Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 and the Gospel

This week, I stood in disbelief as I talked with an older gentleman. Actually, he did most of the talking. He seems to be a nice, hardworking gentleman farmer—someone whose image might come to mind as a caricature of an “average American”. His face bears the marks of a hard but full life. Judging from the stories he told me, he loves Jesus (though never attends church, reads his Bible or serves Him in any way), holds preachers in high esteem (as long as they’re visiting people and doing what preachers are supposed to do), and loves America and Momma.

I meet many people like him. Conversations with people like him invariably turn toward the fact that our country is falling apart. “Young people today just don’t have any respect for anything.” When they discover that I am a veteran, they gush about the military. Then they usually drift into a story about a brother or uncle or cousin who was “messed up real bad” in Vietnam. Typically there are a few more diversions as I attempt to steer the conversation back to Christ, but most of the time, we can get back there. Not this time.

It was my fault. I was not disciplined enough to bring the conversation back. It followed the typical pattern up until a point. Then he threw me for a loop. He began to talk about the economy and how rich people and politicians are stealing money from poor people. Once again, this is a fairly typical line of reasoning among many people in my area. Then he moved from his economic concerns to discounting what happened eight years ago today. To paraphrase: “We shouldn’t be concerned about what happens overseas. Every once in a while they might come in and blow up a building or something, but that’s about it.” I was aghast. I have been prepared for reactions like that as I have talked with young postmodernist liberals. But I was completely unprepared for those comments from the mouth of a self-proclaimed patriot.

Is this where we have come in eight short years? Have we come to a place where “average” Americans have forgotten that we were attacked on our own soil? Have we forgotten that we were attacked by idolatrous ideologues who still desire nothing more than to kill “infidels” like us? This past week, I have seen more headlines concerning Ramadan than I have about 9/11. Why is that?

Mind you, I am not a Christian jihadist. As a historically and theologically rooted Baptist, I vehemently hold to the truth that the Kingdom of Christ is not advanced by the sword. At the same time, I recognize that God has given authority and responsibility to the State to protect and defend its interests (and general good) with the sword. I also recognize that America is still at war—whether we want to be or not. 9/11 was thus far just the apogee of Muslim attacks on our country. We have staved off further attacks by the aggressive (preemptive) action of our military. Ironically, because that action has been so successful, we have once again become complacent. This plays right into the hands of our attackers who have a much different picture of success than we do, as well as a much longer time horizon.

My conversation this week shocked me because it is no longer simply radical peaceniks and kooks who discount or demean 9/11 and its aftermath. It is now being done by “average Americans”. Eight years is not very long for such a change to have taken place. What will happen in the next eight years? I have no idea. But no matter what happens sociologically and geopolitically, I know one thing—the Gospel will still be true. Because of that, I have to stop being shocked into silence when people just don’t politically “get it.” The only thing that will change people is the Gospel and the Gospel is not politics. It is neither conservative nor liberal politics. It is not a strong military or universal health care. Jesus changes citizens and citizens change government, not the other way around. Because of that, we cannot lose focus on the Gospel like I did with that gentleman this week.

How am I going to remember 9/11 this year? I am going to remember it in the context of the Gospel.

Ephesians 5:15-17
(Thanks to Dolan Trout who created the collage on 9/13/2001)


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