State of Emergency, State of Joy: A Sermon for Proper 19, Year C, 2016


As you know, today is the fifteenth anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It’s growing increasingly difficult to remember the shock, horror, and fear that we felt as we watched the events unfold that day and in the weeks and months that followed. It’s hard to remember the unity and sense of purpose that was shared across party lines and throughout our nation as we struggled to make sense of and respond to the devastation and grief.

A little news item I came across this week reminded me of all that, not only the events themselves but the way our nation has changed. The White House announced that President Obama was extending the state of emergency that President Bush had declared on September 11, 2001. Think about it. We have been in a state of emergency for fifteen, now going on sixteen years. The surveillance state, the eternal war, the militarization of our society and police, torture, Guantanamo—all of it has become routine. It’s hardly a state of emergency, or perhaps to put it better, the USA has become an “Emergency State.” So much of what we’re seeing in our political processes, the breakdown of our institutions, our deep divisions, I think can be traced back to forces unleashed by 9-11. Until we make an honest reckoning with ourselves, with the violence and injustice that we’ve perpetrated, with the harm we’ve done to our culture’s norms and values, we are doomed to wander in this wilderness. Continue reading