16 SEPT, 2001

It has been said over and over this past week that our fellow citizens who perished in these terrorist attacks were "innocent bystanders"... I beg to differ. They were innocent but they were definitely not bystanders. They were Americans (for the most part) and as such were viewed as legitimate targets. As legitimate as each had been wearing the uniform I wear this day. Not targets of opportunity... not collateral damage... primary targets. All the nefarious planning, all the millions of dollars, the endless hours of rehearsal and training were expended with but one goal:  to kill the maximum number of  Americans.

This is a new thing for America and like all new things in a democracy of a negative nature, we try to assign blame. The fingers are being pointed. How could this happen on a gorgeous late Summers' day in our nation's Capitol... in a quiet West Pennsylvania field, in the most influential, and ironically,  increasingly peaceful New York City? Who let us down? Who left the grate off of the sewer? Who left the back door open and gave away the combination to the safe? Who is at fault? The FBI, CIA, INS, NYPD? After all, these organizations exist for one purpose; to assure the public safety. So, whom do we sue? Who let us down?

The simple answer is that WE LET OURSELVES DOWN...

Winston Churchill was once asked his opinion of his predecessor in the office of English Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain who returned from Munich waving an "Iron clad " peace accord with Adolph Hitler. He stepped off the plane declaring, "Peace in our time!" (You could almost hear the Prophet Isaiah whispering offstage, "Woe to those who cry 'peace, peace' when there is no peace.") That worthless piece of paper hastened the death of millions. Yet, Churchill was a gentleman and said only of Chamberlain, "His imagination in evil was wanting   (repeat)...

Up until last Tuesday, our collective imagination in evil was lacking. We were all snug and nestled down in our own self created sense of security. We did not and perhaps still do not understand that much of the world truly and passionately hates us.... Despises us... wants us all as dead as those poor souls who lie in the smoking rubble of the Trade Towers.

Some of this is simply envy but much of it is ideological hatred. The hatred of the true believer who peruses his crusade from a position of unassailable moral superiority. These monsters see us as a direct threat to their ways of seeing and believing and we must be stopped.

We are a threat? We who rebuilt Europe and Japan? Who could hate a culture that came up with pro bass fishing and the Home Shopping Network? Yes... we are hated. You see not only is our prosperity detested but so are the beliefs, which gave rise to the American colossus. The concepts of individual liberty under the law, toleration and the rights of minorities, freedom of expression and a press without censure and my personal favorite, freedom of religion -  all of these and more are putrid in the nostrils of those who fear our successes will forever change their way of life.

You see, our way of life is so rare and unique that it is an aberration in the course of human events. And as such it runs counter to the march of history and has become a target for those who would not leave the old ways of anarchy and oppression behind.

My grieving fellow citizens; I believe to the bottom of my soul that our God wastes nothing. My Lord & Savior once declared that even the sparrow that falls to earth is in God's eye and concern. Even the hairs on our heads are numbered. Tragedy is not wasted either if it is used to force us to reconsider what is precious to us as a nation. These lives were not snuffed out in vain if we the survivors recount the cost of defending our liberty and name & claim our birthright as free born Americans. What do we cherish and hold in ultimate esteem? Our prosperity? Our GNP or 401K? Do we cherish the rare and precious gem of freedom enough to steel ourselves for the resistance our very existence portends to the world? A tragedy of such monumental proportions must force us to name ourselves in light of not only this sacrifice but of all the sacrifices that have preceded it and those which will follow. We must. How else are we to define ourselves if not by ideas. By race? By geographic proximity? By country of origin?  By Religion? To be an American is to embrace an ideal. To paraphrase founding Father Fisher Ames, "The plant of freedom, my friend, is a thirsty plant, it needs constant watering from the sweating brows of vigilant patriots...".

Tennent Cemetery, like other ancient places of burial and remembrance, is a narrative in stone of the community it services. As you wander about, the quaintness of the language and of the names often strikes you. Fashion changes even in naming. My forebears, like the Hebrew people they admired, often named their children after events and conditions in their time. They knew that the future needed to be  round in the past. For this generation stakes its claim on the next through the process of naming the children.

How shall we then name the children of this generation? Shall we name them, "Without Hope", or "Not My People", or "Abandoned By God"? Or shall we name them Patience, Charity, Hope, Endurance, Liberty, or even Washington, Jefferson, Madison or Lincoln?

I know monuments will be erected in that lonely field west of Pittsburgh where brave citizens struggled to take control of their plane knowing that it was on its way to kill others.... I know plaques will be dedicated in the Pentagon where my service brothers & sisters died at their duty stations.... I know grand memorials will be raised at the tip of a rebuilt and renewed Manhattan... yet wouldn't the best memorials be the strong hearts of the next generation beating proud and secure in free breasts? A generation committed to protecting the rare gem of liberty and unafraid to raise our standard as the world's benchmark?

Let us name the future as a memorial to our precious dead. Let us name ourselves always and forever... FREE AMERICANS.

l share with you a traditional toast raised at Army formal dining occasions during the Revolutionary War...



Link to Pastor's Statement for September 1

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