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America's New War: Reverend Schuller Discusses Tuesday's Terrorist Attacks

Aired September 14, 2001 - 22:54   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We're joined tonight from California by the Reverend Robert Schuller. Reverend Schuller is extremely well- known. I think people have seen him on television and other places for a long, long time. He is the minister of the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles, the author of "In Search of Morality."

And I have a number of things I want to ask you about, but on the subject of morality -- we were talking a few moments ago -- I'm not sure you were able to hear it, but we were talking about military options and how the United States might go. And one of our guests suggested, just go in there and kill people, essentially, who are responsible for this.

So, let me frame it very simply: Let's assume for a second that Osama bin Laden is responsible for this. Is it moral, is it consistent with Christian theology and philosophy to go in there and kill him?

REVEREND ROBERT SCHULLER, CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL: The real question when that subject comes up is, who should have the privilege of continuing to live? Not, is it wrong to kill? If someone is going to attack your wife and kill her, you would in self-defense kill the intruder. So it's perfectly appropriate to kill people who are out to kill others. And there's always the clash between justice and mercy, but this is no time to sin on the side of mercy.

BROWN: Why is it no time to sin on the side of mercy, by the way?

SCHULLER: Because we have to be very sure that we have expressed justice adequately and appropriately.

BROWN: And that is the way justice in this case is expressed?

SCHULLER: Justice in this case is to find those guilty of this horrendous crime against God and against humanity and against religion and against civilization.

BROWN: Let me -- I think among -- to people like yourself, to clergymen and women, the question most asked is this one this week: How does a loving God let this happen? We have heard a number of people try and answer that in a way that makes sense to many of us today. Let me give you the opportunity to take a stab at what is I think one of the more profound questions you could possibly ask.

SCHULLER: Well, I think it's very obvious. The only way God could have prevented this evil person from doing it is to take complete control of all human beings, and then we cease to be persons, we become puppets. And God created persons, not puppets. And so, humans can be the instrument of the devil and can exercise enormous evil. But when that happens, God moves in, and God will have the last word, and God will be good.

People so often say, where is God when a tragedy like this happens? My God, he was the first one on the scene! In firemen, who rushed in never to come out alive. In policemen, in common simple human beings who shared their care with their tears and their blood. I have never in my life, and I've been a pastor 51 years, and I'll be 75 years old in two days, I have never before seen the whole world cry, weep, mourn the way they are today and this week.

And the tears are tears of caring and loving and compassion. Never has the world been so united in a sense of compassion and hurt. This is the presence of God.

BROWN: Do you worry that this concern and compassion that you see a loving God blessing us with is ephemeral, that it doesn't last, that we move on? At a very convenient moment, we go back to our normal lives and our normal duties, and we forget?

SCHULLER: Well, that's a very strong possibility, and that's where the spiritual leaders of the world are coming in all together tonight to call people to get back to their church, back to their synagogue, back to their mosque, back to their temple.

I lived through World War II. And right after the second world war was over and while it was being waged, people were close to God. But then we became rich, and then we became a nation of peace before we knew it. And there's a Bible verse, "woe to those that are at ease in Zion." And life has been pretty easy for us. And would call upon all people to find a church, find a synagogue, find a mosque, find a temple, go there every week, draw close to God and keep this nation what it is at this moment, a very beautiful country.

The long line that snaked into the airport today here in Los Angeles, OK? Everybody was commenting that in this long line, everybody was so polite, everybody was so kind.

BROWN: Let me -- I'm sorry to interrupt. If I may...

SCHULLER: Sure, you may.

BROWN: Thank you, sir. One religious leader said this yesterday and I just want -- give me -- just react to it, OK? Here's the quote, it's from Jerry Falwell. "I really believe that," he's talking about why this happened, he said: "I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, the People for American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, you helped this happen."

That's what he said. What do you say?

SCHULLER: Oh, I don't want to interpret his comments. I can't relate to it in a spirit that would probably do justice, and I probably would have to. I'm not going there.

I'm going to go to Jesus Christ, because I'm a follower of Christ. And so shocking to me is that not only the Muslims, but many of my Jewish friends respect Jesus Christ, and if we see the God of love in Him, let's focus on that.

I do believe that our country is going to become strong as we come back to God and back to morality. I do think this is going to impact our culture. I think that it's going to impact the depravity that is in the culture, and that's I think what Jerry was pointing to.

But let's be positive. Let's come back to a faith that is positive and loving and caring, so that this caring compassion that we see all over America and in the world today -- I have a global telecast, as you probably know, and I've been getting telephone calls from Holland, they're weeping on the telephone for us. And in Germany, and in the Orient, the world is weeping tonight.

And only people who have the capacity to love will weep the way they're weeping. And the world is -- yes...

BROWN: I'm sorry.

SCHULLER: That's all right.

BROWN: I thought you finished. I thought you finished. I apologize.

SCHULLER: You have got to cut me off. I'm a preacher.

BROWN: Well, then I am going to do it, but I'm going to do it very carefully and gently, if you don't mind. Thank you for joining us. You can't fault me for trying to draw you into this discussion with Reverend Falwell. I gave it my best effort. It's nice to talk to you, sir.

SCHULLER: Thank you.

BROWN: Robert Schuller joined us from Los Angeles with his thoughts on how we might look at this theologically.



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