Americans are still reeling from the aftershocks of September 11, feeling off-balance and fearful about the future. For this sturdy collection of thirteen original essays, editors James Langford and Leroy S. Rouner asked a diverse group of spiritual writers and theologians to discuss the presence of God in this fragile and tension-fraught world. One of them quotes Albert Camus who stated years ago: "Probably every generation sees itself as charged with remaking the world. Mine, however, knows that its task will not merely to remake the world. Its task is even greater: to keep the world from destroying itself. " Sadly enough, this daunting challenge is more fierce than ever given the present global political scene and threats created when countries possess weapons of mass destruction.
Novelist and ordained Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner laments the dangers that face his grandchildren but concludes it is all part of the human package: "Maybe the world's terrible fragility is the price God is willing to pay for humankind's holy and terrible freedom to be sinners or saints or the kind of hybrids that most of us are most of the time." Ethical activist and author William Sloane Coffin agrees that God will not intervene in the tragedies that encircle us at the expense of human freedom. It's all up to us. But the Holy One is there to provide ample assistance: "But ask of God a thimbleful of help to cope with the treachery and disappointments of life and you will get an oceanful in return."
Jurgen Moltmann, professor of systematic theology emeritus at the University of Tubingen, uses the story of the sleeping disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane as a wake-up call to those who are desperately trying to numb out during this period of gathering darkness. "Our eyes are open, but we no longer see anything. Our ears are open but we are deaf and hear nothing. We are apathetic, and feel nothing. When danger threatens, we spontaneously and involuntarily 'play dead.' " Watching and praying is a challenge for all people of faith. " 'Get up,' says Christ to the benumbed disciples, 'and let us be going.' "
In the most perspicacious essay in the book, best-selling author Karen Armstrong calls upon us to seize the present moment of fear and danger as a time to practice attention, being present, and compassion. Other essays are by Wendy Doniger, Virgil Elizondo, Stanley Hauerwas, Theodore M. Hesburgh, James Langford, Jeremy Langford, Kathleen McManus, Leroy Rouner, and Elie Wiesel.