Q: What was the most important religion story of 2009?
The biggest story in religion and faith of this past year is the murderous rampage of Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas. It is the biggest story not because of the tragedy he visited on his victims — that stands as an outrage with or without the religious overlay. Rather, this homegrown product of America and its values found radical expressions of his faith commitments more compelling than the rights and privileges of our free and open society which, ironically, guarantees his expression of religion. The result is an existential crisis for Americans of faith: what are the limits we must consider to our Constitutional rights in order to preserve the purpose of the Constitution as expressed in its preamble?
I assure you that I have no answer to the question. It is one that troubles my soul. My inclinations fluctuate as I consider the various contexts of the circumstances — my people’s history as a minority in this country, my cousin who is posted to Fort Hood, my friends in the Muslim community, the loss of innocence of a generation of children and, most alarmingly, the willingness of otherwise good people to justify their suspicion of individuals with certain surnames or appearances. Whatever we once thought we could hold at arm’s length is now in our faces. I hold Major Hasan responsible for his actions and for this fallout from those actions, but there is no satisfaction in that blame. The burden has shifted to all people of good will to struggle with the sacrifices we are willing to make to preserve the American experiment.