Perhaps “numb” is the best word to describe the condition of most Americans on September 11, 2001, as many of us sat mutely staring in horror at the events that unfolded before our eyes via television. The petrifying spectacle of “human missiles” being deployed to bomb the World Trade Center, and Washington’s Pentagon, was seen again and again.
News analysts probed the lexicons of their minds to find the vocabulary to describe the situation. Horrific, cowardly, depraved, dastardly, unconscionable, nightmareish, etc., were employed repeatedly. Many remained glued to their television sets, trying to fathom the enormity of this shattering episode.
I am transferring some of my thoughts to writing — perhaps for my own benefit as much as for any edification that others might derive.
A Time of Prayer
I have been profoundly struck by the human inclination to pray in times of disaster. It reveals that there is a depository of tenderness in the crassest of people. There are occasions so dire when men can’t help but pray. They may stifle the urge much of the time (if they have an “urge” at all), but cries to God erupt spontaneously when people are in the valley of confusion and despair.
I do not recall ever having heard the words “God” and “prayer” so frequently used by means of the public media in a single day.
Where Are the Atheists?
As the public wept and prayed, and clamored for the counsel of the “clergy,” I could not but wonder: “Where are the atheists?” Is no one seeking sage advice from them? Is no one asking them to explain their credo that prayers are meaningless because “there is no God,” and religion is but a silly superstition? Does anyone solicit solace from the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” in times that “try men’s souls”?
Do the skeptics step forth to denounce these references to God and prayer? Of course not, for that would be ideological suicide in this climate. They will wait for calmer times; they will exercise patience and influence your children in a more “academic” environment, where their devious philosophy is protected — while religion is banned.
Who Can Pray?
Also, however, I cannot but reflect upon the common lack of awareness by the public at large relative to what qualifies a person to pray, and how prayer is to be made effectual.
Prayer, divorced from personal piety, is meaningless. Prayer, void of a relationship with God, is vain. Many Americans want prayer as an emergency “flare,” while at most other times they are scarcely on speaking terms with their Creator at all.
Why Can’t the Children Pray?
I was moved to tears when members of Congress reverently bowed their heads for “a moment of silence” (which act was perfectly transparent, though designed to be “politically correct”). And then, those men and women burst into a prayer-song — “God bless America.”
But that emotion of my heart was followed by indignation. I contemplated the fact that if that “silence,” or the “song,” had been enacted in a public school, or at a high school football game, writs would be filed forthwith by the A.C.L.U. And misguided judges and justices would issue prohibitions, under the guise that some atheist’s freedom was being abridged (yet see: “High court upholds ‘moment of silence’”).
In many cases, the American public has become the “dog” that is being wagged by the “tail” of a liberal judiciary and spiritually bankrupt media.
The Depravity of Man
This bizarre bloodbath is also a vivid reminder of how humankind is able to cultivate brutishness to an incredible degree. How can men be so hardened as to highjack planes containing more than 200 innocent victims, including children, then demand of some of them that they call their families, inform them of the horror of their imminent fate, and bid them goodbye? How can human beings send their fellows to a fiery death simply because they have an ideological or political difference with them? It confounds human reason.
Radical Islam and the “Holy War”
An increasing body of evidence points to the fact that fundamentalist radicals of the Islamic faith, with perhaps Osama bin Laden as the focal point, are behind this brazen act of terrorism. Bin Laden, who converted to radical Islam some twenty years ago, is a militant advocate of jihad, a “holy war” against “unbelievers.” The number-one world terrorist has urged “the deaths of all Americans,” which edict includes men, women, and children.
