Reflections on 9/11 – How have we been changed?

No surprise that this week leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11/2001 is dominated by stories of that fateful day. While driving back to the office, I just listened on NPR to the riveting story of a NYPD firefighter who was trapped with his team on the 4th floor of the north tower when the whole thing came down around them. Explaining how he and others with him survived, including the woman they were there to rescue, he described the building as a banana being peeled as it came down around them, as they, in the “banana” itself, were spared; while 343 of their colleagues were killed.

Also, not surprising is that the September 2011 edition of Christianity Today, has several stories about 9/11. Most intriguing to me were eleven responses under the title, “How I Have Changed since 9/11.

Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International, spoke of the surge of patriotism; flying our flags and singing “God Bless America!” It “energized my faith and filled my heart with pride and gratitude to be an American.”

Stafford, as well as Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, testify that they were motivated to intensify response to international need, particularly extreme poverty; and both have been encouraged to see the growth of “private donations for international causes” that have “more than quadrupled” in the past decade.

Phillip Yancey expressed serious concern about “imposing democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan… at a terrible cost… with no guarantee of … success.” Will Wilimon expressed it more as outrage toward both Presidents Bush and Obama in regard to the U.S. response, “spent billions asking the military to rectify the crime of a small band of lawless individuals, destroying a couple of nations who had little to do with it…” Only God knows how the world would be today with a different response in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our main responsibility is to pray for “all who are in high positions that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 1 Timothy 2:2 ESV

Willimon was further concerned with “the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches” and suggests that “American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as out greatest Christological defeat” losing the “theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God.”  He lamented that “when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.” I don’t fully share Willimon’s sentiments, but I agree that we need to be cautious about flag and cross confusion. More on Willimon’s response in a later post

Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. noted the rise in church attendance after 9/11 that lasted for about three weeks. “What was missing?” he asks. Genuine revival marked by “deep repentance and personal piety, prayer, and devotion to the Scriptures.”

Anne Graham Lotz continued with the bishop’s theme. “All I know with certainty was that God was trying to get the attention of his people including me….Like Isaiah, I also saw a humiliating vision of my own sin.” More later on the response of Anne Graham Lotz

English worship leader and song writer, Matt Redman, was in London with his wife, Beth, scheduled to fly to the U.S. on the 12th when America was attacked. After a few days delay, they arrived in the U.S. and were impressed with the messages from America’s pulpits stressing confidence in the sovereignty of God. Redman asked, “What could we sing to God at a time like this? It was as if our worship songs were missing some important vocabulary—the language of tragedy and struggle, of the valley at the bottom of the mountain…” Out of that question, the Redmans wrote one of the top new songs of the 21st Century, “Blessed be Your Name,” borrowing from Job’s response to his loss, “You give and take away… Blessed be Your Name.”

How have you changed in the past ten years? How do you relate it to 9/11? What changes should you ask God to help you make now?

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