Monday, May 02, 2011

Following Highest Values

Monday, May 2, 2011 -- Week of 2 Easter
Saint Mark the Evangelist (transferred from April 25)

To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)

EITHER the readings for Monday of 2 Easter, p. 958
Psalms 1, 2, 3 (morning)        4, 7 (evening)
Daniel 1:1-21
1 John 1:1-10
John 17:1-11

the readings for St. Mark, p. 997
Morning Prayer:  Psalm 145;  Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11;  Acts 12:25 - 13:3
Evening Prayer:  Psalms 57, 96;  Isaiah 62:6-12;  2 Timothy 4:1-11

(Note:  Any Major Feasts that happen during Holy Week and Easter Week are transferred in sequence once we get to the days after Easter Week.  Today we transfer St. Mark's day from April 25)

I stayed up late last night watching the news after hearing of the death of Osama bin Laden.  And I slept a little longer this morning when after the alarm went off. 

I found myself having somewhat mixed feelings last night.  It does not feel right to rejoice when another human being is killed.  And yet, I had a sense of relief and thanks that a person who had perpetrated so much evil and violence was no longer alive. 

It was good intelligence and basic investigative work that uncovered bin Laden after ten years.  And some sophisticated special ops work that finished him in the middle of a suburban neighborhood without harming nearby innocents. 

It has always seemed to me that we erred by using war metaphors in reaction to the attacks of 9-11.  In doing so, we inappropriately ennobled bin Laden and his group as if they were a real army from a real nation with real warriors.  I thought we should have used the metaphor of organized crime.  Al Qaeda seems more like a drug cartel or like the Ku Klux Klan than an army.  Had we framed the attack in terms of organized crime, we might have focused more on effective methods of counter-terrorism -- essentially police actions: good intelligence and infiltration of the group -- rather than creating wars. 

How much damage we have done by launching wars, with their inevitable harm and death to non-combatants, rather than using our superior resources to combat a small, clandestine violent criminal conspiracy?  What if we had responded to the 9-11 attacks by inspiring our highest American ideals and character rather than our reactive, violent nature?

On the day after 9-11, the whole world was with us.  They looked to us with sympathy and with empathy.  We were to set the agenda for an international response to terrorism.  What if we had used the moral weight that we held at that time to do things constructive, things that come from the best of the American spirit?  What if we had used our unequaled influence at that moment to broker a fair and lasting peace settlement between Israel and Palestine?  What if we had used that moment to launch an international relief effort to combat poverty and misery in places that sometimes breed the helplessness that leads to violence and terrorism?  What if we had chosen a law-enforcement metaphor rather than war?  We could have stood for the values of the rule of law, and focused the whole world on solving our shared problems, rather than our creating more problems and launching a decade of war.

I think we were poorly led in those days following 9-11, and we did not follow our highest American values and traditions.  Instead of being noble, strong and just, we became fearful and violent.  The whole world has suffered.

The story we have today from the beginning of the book of Daniel is a fine story about the power that is present when we follow our highest ideals and maintain our identity and values in times of challenge and stress.  It is the story of four young Jewish men who have been carried off in a mass deportation to Babylon.  Their captors decide to train the young men, along with captives from other nations, to compete to become elite servants in the royal court.

All of the trainees are to be given royal rations of food and wine.  But the assigned food is not kosher.  The four Jewish men ask their trainer to allow them to maintain their dietary traditions, here represented as vegetables to eat and water to drink.  As long as the men can show they can compete with the others, the trainer allows them to observe kosher.  At the end of the testing time, no one was found to be healthier and wiser than the four Jewish men. 

We betray our highest identity and values at great peril.  It is usually a crisis, a great threat, that tempts us to be less than we are.  But crisis is also the time of trial that forges our strongest character.  As Americans, we need to remember that we are a strong and peaceful people.  We value freedom and opportunity; we are compassionate; we are creative and hopeful, we are unafraid; we watch out for the little guy, for those who are weak or threatened; we embrace the equality of human beings and the rule of just laws.  When we live out of our highest values, we bring much goodness to ourselves and to the planet. 

May this next decade be a time of rebuilding, renewal and healing, consistent with the best values of our nation and of all humanity.



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:09 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Thank you for your beautifully honest reflection. I don't see where we will ever find peace by simply killing the enemy.

At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kind of annoying when your worldview clashes with reality isn't it?
Obama the Nobel peace prize winner authorized a brutal kill on a untried man.
Obama dumps the body which verifies that Osama was in fact a devout muslim.
Obama used information gathered by enhanced interogations which he supposedly hates, and i do mean supposedly.
Obama is now invading another country, "launching" another war.

It is also funny how Lowell claims to know what led to the kill. "good intelligence and basic investigative work". What do you have inside info?

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Here's a link to a thoughtful article by the Religion Editor of Huffington Post. BTW -- it has been reported that the information about the courier which led to the discovery of Bin Laden's place was not information gained from "enhanced interrogation." I would claim that good intelligence work has been far more successful than war at foiling terrorism.


At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Osama was a terrorist, then why did Obama bury him at sea to pacify the peaceful muslims? Kinda strange.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

There is nothing strange about offering a dignified burial to the corpse of an enemy or even of an evil one. It is a failure of our our own humanity to do less.

When Antigone's brother, a traitor, was left unburied, she risked the King Creon's threats to give him the proper rites.

The gods were rightly offended when Achilles dragged Hector's body behind his chariot after their famous fight.

The inhabitants of Jabesh-giliad have immortal honor because they rescued Saul's body and gave it a proper burial.

We don't desecrate the dead bodies of human beings. It is less than human to do so. We aren't that kind of people.



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