faith and doubt at ground zero
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discussion: reactions to the film...What did you think of Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero? Share your reactions to the film and its treatment of the central themes of God, evil, and religion.

Dear FRONTLINE

I am a Lutheran pastor who has officially taken issue with "A Prayer for America" not for hate of others but for love of Christ and the world.

Dr. Benke claims salvation comes through Jesus only and no other god as I do. This did not come across on the Frontline broadcast. See Dr. Benke's words below.

http://www.reclaimingwalther.org/articles/jmc00298.htm

Dr. Benke responded to a question about his prayer at Yankee Stadium this way: "'Is Jesus Christ the only Savior of the world, and are all those who seek salvation in any other God than Jesus Christ eternally lost.' Without quibbling, the answer to the first half of the sentence is 'Yes.' .... I am most comfortable confessing and responding with a 'Yes' - there is salvation in 'no other Name' than Jesus. Indeed, that is the meaning of my prayer at Yankee Stadium." - Benke

David Oberdieck
Lebanon, MO

Dear FRONTLINE

Moments of this film were quite moving, but in the main, "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero" disturbed me because of its lack of objectivity and integrity. I was not disturbed by the fact that you gave unbelievers their say, but I was disturbed by the inordinate amount of time you gave them. How you could ignore a thoughtful presentation of evangelical Protestanism, especially in those NYC churches that are evangelical, in a film that purportedly examines faith and doubt about 9/11 is beyond me. Dr. Timothy Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan would have been an eloquent and compassionate spokesperson for this position in that he and his church personally ministered to and continue to minister to hundreds of people touched by that event. Even here at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, we had a family who lost a son that day. The evangelical faith is far deeper and richer than your reporters and producers are apparantly able to comprehend.

David Sincerbox
Knoxville, TN

Dear FRONTLINE

I dreaded the anniversary of Sept. 11 because I was afraid of CNN broadcasting the awful event over and over again, raising all the hurt and hate that came out of this. Your program did the right thing by giving a spiritual dimension. Very well done, moving, sad and rewarding. While it renews my own faith in God and humankind, I am so sorry for individuals such as the Episcopal priest who has experienced what has to be a double blow - not only his faith is shaken but he probably is having a very difficult time continuing his call.

Of the people interviewed, I find myself resonating most often with the Jewish rabbis, especially the younger one. He and the Episcopal priest should have a beer.

Dennis Robison
Edenton, NC

Dear FRONTLINE

I believe this is one of the most thought-provoking documentaries I've ever seen. I had to switch the television off though when the part came on concerning telephone messages. I wept at "Mommy" and simply couldn't bear to watch any more at that time. When I've recovered a bit, I'll watch the tape.

As for God - was he there? Yes. And I believe He wept as I did last night. He gave us free will. And we suffer for exercising that will.

Thank you for covering the events of Sept. 11 so well.

Leslie Todd
San Antonio, Tx

Dear FRONTLINE

Thank you for a thought-provoking presentation. I found myself reacting more strongly than I expected to many of the comments by the various clergymen. I was appalled at the treatment that the Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor, Reverend Benke, has received/continues to receive at the hands of other clergy of his denomination. As one whose religious beliefs are not encompassed by the "big three," I found it oddly comforting to hear clergy from those three faiths talking about how they questioned their concepts of God, and of how those concepts did or did not change. And when I heard Rabbi Kula saying how his understanding of one of the fundamental prayers of Judaism was that "*we* are *all* one," I thought to myself, "now *he* *gets* it."

Where was God on September 11? Right where She has always been: inside each and every human being, every animal, every plant, every rock, everything on this earth. It is when we turn away from that presence within us, when we lose that connection with each other, that we are able to do evil.

Blessed be.

Lydia Uribe
Winnetka, CA

Dear FRONTLINE

Frontline has outdone itself with a riveting and profoundly disquieting examination of our reactions, both visceral and cerebral, to last September's attack. It was both hard to watch and compelling to watch.

It was thoughtful of you to show some images of the Holocaust. I am disturbed that many Americans seem to see this attack in isolation, as though similar acts of hatred and inhumanity paled in comparison. Are we a bit too self-centered to put this into perspective along with Pol Pot's decimation of Cambodia, the genocide of Rwanda, the three-way civil war and terror in Sri Lanka? 9-11 is in some ways America's cruel induction into to rest of the world. Perhaps just perhaps it will make us more responsive to atrocities inflicted on other EQUALLY innocent citizens of Planet Earth.

Fred Ehrhardt

Dear FRONTLINE

You put together a documentary that was both emotionally charged and thought provoking. You also raised some critical questions for people of all faiths or lack thereof to ponder. Overall it was well done.

I am amazed however, how in a two hour program you did not include an African American minister or theologian or any expression of the Black Church in your treatment of 9.11 and faith. The person of color you did include who is a theologian and a professor of Islam would not consider himself an African American, nor be representative of the Black Church experience in America.

