Gary Harder

The Conrad Grebel Review 20, no. 2 (Spring 2002)

Donald B. Kraybill and Linda Gehman Peachey, editors, Where was God on
Sept. 11? Seeds of Faith and Hope.
Scottdale, PA & Waterloo, ON: Herald
Press, 2002.

As a pastor I felt almost overwhelmed trying to find ways to help our congregation respond meaningfully to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Even in Canada we felt that we could not “worship as normal.” Feelings ran all over the map. People did not want shallow clichés. But neither were they ready immediately for a more in-depth analysis. Some wanted only to grieve; some wanted to express their anger and their fear. Some wanted to examine the root causes of the attacks. Some felt very angry when U.S. foreign policies were included in these root causes — “You are blaming the victims.” I can only imagine that my colleagues in the United States faced all these issues and feelings and people in a far more intense way.

Then, along came Where was God on Sept. 11? Seeds of Faith and Hope. The book’s scope is wide. It gives voice both to a spectrum of theological longings and personal feelings, and to some of the complex currents and countercurrents that were overwhelming me in September. Initially I was dissatisfied as I started reading. I had hoped for a more systematic treatment of theological, Biblical, and political perspectives. What I was reading were pieces, wonderful pieces but pieces none-the-less. Many pieces, almost too many. Most, but not all, were by Mennonites and North Americans. Most were too short for what I craved.

But as the pieces accumulated, I was drawn in emotionally as well as
intellectually. And there did emerge a direction, a point of view, a “system,” which in the end felt like it had a lot of depth after all. This direction is well described by the editors: “Many people, understandably, swelled with anger and rage. Some hungered for retaliation; others were paralyzed with fear. These essays offer a third track, another way of responding, a search for nonviolent alternatives in the midst of rage and despair” (11). The many voices rising in these essays are not uniform or consistent, but they do clearly speak for this third track. Read together, they become powerful.

The book is organized around seven chapters. 1) God Amid the Terror? 2) Jesus and the Way of Peace, 3) Revenge, Justice, or Forgiveness? 4) Will Violence Bring Peace? 5)Voices from Our Global Family, 6) Citizens of Two Kingdoms, and 7) Another Way of Responding. Some seventy writers search in different ways and for different angles of God’s non-violent voice.

Along the way I was gripped by a number of the stories told and the images developed. One question that stays with me was posed by Nancy Good Sider: “Which wolf do we feed?” Sider tells the story of a Native American grandfather talking to his grandson. “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, gentle, compassionate one.” “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” asked the grandson. “The one I feed,” replied his grandfather.

This book helps feed the “peace” wolf in us. It does so in a compelling,
powerful way.