It was a day that will live in infamy. I was traveling with a group of religious leaders in the Middle East, visiting Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. We were very much concerned with peace in the region. We had already met with a number of people including Ophir Pines-Paz, an Israeli member of the Knesset, whom we felt had been sincerely working for peace. We had broken bread with Hana Nasser, the Mayor of Bethlehem and a Christian Palestinian. Mr. Nasser was also deeply committed to the cause of peace. In had shared in an extended dialogue with His Royal Highness, Prince Faisal Bin Al Hussein, whose family has long been a stabilizing force in the Middle East.
We had just flown from Cairo and landed in Luxor, Egypt when we noticed our guides off to themselves in a huddle. Speaking in Arabic, a couple of them were conversing on their cell phones. More animated than usual, and more solemn, they took us immediately to the riverboat on which we were to spend the next four days sailing up the Nile. Upon reaching the boat we were ushered into the lounge and asked to be seated. Our group leader informed us that within the past hour the World Trade Center had been attacked and the buildings had collapsed. The Pentagon had also been hit. I began to feel sick. A knot formed in my stomach. As far as was known at that time World War III might have just begun!
Most of us will never forget where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. We understand that something changed on that date. We may have been in a state of denial before that day, but for most of us, life was good. The economy may have been slowing a bit, but we were optimistic that things would soon be better than ever before. However, we now know that we can’t build a military machine large enough to totally protect us from terrorism. Nor can we hide from the dangers of modern technology in the hands of madmen. Years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have only confirmed this reality for most of us.
In a matter of days after September 11, congress allocated billions of dollars to a war on terrorism. Of course, something had to be done, and almost everyone agreed with the early actions of our government. Such an unprecedented, monumental, iniquitous act could not go unchallenged.
America is a great nation and seems committed to triumph over terrorism, to subdue our enemies, and to become a stronger people. We talk of accomplishing this heroic task by working together to stamp out this evil. But one must wonder why we can’t find the same resolve to remedy other immense problems our nation faces. Why is partisanship still stronger in Washington than the desire to work together to solve our problems? It seems that an external enemy is the only thing that can unite us. The problem is that history teaches us that great empires have more often collapsed from decay within than from threats without. We do it even in the church. Much too often I hear or read comments made by Christians toward other Christians. And much to often the comments are so critical and vicious that they make me sick.
Solutions can be found. It won’t always be easy. There is a third way; there is God’s way. We had a big election recently and we Christians need to be the first to offer our hand to those elected and commit ourselves to work together in a civil manner. Let’s all pray for our leaders. All our leaders. Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters. All our brothers and sisters. Let’s stop the name calling and labeling. Remember, those who throw dirt lose ground! Let’s stop painting our states red or blue and pull together to make life better for our nation and for the world.
When the chips are down, Americans have always worked together to meet the challenge. Today the world faces many challenges. It’s time to stop demonizing one another and work through our differences. Working together, the Christian Community can faithfully carry out whatever mission God gives us.