Twenty years after the tragedy of the terror attacks against America on September 11, 2001, those of us who lived through the event can still vividly recall where we were and what we were doing when we received the news. It was one of those moments that shape one’s worldview, forever altering the way we think about reality.
On the evening of that fateful day, I found myself sitting in a revival church service seeking God’s mercy for our personal and national sins, which we readily confessed, but not all Americans were driven to God in their response. In my personal memorializing of September 11, I’ve taken to re-reading Steven Keillor’s fantastic book God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith. In it, he recounts, “New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman asked Christians and Jews to go ‘back to their sacred texts to reinterpret their traditions to embrace modernity and pluralism, and to create space for secularism and alternative faiths.’ For him, September 11 meant war against ‘religious totalitarianism,’ against all exclusive truth claims for one faith.”
Perhaps the greatest casualty on September 11 was truth. Patriotic Americans across the country rallied around our flag rather than our exclusive truth claims for one faith and the moral obligations that come with it. At the time, it was considered intolerant and unpatriotic to question whether our national suffering was divine judgment. Twenty years later, perhaps our emotions have settled enough for us to finally process Federica Mathewes-Green’s application of Luke 13:5 to our nation, made the day after the attacks: “National suffering should bring about repentance.”
Are we finally ready to repent of the sinful filth that we excuse under the category of “American culture”? Are we finally ready to repent of abortion, sexual promiscuity, gender confusion, our culture of lies, the way we idolize comfort, our faith in science over God, our spiritual complacency, and our American independence that only relies upon God in times of crisis? Perhaps September 11 was, indeed, God’s call for national repentance. Perhaps we still have not learned the true lessons of September 11, some twenty years later, because we’ve refused to admit the possibility that it was a divine judgment.
Steven Keillor concludes, “As long as we sidestep divine judgment, we will not learn the all-encompassing lessons of September 11.” Moreover, Matthewes-Green warns, “If history is any guide, a nation that doesn’t get the message the first time is given another opportunity to learn it, and I think we’d all rather avoid that.” On this anniversary, I invite you to join me in humbly asking the Lord what our own role may have been in provoking the September 11 attacks and in repenting of our current role in ignoring, permitting, participating, or even celebrating these very same national sins.
1. Keillor, Steven. God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2007, 36.
2. Keillor, 32.
3. Keillor, 18.
4. Keillor, 33.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.