Presbyterian Church USA Conference Speech

by Myrna Bethke
May 4, 2002

A Native American storyteller was asked by his grandson why people were fighting all the time. His grandfather answered, ?In a vision I saw two wolves at war in my heart. One wolf was snarling and full of rage and violence. The other was loving, compassionate and peaceful. Between the two of them I felt I was being torn apart.? ?Who will win grampa?? asked the anxious little boy. ?The one I feed.? said his grandfather.

On September 11th I watched with a numbing sense of horror as the World Trade Towers collapsed. The unreality was such that it took me almost ten minutes to remember that my youngest brother had just been transferred there from his Princeton office. Phone calls were attempted by my family, but because of the disruption in phone service we couldn?t get through to one another easily. In one of the strange twists of the day we found we could communicate through my brother in Michigan.

For the next two days we joined thousands of people who were posting messages on the internet, hanging pictures in New York City and visiting hospitals. It was two days before we learned he had been on the 95th floor of the first tower hit. The only confirmation of my brother?s death was and still is, his silence.

There is no denying the evil and horror of that day?s events. Yet, I do not feel that revenge and retaliation are the responses that are needed to face those events. There is no part of me that can contemplate that kind of response to terror, even when it has resulted in personal grief. There are far too many times and places in which the wolf of violence and rage has been fed in response to terror. Now, more than ever we must find ways to feed the wolf of peace and justice. The days since September 11th have been ones of great sadness both personally and globally. Violence and oppression some days feel as if they are out of control, and seem to be winning. There is a profound sense of the wrongness of our world that people can live in such a state of rage and hopelessness that the only options they can contemplate are the acts of terror we are witnessing every day. I was struck by the story of the first female suicide bomber from Palestine. This young woman spent her life in a refugee camp. She loved children, and wanted to be a doctor. She raised doves. She worked as a paramedic on the ambulance squad treating those hurt in the violence that surrounded her. The desperation she saw drove her to see no other way but her final, terrible action.

If we are to say never again to such days as September 11th we must begin to spend more time on weaving structures of peace and justice. In the earliest days of the Hebrew people, God was seen as the God of justice. That character of God was predominate in their theology. God?s justice meant that everyone would have access to life. For that time and place such access was defined as having access to the land. Today God remains the God of justice, although what defines access to life may have changed. When we deny access to life in whatever way, we are leaving people with hopelessness and despair that will drive them to desperate, horrible actions. Our task is to create a world which is life giving, one in which acts of desperation become unthinkable, because there is no need for them.

I am not so na

Filed in: Voices of Peaceful Tomorrows

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