As a nation we remembered, this past weekend, a momentous day in our recent history. We marked the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack upon the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. We remembered again the, close to 3,000 lives lost in that horrific event.
And with you, I continue to mourn those lives cut short. I continue to pray for family members whose holiday celebrations and birthdays without loved ones have brought grief and pain as they recognize the empty chairs around their tables.
But while I indeed mourn these deaths, I also continue to struggle with the way we tend to value certain lives over others.
As some of you know my all-time favorite television show is The West Wing. In one episode the president was deliberating about what, if anything, to do about a situation in an African country where thousands were being killed in a civil war. In a conversation with an advisor he reflected, “Why is an American life worth more to me than one in this African country.” The aide responded, “I don’t know sir, but it is.”
It troubles me that we place such a level of importance on the 3,000 individuals who died in the 9/11 attacks and place so little value on the 21,000 who died that same day, and every day since. The 21,000 children who died from hunger. Tony Campalo, the noted sociologist and Christian speaker, put this sentiment more directly once when he said to a crowd of Christians, “30,000 children died today and you don’t give a sh_t…. And most of you are more upset that I just said “sh_t” than you are about the children dying.”
Friends I am grateful to be a citizen of the United States; I am grateful for so many things about our country. But as grateful as I am to be a citizen of this geo-political body, I am more grateful to be a part of the kingdom of God. The Body that crosses every boundary, every boarder and every ideology. The Body that values every life and every person, understanding that each individual who walks the earth has been created in the image of God and is love deeply by God, even if they happen to be named an enemy of my country.
I don’t have the answer to the 21,000 children who died today of hunger (although numerous organizations from the G8 to UNICEF and the Borgen Project outline the ways that we could care for this travesty. What most have concluded is that while we could, we simply don’t have the will to do it.). And while I get the fact that emotionally we are more connected to those of “our tribe,” “our family” much more than we are to those with whom we have no connection, I guess that is ultimately my point. If we are all part of God’s world, then how is it that we can allow ourselves to erect multi-million dollar monuments to those who died on 9/11, and at the same time allow children to die day after day virtually anonymously? I am grateful for the ways UMCOR and others are helping us to bring this number down. But as followers of Jesus I simply invite us to find ways to remove the boundaries around who is most important, what lives (or deaths) we value and what lives are of a lesser or, if we’re honest, no value. As followers of Jesus may we care, emotionally and practically for as the song goes, “all the children of the world.”