There are just four problems with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to keep religious leaders and thereby religion out of the 9/11 tenth year memorial on 9/11/11:
America the Beautiful, God Bless America, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and the Star Spangled Banner, which all invoke God and religion.
The fourth verse of the national anthem:
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
If Mr. Bloomberg allows any one of these songs to be sung before, during, or after the 9/11 memorial, he will negate his own stance against public religious expression. And if he doesn’t allow any of these songs to be sung, Michael Bloomberg may have only crowned himself as the biggest darned un-American fool in public life.
Mayor Bloomberg has drawn attention to the place of religion in public life far more dramatically than any religious leader could have dreamed of doing.
If you want a religious alternative to Mayor Bloomberg’s “godless” 9/11 memorial, you might join the 9/11 memorial Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 4PM Eastern time, 9/11/11, also being broadcast on EWTN worldwide, with a rebroadcast scheduled for 12AM ET, 9/12/11. Here is the unofficial text of Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s 9/11/11 homily.
In the end, the name of God was invoked many times during the New York 9/11 memorial. Filling the role of high priest of the American state religion, President Obama spoke and read Psalm 46, which invokes the God of Jacob, an image of God more proper to Judaism and Christianity than to Islam. Former President George W. Bush quoted Abraham Lincoln:
“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
I’m still looking to see if any Muslim was allowed a prominent opportunity to speak or to make a gesture. If not, this was an historic opportunity for reconciliation and good will deferred.
Psalm 46 is a powerful and stern prayer, invoking the name of the “Lord of Hosts” (a warlike term loved by Martin Luther and for Simone Weil a stumbling block), but I would have loved to have heard the following at the memorial:
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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