On September 11, 2001, a group of well-equipped jihadists managed to fly planes into the two World Trade Center towers, into the Pentagon, while failing to fly a fourth plane into the Capital. All those on board the planes died, as well as almost 3000 people on the ground. The twin towers both fell under their own weight.
The impact of this event has been profound. It was like America was raped and lost any sense it had that the world was a safe place. We have heard of wars and atrocities, but they have always seemed so far away, something that happens to people we don't think much about. I couldn't have found Afghanistan on a map before 9-11. Places like Somalia, Yemen--not on my radar.
And then our own human nature kicked in. We wanted to hurt someone really bad. We went tribal or, to put it in more civilized terms, we went nationalistic. The result has been a mixture of good and bad, in my opinion. It's a physiological fact that you can't reason as well when you are furious with anger (the limbic system overcomes the cerebral cortex) and the last 9 years have plenty of that. As we cool off, we are in a better position to assess our new trajectories and make good decisions about where we should go from here.
1. All except the whackos (and there are some of them) agree that we should honor the almost 3000 souls who died that day. Was this God's judgment on America? I don't have much time for those who think in those terms. "The soul that does the sinning, it shall die" says Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31. In both cases, the prophet is countering the idea that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children.
It's old Old Testament thinking to think God kills Jane to judge John. There were plenty of Christians in good standing who died that day. No doubt some who died were good people and some who died were not, but we honor all the dead as victims of an atrociously evil act.
2. I personally don't have a problem with us overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban who were in charge were forces of evil in cahoots with Al-Qaeda and bin Laden. Good riddance... except of course that they're not gone...
3. I give immense blame to the Bush administration for what I consider is one of the worse decisions in American history--it could actually turn out to bring us down. Rather than capitalize on the good will of the entire world, rather than empower all the moderate Muslims in the world who were very sympathetic to us at the time, rather than finish the job in Afghanistan, the Bush administration enacted a macro-plan to bring stability in the Middle East by starting an unprovoked war in Iraq.
The result was the empowerment of Muslim extremism around the world and the ensuing polarization of "us versus them" that we've seen just this week in the ignoramus pastor wanting to burn a Quran in Florida. The result was the election of Ahmadinejad in Iran over the moderate party there--a direct result of our invasion of Iraq. The current financial crisis came directly from the housing crash but has had immense assistance from the financial bleeding of our wars in the Middle East. Make no mistake, the current financial crisis was not caused by the Obama administration.
I am sympathetic to the Congress that voted for war in Iraq. It would have been political suicide not to do so at the time for all except the Democrats who were in such liberal districts that their re-election was in no danger (which includes Obama). But Congress made a bad decision fueled by the seething country only a couple years out from 9-11 at that point.
The election of Obama showed that the majority of the country had cooled down enough to realize the mistake that Iraq was. A vote for Obama was a vote for change, a vote away from the Iraq decisions of Bush, perhaps more than a vote for Obama himself. Nevertheless, a significant portion remains angry, perhaps most easily pictured in the Tea Party movement.
4. Xenophobia is clearly on the rise right now. This also follows naturally on 9-11. All Muslims are painted with the same stroke as bin Laden, which of course is ignorance. Hatred against Mexican immigrants is at an all time high as well, again, a natural consequence of post 9-11 anger, misdirected of course. Of course there is nothing Christian about any of this and if your "church" preaches this sort of thing, you should go somewhere else that preaches social justice like the Bible does.
5. We have seen an extreme "conservative" back lash these last nine years. When it was disempowered in the 2008 election, it went psycho. Put Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan in someone's body today and these circles would call them liberals and socialists. Thankfully, anger can only burn so long. It lasted in Nazi Germany less than 15 years. I predict that the extreme conservative voices right now will run out of steam soon enough, and we can go back to normal conservatism like John McCain used to be. Ironically, this guy I used to like has had to go rogue even to stay in office as a senator.
Today I honor the dead of 9-11. And I will honor them most if I do not let the atrocity of that day distract me from truly American values, rather than the skewed ones of the current burn. America is a friend of the world. We are a friend of Muslims and Mexicans, and we want to make a way for anyone who wishes to live peaceably under our laws to live with us. We are a force for good in the world, but we're not stupid about it. People don't believe you're their friend when you tell them at the end of a gun.
You don't have to be a Christian to live here. We do not make laws to make American law mirror "Christian law"any more than God forces the world to obey Him. He prefers for the world to choose Him freely, not by force. That's not the God presupposed by the Constitution or the Christian God I worship.
This moment too shall pass. Hopefully we will not be ruined from the consequent damage in the mean time.