Richard Mouw, Barry Cytron, Patricia Hampl, Et Al. —
Where Was God?

Great religious minds reflect on tragedies surrounding September 11, 2001. As America moves beyond raw emotion and religious sentiment, this program explores theological and spiritual reflection for the long haul. A gathering of provocative reflections across a broad spectrum of faith, woven together with evocative sound and music.

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Guests

Richard Mouw

is a Christian philosopher and president of Fuller Theological Seminary

Barry Cytron

is director of the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning

Patricia Hampl

Poet and author of A Romantic Education and Virgin Time

Linda Loving

Pastor at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, Minnesota

Dan Grigassy

is a Franciscan friar and professor of liturgy, Washington Theological Union

Cynthia Eriksson

is a clinical psychologist at the Headington Program in International Trauma

Anthony Ugolnik

Ukrainian Orthodox priest and professor of English literature at Franklin and Marshall College

Joan Dehzad

is an Episcopal deacon and executive director of the Institute of New Americans

About the Image

Father Christopher Keenan (center) participates in the funeral for New York Fire Department chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge outside St. Francis of Assisi Church on September 15, 2001. Judge was killed while giving last rites at the scene of the World Trade Center attacks in New York.

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

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Reflections

The question "where was God?" was well answered by saying he was with us, he suffered with us, and his compassion was demonstrated through us.

The question "why did God let this happen?" should be followed with a consideration on "what if he didn't let it happen?"

If God prevented the suffering of the innocent, it would then stand to reason that He condones the suffering does happen. Thus any suffering one person may inflect on another becomes justified and sanctioned by God.

I knew before listening to the podcast exactly what the discussion would be about based on the title and date of the podcast. Because of the tragedy of 9/11, many people were asking themselves (and God) why didn't God intervene? I remember hearing all sorts of explanations, such as God caused it to happen because America is evil; or that God didn't exist; or that it was actually the end of times and God was on His way. Krista spoke with numerous religious leaders during the segment and I came away with essentially the same message from all of them, which is that God is present in our suffering and is a source of comfort; not just through our sacred texts, but through each other.

Father Anthony Ugolnik echoes my own feelings when he says that the same question of "Where was God?" can be asked at any suffering, death, or tragedy. Whether the death of a child or an elderly person, a single death or a mass tragedy, the end result is that there is loss.

My thought is that God is present in the tragedy; He hurts when we hurt. But if we desired and allowed God to swoop down from the heavens and rescue us from the terror that others place on us or the sins that others commit against us, then we'd have to be open to ourselves being struck down for the sins that we commit as well. We'd be wiped from the face of the earth within less than a second since we commit sin within our own minds on a continual basis. If that is what we wanted is for God to strike down our enemies, we'd be nothing more than puppets on strings.

When I was a little girl, our pastor filled in for the Sunday school teacher and I remember him telling us that "God is as close to you as the clothes on your skin." I never forgot that and in my own troubled times, I've remember that. I don't care for it when someone says that God is within us; that makes me feel that either I'm a puppet being controlled by God, or that my meek human self is being housed by God and truthfully, I think God is much greater than me. But to know that he is as close to me as the clothing on my skin is a comfort; letting me make my choices and giving me free will, yet still letting me know that He's here with me.