9/11 Anniversary Lessons
October 4, 2011
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Evangelicals Now published this month a recent article I wrote on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11:
To even attempt to broach such a demanding topic in a few hundred words is to rush in where angels fear to tread. So first a preliminary word: this will not be exhaustive. It will not be ‘exhausting’ either, for which you may breathe a sigh of relief, because of its appropriate brevity. But the temptation in such a piece as this, on such a topic as that, is to attempt to provide ‘bullet points’ on all the major aspects that should be addressed (for instance, suffering, providence, war, religion, martyrdom, death, bravery, rescue missions, firefighters, security, to name but a few, and not to mention the massive secondary ‘literature’ about the event ranging from the popular urban legends to the more diatribe like, probably academic too). Instead, I will simply attempt the topic of “hermeneutics.”
Yes, I know, hermeneutics is the science of how we interpret the Bible, and usually addresses at the most basic the inductive method of observation, interpretation and application, but by ‘hermeneutics’ I mean the word in its most basic sense. That is, how do we (as Christians) “interpret” 9/11? What lens do we use? What does 9/11 “mean” to us? What does it “mean” to the world?
I was in New Haven, not far from New York, when 9/11 occurred, and in its aftermath wrote a brief paper for our church on “the ideological war” after 9/11. My point then – and in some ways I am making the same point now – is that you can really only look at 9/11 in two ways. You can either say, ‘look at that! There I told you so! See all that horrible mayhem, that’s what religion does.’ And if you say that, or something like it, the inevitable conclusion is that what we learn from 9/11 is that we should be less religious. Perhaps not yet not religious at all, but certainly not extremely religious. The lesson, then, of 9/11 is that religion, or at least extreme religious devotion, is bad, and seriously bad, wicked, evil.
Many people appear to have learnt exactly that lesson. The only other (talking at the most broad brush basic level sense of ‘hermeneutic’) possible interpretation of the event is instead of saying it means that we should be less religious (if at all), is rather that it means that we should distance ourselves thoroughly from a certain kind of religion. That seems to me to be the only genuine, logically feasible, and credible interpretation, but the problem with it for our politically correct culture is that it leads as sure as eggs is eggs to criticize certain kinds of religiosity. This way of interpreting the event means you say something like, ‘look at that, that means that it really matters whatyou believe’, (not that it’s best not to believe at all). There are some things that it isgood to be extreme about. In everything balance, for sure, but I have rarely heard anyone being criticized for being too loving. Too ‘nice’ perhaps, or not loving with truth, but love is something that is so precious you can surely not have enough of it, or give enough of it to other people, if combined as it should be with truth. On the other hand, there are other ‘faiths’, or kinds of belief, which you should not have any of at all. None. Zip. Nothing. Believing that killing other people will send you to paradise is one of those.
In other words, we can be fundamentalists for love, but we should not be even moderates about other things. That’s the real lesson.
That said, the most important part of 9/11 is the personal. I still remember coming out of our apartment in New Haven and finding a student weeping on our front porch. This was not normal behavior so we went back in, turned on the TV and watched in horror. Many “Yalies” (Yale University types) had colleagues, friends, and family in those towers. But that is another, better, and more difficult topic. And for that the solution is not a hermeneutic but the gospel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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