Thursday, September 12, 2019

E Pluribus Unum

Out of many, one. 

That’s what our national motto means. And it describes the sense we felt on this day 18 years ago.

The unthinkable had happened. To some specific 3000 people, and to others nearby, and more still who were near and dear to all those lost and affected. And we felt that it had happened to all of us.

On the day after, we felt that we were one.

We weren’t divided by political party, ethnic heritage, sex, or race. We were all one.

Paul Bettencourt, my Texas State Senator, posted a photo from the weekend after 9/11/01. He attended an Aggie football game (Texas A&M University), and the people in the stadium were dressed in red, white, and blue, according to which tier of the stadium they were in. That must have included fans from both teams, because it’s the whole stadium. We were together, then, as one.

Aggie Stadium (Kyle Field), the weekend after 9/11/01
photo from Senator Paul Bettencourt's Facebook page 9/11/2019

I don’t ever want to see another 9/11. That was a life changing moment, the way Pearl Harbor was for my dad’s generation. But the combined sense of mission and oneness is something Americans tend to show after such an event.

Here in Houston we recognize something: when God wants to unify the people of the Gulf Coast, he sends hurricanes and floods. Katrina. Rita. Ike. Harvey. (That’s not a complete list.) At these times, regular people face the challenge and step up to help. The desire to care for one another overrides everything else. We don’t worry about religion, ethnicity, language, race. We just see each other as people in need and people who are there to help those in need.

In our country today, the sense of division is at dangerous levels. I don’t say it’s the worst ever, because we’ve had a civil war. But the divisions cut pretty deep. You can’t compromise with people who want to wield power over you—to deprive you of your religious beliefs, your desire to protect your life, liberty, and property. There’s only standing up against such tyrants. That’s true even of would-be tyrants among us.
I saw this several times on Facebook this week.
I don't know the original source, but I agree.

But there are people who are not meaning to be tyrants, but are simply misinformed, giving in to emotional string-pulling, and a mix of fear and covetousness. Those people can be one with us if they tune out the controlling propaganda and come to see us as people.

I’d like to see that happen organically, by choice. I don’t want some catastrophe to fall upon any of us just to get our attention and force us to see that caring for one another is paramount. But I do know that, in the past, catastrophe has resulted in greater unity. And if God is giving us time to reunite by natural choice and we fail to take the opportunity, allowing a disaster to bring about healing is not out of the realm of possibility. Because that unity is important to the Father of us all.

Recently in our church reading assignment, we covered Paul’s first letter to the saints in Corinth. In chapter 12, he uses the image of the body to represent the saints together in a body—made up of many members, but all important, all able to do their particular assignments. It comes after a section talking about various gifts we all have; no one has them all, so we benefit one another by being together. Here are a few of these verses:

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ….
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?...
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
We suffer together when we must. Wouldn’t we rather rejoice together?

President John F. Kennedy saying "Ich bin ein Berliner."
screenshot from here
There was a time when JFK stood at the Berlin Wall and said, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” meaning that, on that day, he (and we Americans whom he represented) stood in solidarity with the free people of Berlin—which should have included them all—because we stood with the good, the right: the free.

After 9/11, not only were all Americans proudly saying, “I am an American!” but much of the world was saying that with us.

I wish the unity had lasted longer. I wish it had not so badly deteriorated this past decade. I wish for healing into unity by choice, rather than by another life-changing tragedy. I want us to feel the caring for one another that we felt on 9/12/2001—without the calamity that led to it.

E pluribus unum.

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