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Deliver Us From Evil

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Faith healing: Seth Castleman volunteered as a counselor round the clock after the attacks.  

"When Falwell and Robertson glibly say, 'Well, the United States is beingpunished for all of our liberal views,' " the Reverend Tewell said in aSeptember 23 sermon, "they are basically saying that if America is good, Godwill bless us, and if America is bad, God's protective covering is takenaway. And I say, as lovingly as I can, that's bad theology."

Many mainstream pastors are struggling to revive the fighting faith of ColdWar religious leaders like Reinhold Niebuhr, who combatted Communistideology with a humility grounded in original sin.

We did not cause the terrorist attack to happen, Caliandro says -- but thatdoesn't mean we shouldn't use this as an opportunity to redefine ourselvesin the face of the fundamentalist challenge. "It's a call to humility and tograce. What are we doing with what we have? Are we appreciating it andmaking sure the rest of the world gets to the point where they can have whatwe have?"

"The refrain I keep coming back to is that the Chinese word for crisis hastwo word-pictures -- one for danger and one for opportunity," says theReverend Forrest Church, pastor at All Souls. "I feel very strongly that theuniversalist faith we proclaim must be now embodied with the same vigor andpassion that those who have a more divisive and fanatical fundamentalistfaith power their own beliefs by. So I have become, to the extent that onecan be, an Evangelical Unitarian."

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, of Farah Mosque in TriBeCa, applauds the return tofaith he's seeing -- whether or not it's his own faith. "We assert thatsalvation can be found outside our own parochial tradition," says Rauf. "Soit is good to see people attend their church. It's symbolic of a recognitionthat there are values that are more important than material values."

Religious historians generally point to 1965 asthe year that attendance began to decline in American churches andsynagogues, fueled by an explosion of competing ideologies and a potentsuspicion of institutions of all kinds -- the same cynicism the nationalmedia now seems so intent on convincing us is a relic.

"There was a spike in attendance at religious services in the fifties andearly sixties, a direct response to the Cold War," says Randall Balmer,professor of American religion at Columbia and Barnard. "There was a sensethat we as Americans had to present a united front against the evils ofgodless Communism. The American response to the terrorist attack has beenportrayed relentlessly by the president and his surrogates as a crusade ofgood against evil. To the extent that that resonates with people, they willbe religiously active themselves."

Some of the city's clergy have discovered a more immediate wellspring for arenewed sense of mission. Rabbi David Woznica found himself with few answersfor a woman who had lost more than 70 co-workers in the World Trade Center."She asked, 'Why wasn't it me?' and 'How am I supposed to go on?' " saysWoznica, executive vice-president of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation andscholar-in-residence at the 92nd Street Y. "I remember holding her, cryingwith her. I know some people would have responded that God was protectingher. But what does that mean? That he wasn't protecting the other people? Ifshe felt that, I wouldn't dissuade her. But theologically, it's hard toaccept."

For Woznica, it is crucial to understand that there is evil in the world."When religion is defined exclusively by ritual and not by moral behavior,we have done a terrible disservice to religion." So Woznica feels hatred isan appropriate emotion right now (but he's careful to point out that it mustnot become obsessive). "In the Psalms, there is a line that says, God lovesthose who hate evil. There are times when it's appropriate to hate peoplewho do evil."

Andrea Dudrow, a secular Jew who moved to theLower East Side from San Francisco in August, could count on one hand thenumber of times she'd been to temple in her 29 years. But on Rosh Hashanah,six days after the attacks, she headed to services with some family friends."Everything I came to New York for -- the energy of it -- seemed to bemissing after the tragedy," she says. "So it was nice to go to a communitywhere people were feeling warmly emotional."


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