Plain thoughts on 9-11
|October 8, 2010||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
Although I was not of course aware of all of the Christian responses that emerged out of the shock of 9-11, those that I did come across seemed inadequate and disappointing.
Some described the atrocity as a “wake-up call” – but what sort of sleep was America in that required a catastrophe to end it? This was not elaborated on. Also, once awakened, what was America supposed to do? Were we “awakened” only so that we might go back to sleep, and resume shopping and our individual pursuits of happiness as usual? Or to attack Iraq and Afghanistan maybe?
Others described 9-11 as a lesson teaching us that we are not guaranteed any length of life, and can be called to leave this world at any time – but that lesson can be learned from a car crash or a heart attack. Was such a spectacular manifestation of horror necessary to teach us this simple truism?
Still others blamed 9-11 on America’s open and flagrant sins, and pointed to abortion, pornography, the ACLU, and immorality of various sorts – but weren’t many innocent people killed in the attacks? And, didn’t Jesus condemn false religious teachers more than he condemned anyone else? Some of the most iniquitous places in America today include church pulpits and seminaries where the truths of God in Christ are trampled underfoot and openly despised. Why didn’t the hijackers crash their planes into a more obviously sinful place, if it was God’s intention to punish America for its most notorious evils?
One well-known church leader prayed that God would give us victory in our struggle for liberty, and “God bless America” was a theme commonly sounded in those dark days – but wasn’t 9-11 a very conspicuous demonstration of the absence of God’s blessing? And is America such a nation today that we can ask God to bless us, as if we deserve it just because we are Americans, no matter what the moral and spiritual state of our nation might be?
Finally, some referred to 9-11 as part of the larger problem of evil: How can a good God create a world with evil in it, and how can he sit on the sidelines when evil is done? This is something we Christians do not claim to fully understand – but still, cannot we say something more relevant to this problem? To what extent are our biblical teachings (if we really believe in the Bible), our Spirit of God (if we have the Spirit), and our mind of Christ (if we have the mind of Christ) able to enlighten us on this problem? Is biblical Christianity relevant to specific issues, or are we confined to general truisms that could apply to many different situations?
Biblically, we can attribute this evil deed to Satan. To the prince of darkness, catastrophes and horrors are things to be desired as good in and of themselves. Secondly, we can describe the perpetrators of 9-11 as servants of Satan. This does not mean they are excusable because “the devil made them do it.” They chose of themselves the path of destruction, and were of themselves suitable agents of the devil’s wiles. They imagined they would earn God’s favor by their wicked deeds, but in fact earned his condemnation, and will have their part in the lake of eternal fire prepared for, among other people, murderers. There will be no paradise for them, only everlasting destruction.
Yet, the question of God still remains. We as Christians do not need to consider the possibilities of God’s impotence, or lack of awareness, or indifference, or full approval. We know that God was not helpless to prevent the tragedy; that the event did not take him by surprise; that he was not remote and uncaring, like the ancient philosophical idea of the unmoved mover. We also know that the terrorist acts were not carried out by men acting in faithful obedience to the teachings of Christ, and hence meeting with God’s approval.
So, where was God? He could easily have frustrated the conspiracy in many ways, had he chosen to do so. That he chose not to do so means that it was his will that Satan be given some power and authority to act. But how can this be!? No, let’s ask a much better question: What right did America have, on September 11, 2001, and in the days preceding, to ask for protection from God? And what right did we have to expect to automatically receive such protection without even asking, as if it were our birthright? Are Americans so special? Is God’s blessing something we deserve because America used to be so religious a long time ago?
If the president of the United States in the preceding years was more concerned with chasing women than he was with national security, was God obligated to intervene? And hasn’t America consistently and systematically sought to remove God from its courts, its government, its entertainment, its news media, and its educational systems? Haven’t practices, entertainments, and attitudes that would have offended unbelievers 50 years ago become the norm among us? Haven’t even many outwardly bible-believing churches fallen asleep, and failed to adequately represent the Christ of scripture and the straight and narrow biblical way of the cross to a lost world?
Instead of the pathetic spectacles of the United States Congress singing “God bless America”; of theologians and spiritual leaders floundering out of their depth; of people trying to understand “Why do they hate us?”, a much more suitable response would have been that found in the book of the prophet Daniel.
Daniel, considering the devastation that had been wrought upon God’s chosen people, their great religious heritage notwithstanding, sought wisdom from God with fasting and deep self abnegation (practices unknown to many Christians today). He then confessed his nation’s sins, and stated “we have sinned . . . we have rebelled . . . we have disobeyed God . . . Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us . . . we have done wickedly.”
Many times in his prayer he says “we.” He did not point to notorious evil doers, but to the nation as a whole, including its religious people, and of course himself. In the same spirit Christians after 9-11 might have said “We have sinned . . . we have failed to die to self and take up the cross of Christ . . . we have failed to be light and salt . . . we have dozed in front of our TV sets while the culture went down the wrong path . . . we have not been concerned with God’s righteousness, but have been happy with our material comforts. We have been asleep while false teachings swept through the church; while iniquities were institutionalized as the law of the land; while our children were corrupted with the most contemptible and ignorant entertainments and educational programs.”
Some will object that America is not ancient Israel, that God dealt with Israel in a special way, and that is undoubtedly true – but do they want to say that the events of the Old Testament are not relevant to us? That contradicts the New Testament, which directly states that Old Testament events are for our example. Do they want to deny that God governs the nations? Just what sort of a God is it many Christians have nowadays anyway? A God who saves individual souls and deals with specific requests, while he allows the world to go on its way independently, and does not interfere because we humans are the sovereign lords of the earth?
God in the past gave America liberty, prosperity, and security – and he that gave them can also take them away. He is taking them away even now. We have less of those blessings than we had in the past, and without significant change we can expect further diminishing in the future, because America today is not a country that deserves God’s blessings.