The terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon were not just about buildings and airplanes. They were about people. People who survived and people who died. The country grieves.
In the midst of this, Christians are called to be, as Augustine put it, "the best of citizens." But what should we be doing?
Well, let me begin with practical suggestions. Hospitals in New York and Washington need blood. And whether you're in New York or California, if you give blood, it will get to the victims who need it. Christians ought to be the first ones in line.
Second, we can volunteer. Yesterday, as exhausted, emotionally spent office workers walked across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, they were met by workers handing out cups of water. They had hauled five-gallon water bottles from all over to offer the proverbial "cup of cold water" to those suffering. I don't know about the workers' motivation, but what a touching example of community spirit and love.
Third, we can listen. The magnitude of this terrorist attack cuts to the heart and soul of many American communities as our neighbors lost friends or loved ones in airplanes and buildings. Beyond that, most Americans spent all of Tuesday and the bulk of yesterday glued to the television—as did most of our children in schools. People are traumatized and confused. They need to talk, and we can listen and give a reason for our hope.
Fourth, we can be an influence on those around us. For example, we can love our Muslim and Middle Eastern neighbors. Our instinct for self-preservation will cause us to see someone in traditional Muslim dress or with Arabic features and wonder if he or she represents a threat. At the same time, we know that most Arabs living in America are Christians—Christians who have fled from the kind of militant Islamic leaders who are suspected of Tuesday's terror. Beyond that, the vast majority of Muslims living in the United States are peaceful and law- abiding people. Christians should be the first to recognize this and befriend those who will find themselves shunned by many.
Finally and most important, we need to pray. Pray fervently for our leaders. President George Bush has a devout, evangelical faith in Christ. I know from our conversations. National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice, speechwriter Mike Gerson, and others in the administration are strong believers as well. These brothers and sisters need God's wisdom and our prayers.
Commentator Tim Russett pointed out what a difficult decision the President faces. If his response is too weak, he invites more terrorism. If he orders an all- out assault on the terrorists and those who harbor them, it could provoke extreme elements in moderate Muslim countries to topple their governments. This would have the net result of turning our allies into rogue nations who are willing to aid and export terrorism. Enormous wisdom—nothing less than God's wisdom—is required.
We can also pray that the "quiet, unyielding anger" of the American people of which Bush spoke, an anger that is both natural and appropriate, does not spill over in to rash demands. The President knows he must act swiftly. But for the rest of us, this is a time when our anger must be tempered with patience and restraint. May God have mercy on us.