Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg, Oklahoma City, Memphis and the twin towers, the Pentagon all are names and places where tragedy occured and the very mention of the names tends to bring images to our mind that we had much rather not see again. 9-11 will live in the minds of Americans as the day terrorist attacked this country and murdered a multitude of innocent people who were doing nothing that should have brought about such. The events of that day launched us into an extended time of war. It has been nine years. In some ways it seems to have been a lifetime ago and in other ways it seems like yesterday.
As we move further from the events and the anger, fear, and loss of trust that came with it, what have we learned and how have we been changed? The easiest way to react to any such tragedy is to fall right back into our old ruts for life and and act as though nothing has happened and nothing changed. But such events never leave us quite the same. We may not be able to see the changes in ourselves. But others can see them and talk about them. Immediately after the attack, there were numerous voices shouting that it was our own fault. The loss of moral character and godless attitudes had caused God to send enemies to give us a horrendous warning. On the other extreme were those who couldn’t see anything in us that might have had anything to do with it and blamed Osama Ben Ladin altogether. Some saw it as a religious war. It was a Muslim attack on a Christians nation. It was certainly true that all the attackers were Muslims but it wasn’t the case that all those they attacked were Christians. It also wasn’t the case that the attackers represented all Muslims. The attackers were all men. Would it make sense to blame all men for what these did, since we share the male sex?
The problem with tragic events is that we often learn too much, too little or the wrong things altogether. If a cat steps on a hot stove it not only learns not to step on a hot stove again. It learns to stay away from stoves altogether. Talk to someone who has gotten involved with illegal drug use and who has had a bad experience. Most of the time there will be some side issue that they can pull into the equation and determine that side issue was the cause of the problem and it won’t ever happen again if they just avoid that side issue. You see the same thing with an athelete who sees their team win the game the day they wore red underwear. From then on they are sure to wear red underwear to make certain they win each game. Instead of focusing on the training, the attitude and the coaching or the determination with which they played the game the attention is turned to the insignificant.
What then are lessons that should be learned from the 9-11 tragedy?
1. Learn that religion doesn’t always have anything to do with righteousness. Sometimes religions don’t make a person better, nicer, kinder or more sympathetic. Sometimes religions turn people into fanatics, judges and godless murderers. Not all religions are equal. One may be deeply religious and know nothing of God, love, grace or goodness. We have taken freedom of worship as a basis for thinking that all religions are the same and that it doesn’t really matter what we believe or what religion we have as long as we are religious.
2. We should learn that character is often seen best in the ugliest background. Picture a group of men and women who didn’t know each other but were on a flight together which had been highjacked. They soon realized that this plane like the three others was going to be used as a bomb to destroy some other important landmark of this country. A plan began to take shape that they would rush the terrorist, which they know will cost them their lives but it will bring down that plane out in a deserted area of the country where others won’t be harmed. Many of those who rushed the terrorist called family to tell them good bye and cried out, “Let’s roll”. May such character always be part of our make up.
3. We should learn that unity as a nation most often comes about as a reaction to tough times. During times of ease we tend to separate in our thinking. In tough times we tend ot come together.
4. We should learn that in such tough times there will be demonstrations of greatness in many ways and places. People will rally to serve, to help and will risk and give their lives to help others they don’t even know. Firemen, policemen and ordinary citizens left homes and traveled hundreds of miles at their own expense to help.
5. We should also learn there will always be crooks who will take advantage of the goodness and character of others to try to make themselves rich or achive fame. It may disappoint us but even in the group Jesus chose as his twelve apostles there was a Judas who would sell the Lord for thirty peices of silver.
6. We should learn that out of the ruins can rise tremendous things. God is able to take whatever circumstances there are and produce amazing blessings. Romans 8:28 is still true. “For we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord and those who are called according to his purpose.”
9-11 will live in imfamy. Let’s not miss the things that matter.