Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001. I was a college senior, and i was coming down the stairs, and Nate, my college roommate, meets me on the stairs and says "we've been bombed. I'll never forget that day. It was one of the longest days of my life. I went to work, and stood in the electronics department, and we hooked up the big screens to the TV feed, and watched the news over, and over, and over again. From the time I got in at 11, to 8 PM, I watched in wrapped horror.
9-11 radically reshaped our world, and it reshped our view of religion. Last year, James Emmorey White wrote something that I stumbled accross today, on how 9/11 changed America’s attitude toward religion. He noted that a study by CNN’s John Blake showed that on 9-11, a chosen nation became a humbled one. 9-11 led to a re-emergence of “Christo-Americanism”, interfaith became cool, and Atheists came of the closet (and started writing bestselling books “all three of them”). But, White noted, there are four other results, and they are results that are far bigger, and much more worthy of our consideration. Here are his four. You can read the whole article here.
1. There is a clash of civilizations. Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington presciently saw the conflict between Islam and the West looming on the horizon, and called it the “clash of civilizations.” Released before 9/11, his book came out with Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, which received most of the press (featuring the idea that all of history, as we defined history, had essentially ended with the fall of communism). Huntington’s thesis was equally provocative, but more widely dismissed -- namely that there were three great civilizations (Western, Asian, Islamic), that there would be great conflict between the West and Islam, and that Islam’s militarism would force itself upon the world. Huntington was right. 9/11 didn’t just force the reality of this upon our thinking, in many ways, it seemed to unleash it around the world.
2. Everyone now has to wrestle with the problem of evil. What took place on 9/11 was evil. Forget Menninger’s wonderment of “whatever happened to sin;” we now have no doubt that it is alive and well. But what do we make of it? Is it something we are, something we do, something that “is”? It used to be that skeptics would ask Christians how a loving God could allow so much evil and suffering; we now must ask that of every worldview, philosophy and religion.
3. Christianity has been largely dismissed from acceptable public discourse. It seems counter-intuitive, but after the prayers and packed churches the weekend following 9/11, not to mention Billy Graham’s touching words in the National Cathedral, we seemed to decide that it was best to leave religion off of the agenda. And specifically, Christianity. Now, 10 years later, when the 9/11 Memorial will be dedicated, the last report is that no formal prayers will be offered and no clergy have even been invited. There will be an interfaith prayer vigil at the National Cathedral featuring the Dean of the Cathedral (supposedly representing the Christian faith), but actual invited guests do not include a representative of Christianity at all, much less evangelical faith. On slate are a rabbi, a Buddhist nun, an incarnate lama, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician. But this is symptomatic of a wider dismissal; consider the presidential race heating up for 2012. The one great vice of a candidate seems to be having a Christian worldview that matters to their thinking, while the one great virtue is an innocuous faith. We ran to Jesus after 9/11, but seem to have decided that the best way to deal with the new world is to bend over backwards to accept moderate forms of Islam, while distancing ourselves from any form of Christianity.
4. There is a new longing for what will offer hope. Barack Obama rode into office on a tidal wave of hope -- yes, audacious hope. And whether we voted for him or not, we were ready for it. Regardless of your political moorings, he hasn’t delivered -- at least as yet -- but his election revealed our deepest longing. We want hope, the kind that promises substantive change…We know as never before that it’s a sick, screwed-up, sin-stained, broken world. We want it fixed. This has left us more spiritually open than ever before, yet often indiscriminate.
What do you think? What would you say? What do you think the biggest effects have been. From my perspective, I think the realization that we were venerable was the biggest impact. I had always seen America as almost invulnerable. But on 9-11, I realized that America was just as venerable as the rest of the world. There is no place that is safe from misery and hardship and pain caused by sin. There is no place safe from the attack of an enemy. Not even America.
But I’ve also learned something else in that time. It’s only in Christ that we will find a safe resting place. It is only in Christ that we are truly safe, as we say, to live in Christ, and die is gain, and whatever was to my gain, I count as loss compared to the joy of knowing Christ. Paul wrote “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11). Paul knew something. In Christ, dead or alive, he was safe in Christ. If he was imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, whatever… he was safe in Christ, and so he soutght to gain Christ in all things. May we say the same? Are we safe as Americans? No, 9-11 showed us that, but in Christ, we are always truly safe. America will rebuild, and America will survive, for now. But ultimately, no place is safe, apart from Christ.
Today, remember 9-11, watch some of the vidoe's that remember the day (I've included 3 below), but remember, it is only in Christ that we are truly safe.