There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered
and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse
sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I
tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or
those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you
think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in
Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise
On the morning of
September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists commandeered four American
passenger jets with the intent of crashing them into selected political
and commercial targets. They were only too successful, as all the world
is now aware. Two of the airliners crashed into the twin towers of the
World Trade Center in New York City, a third smashed into a corner of
the Pentagon in Washington D.C. "like an ax into a birthday cake," one
reporter observed. The fourth, whose passengers became aware of the
hijackers’ true intentions through furtive calls to loved ones on cell
phones, failed to reach its intended target, none other than the White
House—a small band of heroes took the terrorists on and the plane
plunged into a Pennsylvania field.
The toll in American
lives was greater than any single day since the Civil War of the 1860s.
Some 3000 people were lost as the 110-story skyscrapers in New York
caved in upon themselves, their steel girders melted by the flaming jet
fuel—the hijackers had purposely selected coast-to-coast flights that
would be carrying the maximum amount of fuel. Two hundred more died in
the Pentagon, and three hundred people were in the planes used to carry
out the cowardly act. Exact figures have still not been determined (as
of this writing), but the bottom line could not be clearer: the United
States had become the victim of the worst act of terrorism in world
The perpetrators of this
infamous deed were mostly of Arabic descent, apparently agents under the
control of one Osama Bin Laden, an ex-patriot Saudi, who has also been
implicated in the bombing of two American embassies in Africa, the
destruction of the battleship USS Cole in a Yemen harbor, and several
other terrorist incidents. President George W. Bush has declared war on
Bin Laden and terrorism in general. There are sure to be more victims,
military and civilian, innocent and otherwise, both on American soil and
elsewhere in the world. The United States has little choice but to
respond aggressively; war is being waged on our citizens—men, women, and
children—and more will die, regardless of what we do.
Why? A host of answers
may be arrayed... America has long been portrayed to the Muslim peoples
of the Mideast as "the Great Satan," the heir-apparent of the western
imperialist powers of days gone by (in spite of the fact that we had no
empire, and were in fact the first nation to throw off the yoke of
imperialism). We are seen as the power behind the nation of Israel,
arch-enemy of the Arab bloc, whom they have sworn to drive into the sea.
Add to this the corrupting influence of American television, and the
cultural threat it represents to developing nations the world over, and
you may begin to understand why Palestinians danced in the streets of
Gaza when they heard of the World Trade Center tragedy, and Saddam
Hussein, whose own imperialist dreams were thwarted by American might,
congratulated the dead terrorists on a job well done.
Why did it happen?
Airport security was lax, effective only in terms of aggravating someone
with a large belt buckle, but helpless and impotent in thwarting a
potential hijacker. The CIA and FBI have been crippled by
over-regulation since the early seventies, when Congress began to take
an adversarial stance to these agencies. Fear of being accused of
"racial profiling" has kept them from truly keeping an eye on potential
Why? We have been
arrogant, proud in our assumption that it could never happen here,
over-confident in our law enforcement agencies who seemed to have headed
off a few earlier attempts. We refused to accept the fact that we were
relatively easy targets to a determined terrorist. We won’t make that
mistake again, at least not for awhile; this "wake-up call from hell"
has underscored our vulnerability. We will not soon forget September 11,
There are deeper, more
disturbing "whys?" that need to be addressed, however, especially for
the Christian. We believe in a gracious, loving, heavenly Father—where
was He when thousands of innocent people were plunged to their deaths in
the World Trade Center? How could God allow this to happen?
If He had foreknowledge
of these events and did nothing to avert them, what kind of God is He?
If He didn’t know in advance, then what’s the point of believing in such
a God? The people of the United States are looking to the Christians and
our God for some answers—they are listening to us in this hour of
national tragedy. We must see to it that God’s true perspective is given
to them, that the Word of God is faithfully declared, that His ways and
attitudes are rightly stated, or we could inadvertently turn a needy
people away from the only One Who can help them make sense of the whole
especially pastors and leaders, are spokespersons for our God. Some have
produced off-the-cuff remarks that are entirely unsatisfactory—and
unscriptural. One radio preacher declared, "Don’t you think for a minute
that this wasn’t of God!" A few have suggested that this terrible blow
is divine judgment for our nation’s sins. Nearly all Christians agree
that "God is in control."
Let me correct one
misconception before we even get started. God is not killing innocent
people in order to make a point, or to emphasize His frustration with us
as a nation. That is what the terrorists were trying to do. God is
decidedly not a terrorist!
Of course, the question
of why the innocent suffer goes far beyond a terrorist incident, no
matter how horrible. It applies to every loss, every sorrow, every
painful experience suffered by mankind. Why did that child die in a car
accident? why was that cancer not healed, in spite of the sincere
prayers of the church? why was that athletic young man paralyzed? How
unfair. (My own mother passed away within a few weeks of September
eleventh.) How do we reconcile our belief in a loving God when all
around us we see pain and suffering?
For that matter, what is
the proper Christian response to such a cowardly, yet devastating,
attack? How do the biblical admonitions to love your enemy and turn the
other cheek apply in such cases? What should the United States do? What
stance must the church take to be in conformity with the revealed will
Those are among the
questions that we intend to address in the remainder of this little
Copyright © 2001
Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.
Making Sense of
Tragedy & Suffering
The Patience of Job
The Benefits of Suffering
Jesus Addresses the Question
of Tragedy & the Will of God
Turn the Other Cheek?
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