Originally posted March 21, 2011, at Have a Little Faith in NYC. Republished with permission of the author.
Editor’s note: This year a group of Muslim and Christian (ELCA) students from the University of Minnesota traveled from the Twin Cities to New York City for spring break. They spent much of their time in service to the marginalized. The following is an entry from a blog they wrote while in New York.
Kate Reuer is the pastor of the University of Minnesota’s ELCA campus ministry.
On March 15 we were at Ground Zero. This site, full of so much trauma, death and destruction, also holds stories of bravery, compassion and honor.
I’ve always cocked my head a little bit at the word “freedom” when it’s used in a political context.
Still, as that word made its appearance multiple times on signs, in proposed names of memorials and in slogans found throughout the World Trade Center site, its use felt particularly profane to me.
The political appropriation seemed to dishonor the stories that were so powerful.
The national narrative that includes stories of persecution, attack and revenge (and my own reaction to that particular telling) over-rode stories of firefighters rushing up stairs with 90-pound packs on to rescue people.
It over-rode stories of Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Jews dying side by side, jumping out of top-story windows.
It over-rode stories of pieces of bodies being found within 16 blocks of the World Trade Center. This particular national narrative subsumes the particularity of individual stories of suffering and loss, of bravery and loyalty.
And in that, it somehow denies the courage, honor and bravery shown that day — courage that is rooted in another sort of freedom.
This is a freedom that comes from knowing who you are, and whose you are.
Now this is decidedly theistic language, but I am an ELCA pastor, and that is the lens through which I see the world.
Upon reflecting on this experience, it seems as if the political use of the word “freedom” bugs me so much because it has such deep and rich theological connotations.
As Lutherans, we believe in a God who leads with mercy and love, and that is our starting point. Because our salvation is secure in Christ, we are freed by this love to love the world.
We are freed to be curious about the world.
We are freed to learn, serve and love alongside people of other faiths.
We are freed to look around us for signs of God in the here and now fleshiness of this world.
And we are freed to acknowledge that we may not know all of the answers to how God might be showing up. This is freedom, brothers and sisters. And it is a wonderful thing.
Find a link to Kate Reuer’s entry on Have a Little Faith in NYC at Lutheran Blogs.