Thursday, September 11, 2008


I've noticed lots of Facebook status notes about people remembering where they were on the morning of 9/11/2001 when the planes hit the WTC in New York and the Pentagon, and crashed in Pennsylvania. Personally, I was jarred. It was heart-rending. I have a difficult time watching even fictional television shows that depict horrendous violence -- especially on children -- because of grief over the amount of hate in the world. Events like this make me apologize to God on behalf of the human race. We're a sorry lot. Period.

Unfortunately, such events happen in our world on almost a daily basis. We here in the U. S. just aren't used to such things -- they usually only happen in distant countries we can barely pronounce, let alone find on a map. But they are there, every day. Every day there are people somewhere whose lives are torn apart by horrendous and unnecessary evil. But in the U.S., we're more or less insulated from those stories, and this insulation has led us to believe that we're somehow exempt -- or should be -- from such violence. Well, EVERYONE should be, not just Americans.

Christians long ago gave a name to such horrendous, pervasive evil: original sin. Yes, I believe in original sin -- though not the Augustinian version that focuses on a (more or less) "genetic defect" handed down through the sex-act by which a person is conceived. I believe in what I think is Thomas Aquinas's version of the doctrine: that "original sin" names what is essentially a sociological phenomenon. In other words, "original sin" names the pervasiveness of evil -- the ubiquitous nature of evil that so deeply inhabits our world that no individual can escape it, save Jesus.

Read Ephesians 2.1-2 and think about what it means for one to be "dead in trespasses." What does it mean to be dead? "Dead" in verse 1 is the same as verse 3's "we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else." In other words, there is something here about who we are at our deepest level.

Now, Ephesians 4.17-22: notice the effects of sin on the human person. It goes to the very depths of the person, to the point that one's thinking itself becomes corrupt: what is right seems wrong, and what is wrong seems right.
In other words, for me it is a mistake to think about 9-11 as something "those evil people did to us," "us" meaning "the good guys." We're not any less evil, on the whole, than those who hijacked the planes. This "war" we're fighting is not a "good vs. evil" war -- President Bush's claims notwithstanding.

Now, I know some people have just quit reading because they will think what I just said is completely ridiculous. Fair enough -- some minds can't be changed (another characteristic of the power of evil!). On the other hand, there is evidence. Let's think about it from the point of view of those who are at war with us.

Why are they at war with us? I mean -- doesn't everyone want to be American? They must be jealous -- right? Jealous of our freedoms -- that's why President Bush repeatedly says that "they hate our freedoms."

Well, I suspect they do hate our freedoms, because they value certain moral injunctions more than they value American-style freedoms. They don't WANT their young women to dress the way many young women dress in America -- nor do they want their young men to dress like American young men! They don't WANT to go to the movies and see the things common in American movies. They don't WANT to be able to download porn on the internet. And the list, I'm sure, could go on much further. (Yes, I know there are political issues as well.) If it is true that "they hate our freedom," then perhaps we can see why.

So, in their understanding (the understanding of the radical Muslims who declare themselves at war with us = only a small minority of Muslims) they are fighting against evil. It is an evil so dark that it, in their minds, is worth killing or being killed over. And many American Christians would agree with the idea that our society as a whole is sex-obsessed, violent and corrupt.

A second issue, however, is also important to note at this point -- and here's what got me thinking in this direction. Because the anniversary of 9/11 has just came and went, some attention was drawn to the event itself and to the U.S.'s response to it -- i.e., the "war on terror." Sorrow over loss was mingled with calls for patriotism and revenge. I ran across this video. Take a look. I'll wait here.

Now, I know the person who put it together has really good intentions. I don't know his/her religious affilation (if any), but putting the bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" behind some of the pics at least puts it in the "Christian Ballpark" (if there is such a thing). And the person who sent it to me (with approval) is a Christian. As I watched it, I found myself asking: "Where's the grace?" as the bagpipes rang out. Indeed -- where is the grace? Where is the forgiveness? Where is the love for our enemies? Aren't we told that vengeance belongs to God alone?

No, we shouldn't forget what happened seven years ago on September 11. Those who were killed were killed unjustly and even criminally. Real families suffered real loss of people of tremendous importance in their lives -- people who can never be replaced. You don't "get over" that kind of loss. You merely learn to live with it, if you're lucky.

I wish Christians in the United States would learn to love our enemies. Loving them wouldn't mean saying that they were right in attacking us, or in the continuation of suicide bombings in Bahgdad and other cities in Iraq. But it does mean letting go of the vengeance motive. It means recognizing real hurt, but foregoing the hate rather than contributing to the amount of hate already in the world.

I believe the power to do this comes through Jesus -- the one who saw the complete picture of evil in the world, felt it come down on his shoulders, and willingly succumbed to it. And he died with forgiveness on his lips.

1 comment:

Sammie said...

Excellent post. I couldn't agree more. It breaks my heart that Christians have sanctioned this spirit of ungrace and vengeance.

Also, on the subject of tragedies happening often, just not in the U.S., there is a brilliant song by Kimya Dawson, called 12/26. You should look up the lyrics if you get a chance.