Rev. Dr. Willard Ashley, Sr.
Guttenberg, New Jersey

Dear FRONTLINE

Tonight I viewed you program regarding 9-11, faith and doubt. You ask where was God on 9-11? You say, could a loving God allow this? You spent hours of airtime reducing our Creator to a mere man’s understanding. You have highlighted people who had put aside the promises of God and have elevated there own understanding above our Creator. Then defiantly, they questioning Him as if He were subordinate.

Where was God? Perhaps He was right where the public is seeking to put Him. Omitted from the public’s view. Perhaps He was omitted from the world’s great power symbol. Where was God? He was on trial by the ACLU. He was in route of being removed from every school, every courtroom, every public building. Perhaps He yielded to the will of America’s public agenda. Perhaps He was pushed away. Like children locking their parents out of the house and when it caught on fire, they blamed and cursed them for their lack of love and concern.

Bill Goodrich
Avon Lake, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE

I thought your documentary was courageous and brilliant. The Lutheran minister touched me profoundly. He seemed to speak for me. I wanted so to console him. Those who condemned him and degraded him and caused him so much suffering are the types of people that drove me from religion. Take that behavior and the ideas that drive them to such hateful behavior and you begin to understand the mind of the extremeists and ultimately, the terrorists.

It seems to me that whenever two or more are gathered in His name, at least one of them has his eye on the throne.

Tina Nicholson

Dear FRONTLINE

This is the first time I have actually seen the people who jumped out of the windows, and I was profoundly moved by this. I do not consider myself a member of any organized religion, but very much identified with the beautiful words at the end of the program, saying that when those two people who joined hands as they jumped, found the goodness inside of themselves. That is what I believe. The spirit of goodness, or God or whatever we want to call it, is inside of ourselves, and it does not need planning, it just "is." For me, spirituality has nothing to do with organized religion. It is what we do every day, not what we pray to, that counts. When those two people joined hands, it did not count what religion they were but that they were beautiful inside and showed love to one another.

Your program was very beautiful and did not push anyone's viewpoint. It was a very respectful, tender, powerful, spiritual film, and did not push an agenda. Thank you!

Rosa P

Dear FRONTLINE

I was very moved by this documentary and I would very much like to let the Rev David Benke know that not everyone finds him evil. I am not from New York yet on the day of the memorial service at Yankee stadium I found great solace from all the prayers of all the speakers. I have no doubt that God in what ever form was present at that service and that all those prayers in all those languages and religions format reached out. I know I felt God's presence that day. I hope you prevail.

pam scully

Dear FRONTLINE

Thank you for this incredible film. Nothing I have seen or read about the events of September 11th captured the mind numbing range of emotions and thoughts that cascaded through me. I never want to forget how I felt, I never want to be comfortable remembering. This film is THE film future generations will watch and then understand what it was like that day and in the days that followed.

As for my faith, it was unshaken and a source of great comfort to me. After all, this was done by man, not God.

Jeanne Carey
Tucson, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE

Thank you for the most intelligent and moving discussion that I've heard about 9/11. This was such an honest exploration of spiritual responses. I'm sure that it isn't possible to present every perspective in 2 hours, but the range that you covered was amazing. And the way you presented it was excellent. There were the 2 women who accepted God's Answer to Job, and the man who lost 30 friends and found it "unacceptable." He and Job! It was brilliant to begin a sequence about the dark side of religion with the interview of the Luthern Missouri Synod pastor who was persecuted by clergy in his own denomination for being ecumenical. Excuse me, didn't Jesus say "Love thy neighbor". I especially loved the portions that essentially embraced the mystery of God. It's way too easy, and dangerous, to believe we have the answers. Personally, I was very glad to have my questions affirmed, and addressed.

Of course we should confront these questions whenever and where ever there is injustice and suffering. 9/11 hit home. And it hit middle and upper class America...

Ultimately, the evil of 9/11 was answered by expressions of love and kindness. Now that's a miracle!

Cynthia Katsarelis
Boulder, Colorado

Dear FRONTLINE

Reading these responses to your outstanding program shows clearly how volatile a subject this is, and how many people just want their own beliefs reinforced instead of facing the possibilities of world views other than their own. The program reminded me that we are capable of great love and kindness...that displayed in the days following September 11th; and the responses remind me that we are also capable of great intolerance and hostility toward our fellow human beings. This I think will be one of the definitive works on 9/11 and your producers, writers and directors deserve kudos for doing it.

Fred Moramarco
San Diego, California

Dear FRONTLINE

I'm disappointed that FRONTLINE didn't offer a more critical perspective of such ideological concepts as "spirituality" and "presence." I was moved by the stories of grief told by those interviewed, and I and appreciated their airing; however, i don't think it would have been disrepectful to present them in a political and cultural context, one that acknowledges insights gained by a century of Marxist, psychoanalytic, and poststructuralist thought. In fact, it would have honored them all the more. I found it difficult, even tedious, to listen without consideration of such interpretations. In the end, FRONTLINE's program was perceived by this viewer as just one more representation of terrorism that affirms U.S. resident's perception of themselves as victims, rather than beneficiaries, of imperialism. Even the holocaust, an index of horror in the West, is understood with more perspective. It was a missed opportunity to broaden the discourse.

Dan Spencer
San Francisco, CA

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