On September 11, I was scheduled to lecture on Simone Weil’s classic essay, “The Love of God and Affliction.” I never made it to class—it was canceled due to the devastating, horrifying news of the World Trade Center attacks. We immediately organized a prayer service for the divinity school community—but what could be said, even in the context of prayer?
Now is the time to warn ourselves of the dangers of impregnability. True, as a country we have been violated in a most brutal way, and we’ll have to make sure that we are safe in the future. And yet the way we are going about securing our safety, especially after September 11, is deeply flawed.
By now we are all too familiar not only with the major terrorist attacks on the World Trade towers and the Pentagon, but also with the smaller terrorist attacks on Muslims, Sikhs and Arab-Americans in the weeks since then. At the time of this writing, the murder of an Arizona Sikh man named Balbir Singh Sodhi is the latest deadly case of mistaken identity.
One Saturday morning when there was a brief lull in our domestic hubbub, I asked our 13-year-old son John what he considered to be the most important things in life. He instantly presented me with an itemized list:
• To make sure that you and everyone else have a good time
What are your ambitions?” an administrative colleague asked me recently. I am not often speechless, but this time I didn’t know what to say. I briefly considered explaining my understanding of vocation, especially in relation to my primary identity as an ordained minister of the gospel. That would make clear why I have presumed that the church has a legitimate claim on my life.