As the television programming moves from CSI to the late evening news, I am struck by how seamless it is. I am not referring to well choreographed video segues, but rather to how consistent the content is.
CSI, like countless other television shows and movies, has a basic plot line. Someone kills someone else and then someone or a group of people figure out who did it and how he or she did so. And along the way there are the other “casualties” or, to use the military term, “collateral damage” that happens around the intended victims.
The mystery is solved and immediately the local news anchor comes on and says something like, “Five people were shot outside a bar this evening.” As the story unfolds we learn that a number of those killed were “innocent victims.” Unfortunately, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Whether it is fact or fiction, the scenario is the same: perceived nameless-anonymous people are expendable. Watch around the edges of a movie and see how many individuals are hurt or killed. The movie keeps rolling with no regard to the fact that these are God’s children too, who have folks who love them and had dreams and aspirations. They were created for purpose, just as any of us were.
On September 11, 2001, as I watched the plane crash into the tower, it felt unreal. To be completely honest, it felt like I was watching yet another action movie. But it was not. All who died on 9/11 were children of God, who had people who loved them, had dreams and aspirations, and were created for a purpose. They were not expendable, not casualties, not collateral damage. They were people whose dignity had worth and who were to be respected.
As a people of faith we are called to, “love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). As Episcopalians we commit in our Baptismal Covenant to, “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and to “respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP pg. 305).
My prayer for us as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches is two-fold. First, let us all take a moment to remember and reflect on the reality that each person whose life was taken that day was an individual child of God. And second, let us live our lives in a way that clearly demonstrates our call to love each individual as our neighbor, who Jesus knew as a friend and not a stranger, and who is worthy of the dignity of respect.