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The Chronicle of Higher Education
From the issue dated September 28, 2001

A Complex God


In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, The Chronicle asked scholars in a variety of disciplines to reflect on those events. Their comments were submitted in writing or transcribed from interviews.

Even if the culprit is Osama bin Laden, and we track him down, and we kill him and destroy his network, he's won.

That's because he is ready to die, and the people who support him are ready to die. Americans aren't ready to die. Under those circumstances, you begin to see some of the cracks in a determinedly bourgeois civilization, which is basically about securing safety rather than securing goods. This situation holds a deep moral challenge for us.

The events of September 11 have brought home to America that war is about dying. I'm not quite sure how that will be received. I suspect it will produce a more repressive politics than we already experience. Americans have no sense of how it is that we can be this hated. It never occurs to them that our country's actions have terrible results for other people around the world, and that they blame us. I have a friend who pointed out that September 11 is the anniversary of the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and the beginning of a regime of torture there, and of course that was U.S.-sponsored. Why shouldn't people be mad at us?

We are willing to worship a God only if God makes us safe. Thus you get the silly question, How does a good God let bad things happen to good people? Of course, it was a rabbi who raised that question, but Christians took it up as their own. Have you read the Psalms lately? We're seeing a much more complex God than that question gives credit for.

Stanley Hauerwas is a professor of theological ethics at Duke University.
Section: The Chronicle Review
Page: B6

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Copyright © 2001 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

Reflections on the Fractured Landscape

Edward T. Linenthal: Toward the 'New Normal'

Azizah al-Hibri: Can We Restore America's Historical Role?

Bernard Wasserstein: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism

Thomas E. Gouttierre: An Abandoned Afghanistan

Joanne B. Freeman: The American Republic, Past and Present

Stanley Hauerwas: A Complex God

Terry L. Deibel: Finding a Middle Road

Stanley I. Kutler: Fanatics at Home and Abroad

Howard Zinn: Compassion, Not Vengeance

Robert Jay Lifton: Giving Meaning to Survival

Alan M. Dershowitz: Preserving Civil Liberties

Richard Perle: Needed: a Sustained Campaign

Mark Crispin Miller: Danger in the New Solemnity

David P. Barash: Our Biological Nature

John O. Voll: Understanding Terrorism

R. Scott Appleby: Building Peace to Combat Religious Terror

Richard Slotkin: Our Myths of Choice

Christopher Phelps: Why We Shouldn't Call It War

Homi Bhabha: A Narrative of Divided Civilizations

Amitai Etzioni: Balancing Rights and Public Safety

Michael Ledeen: Steps to a Safer World

Leonard Cassuto: The Power of Words

Catherine Lutz: Our Legacy of War

Paul Levinson: Images of Unmediated Ugliness

Thomas S. Hibbs: What Kind of Evil?

David Sterritt and Mikita Brottman: Hollywood's Metaphors

Robert S. McElvaine: A Second Black Tuesday

Jeane Kirkpatrick: The Case for Force

Robert Coles: In the Words of Children

R. Stephen Humphreys: Muslims Must Look Within

Richard Mouw: A Time for Self-Examination

Point of View
Laurie Fendrich: History Overcomes Stories