Q: I have an Arab friend who believes what I consider to be absurd rumors about President Bush being behind the Twin Tower attacks. For this reason, I have found it impossible to talk with this person without feeling angry. I pray for my friend, and for my anger. If I end our friendship, do the terrorists win? -- B., New York City
A: Now that Osama bin Laden has sent a videotape in which he clearly admitted that he planned and ordered the 9/1 1 attacks, your friend's absurd theory must be put to rest, along with all the other ridiculous slanders that have clouded some people's minds and prevented them from seeing the obvious truth.
That truth, in its crystalline clarity, is that we are fighting World War III against a group of murdering maniacs who have perverted Islam and want to murder all the Hindus, Christians, Jews and Americans they can find.
Now that the elections are over, this war can now be supported by all who want to keep their children and their country safe from further attack. It's time for all of us to come together and carefully consider how to fight this war with all the sacrifice needed, but also with all the vigilance necessary to protect our liberties while we fight those for whom death is their only ideology.
As for your friend, we urge you to try to help him let go of his anger and ridiculous illusions. If he is your friend, he might be ready now to see the truth of things. He might finally be willing to admit that even a great and peaceful religion like Islam can be hijacked, twisted and used by people who are willing to kill children and behead innocent civilians in the name of some insane ideology of hate.
In a funk
Q: I have sunken into a very deep and hopeless state of sadness. I have disappointments in my life that have consumed me. While I feel that it is legitimate for these things to make me feel sad, I also know there are people much worse off. In spite of this, I don't seem to be able to shake the deeply sad feeling that consumes me.
I believe in God. Although I was raised a Catholic and am married to a Jew, we attend no services. I must be honest that when I go to a Catholic church, I feel that I can make no more of an effort than just performing some rituals and reciting some memorized prayers. No sermons to teach or uplift ever reach me.
I don't think I would be accepted in the local synagogue, either. I desperately need to find a way to change my mood from this deep sadness. How does one learn to feel joyful? What can I do? Where can I go? What can I read? Please share your wisdom. - P., West Sayville, N.Y.
A: The "black dog" of depression can affect anyone, and our prayers go out to you. We do think that faith will help you, but we also encourage you to seek professional psychiatric help where you might find therapies and medications to help you live through this time of darkness.
We also urge you to trust that if God brought you to this time, God will bring you through it. Above all, you will need patience, physical activity, a supportive family, good friends, and a community of faith.
There's an old saying that "sticks in a bundle are unbreakable, but sticks alone can be broken by a child." You need to be bundled during this time so you don't break. Meanwhile, cut down your commitments and focus on healing yourself. Pick a place of beauty and solace and go there often to remind yourself that eventually the sun will shine again for you.
Also understand that the forces burdening you are of your own creation, and you can free yourself at any moment and find hope and joy again. You are in a prison, it's true, but you are in a prison with open doors. You can walk out anytime you can summon the courage to pick yourself up and walk out.
God is not finished with you and has not abandoned you to the pit. You are loved and holy and capable of loving others. If faith does not work for you, then we encourage you to take up golf. Moaning over a missed two-foot putt is a good replacement for moaning about the brokenness of human existence. No matter how frustrating it is, golf usually ends with a hot dog and a beer, which seems like a slightly better place than the one you are in now.
Send questions to The God Squad, Telecare, 1200 Glenn Curtiss Blvd., Uniondale, NY 11553; post them on the God Squad Web site: www.askthegodsquad.com; or e-mail them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.