians ought to say that I myself have not much heard. Each of these points is complicated and arguable.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).