While no one would accuse every devotee of Islam of this fanaticism, i.e., physical persecution for those who oppose Islam, such was a fundamental component of the teaching of Mohammed. Secretary Colin Powell was absolutely wrong when he suggested, in a news conference before the American public the day following the terrorist attacks, that no religion would endorse such an outrageous action. The Qur’an states:
“The punishment of those
Who wage war against God
And His Apostle [Mohammed], and strive
with might and main
For mischief through the land
Is: execution [cutting off of the head], or crucifixion,
Or the cutting off of hands
And feet from opposite sides [i.e., right hand, left foot],
Or exile from the land:
That is their disgrace
In this world, and
A heavy punishment is theirs
In the Hereafter” (Sura 5.36).
That “wage war” phrase embraces any opposition to Islam. Although these tortures have been abolished in many Islamic cultures, nontheless, they are a part of the “prophet’s” original teaching (which he claimed was from God) and practice. And while some moderate Arabic states are not as radical as they once were, it is no secret that Christian missionaries are imperiled in lands dominated by Islam.
One must recognize that these Islamic terrorists have been taught that an instant Paradise, with the reward of dark-eyed beauties catering to every desire, is their’s if they die in defense of their religion. That is why they so willingly sacrifice themselves in these suicide missions.
To not acknowledge this fact is to ignore history. Many Americans doubtless have been attracted to Islam unwittingly, without having understood its more intricate complexities.
Why Did God Allow this Tragedy?
This is a time when many will ask: “Why did God allow this horrible massacre?” The Christian must be both prepared and willing to explain, to the best of his ability, that our Creator has honored us with “freedom of choice.” That is a part of the heritage of being made in his “image” (Gen. 1:26-27). But this means that men, as finite beings, will have the ability to make evil choices. And this implies that even the innocent will frequently have to pay a price for that freedom.
One must remember that God allowed his own Son to suffer and die for the sins of humanity (1 Cor. 15:3; Heb. 5:8-9), at the hands of men who chose to do evil (Acts 2:23). There obviously is an ultimate divine purpose involved in humanity’s vulnerability to the consequences of sin. And so, we must learn to trust our Maker who always does what is right (Gen. 18:25), though we may not be able to fathom it.
Is this Armageddon?
We can fully expect some of the hysterical “prophet speculators” of “Christendom” to begin announcing that these tragic events are the commencement of “Armageddon,” and an index signaling the “end” of modern civilization.
Jerry Falwell already has suggested, in national interviews, that America must protect Israel from her enemies if she expects to be blessed. That has the fingerprints of “millennialism” all over it.
While one may applaud Israel’s democratic spirit, the nation of Israel has no special favor in the divine scheme of things today, and the territory between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean is not sacred real estate.
Is America Invincible?
Finally, it goes without saying that our beloved America will never again have the same sense of security that she has enjoyed in her previous illustrious history. We have imagined that we were invincible. Like ancient Edom, we have rhetorically asked: “Who can bring us down?” (Obad. 3).
While blame is rightly attached to the calloused thugs who have ripped open the heart of our nation, there has been virtually no expression of conscience, acknowledging that perhaps the moral decay of this nation could be a factor in this devastating tragedy (cf. Dan. 9:3ff). We slaughter millions of our own innocent babes — with legal sanction. We slide progressively deeper into the slime of moral debauchery, legitimizing every form of perversion imaginable — with scarcely a blush (Jer. 6:15). We fantasize that the God whose protection we solicit is oblivious to our wickedness (see Psa. 94:1-11). The Judge of the earth holds nations, as well as individuals, accountable for their conduct (Psa. 9:17; 22:28; Prov. 14:34).
Many centuries ago a prominent city was brutally assaulted for five terrifying months by an abominable force that ultimately desolated it (cf. Mt. 24:15). Buildings were toppled, fire raged, and the human suffering was indescribable. More than one million people lost their lives. The city was Jerusalem; the invaders were the Romans. The ultimate cause of this catastrophe was a judgment from God (Mt. 22:7). It apparently never occurs to most Americans that in our own decadence we could be deserving of divine chastisement.
Only God knows when such judgments are appropriate (cf. Gen. 15:16; cf. Rom. 11:33ff). The possibility of such, however, must not be disregarded.
Repentance is always in order.