Looking Back on September 11, 2001

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For those of us who are less than 70 years old New York City on September 11, 2001 is our Pearl Harbor, Hawaii December 7, 1941. It is a moment in time that shaped our thinking, rent our hearts, and reminded us all of what was really important.

I was a graduate student at the University of Florida. I was supposed to make the rounds that morning in Shands hospital. I woke up sick and with a fever so I called in and took the day off. In the checkout line at Wal-Mart buying some Vitamin C and some Sprite I heard the cashiers talk about a plane that had hit a tower. I couldn’t quite put all the pieces together. I imagined a Sesna had hit some radio tower and maybe 4 or 5 people had died in the accident.

When I got in my car and turned on the radio I couldn’t believe what I heard. I got home before the second plane hit. It was still a question if it was an accident or not. Then right in front of my eyes with cameras rolling the second plane struck. It was clear this was no accident. With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes I sat on the floor of my apartment with the TV on CNN or maybe Fox News when the first tower collapsed. Unbelievable. I was aghast. I figured there could have been thousands of people in that tower and what happens to the people below when 100 stories of concrete and steel comes crashing to the ground? I readied myself for a toll in the tens of thousands. News came of Shanksville and the Pentagon. Footage came on the screen of people fleeing Washington.

It was a moment that shaped our thinking and softened our hearts toward each other. It was a moment that reminded us of what is most important – God and others. It was from that event that I decided I had enough of chasing my own career and money and all the rest. I decided to get my priorities in line. The next semester I withdrew from the doctoral program in clinical and health psychology and enrolled the following fall at the Harding University Graduate School of Religion. God has used that moment for so much good ever since. Of all the bad things that happened that day, I am sure we can all think of just as many or more good things as well. Thank you 9/11 for reminding us all of what is most important.

What good can you recall came from September 11?

0 Responses

  1. A few good things came out of this horrific national trial.

    It reinstilled patriotism in people, which I wish had lasted longer. I think some people still feel it, but the almost universal support and love for our own country doesn’t seem to be as intense. (Maybe it just cannot remain that intense for long?)

    It reinstilled the concept of heroism. People honored the various responders as the heroes that they were (and are). I think it caused large numbers of people to look up to all of our rescue workers again, as we should.

  2. A few good things came out of this horrific national trial.

    It reinstilled patriotism in people, which I wish had lasted longer. I think some people still feel it, but the almost universal support and love for our own country doesn’t seem to be as intense. (Maybe it just cannot remain that intense for long?)

    It reinstilled the concept of heroism. People honored the various responders as the heroes that they were (and are). I think it caused large numbers of people to look up to all of our rescue workers again, as we should.

  3. Matt, I must say that this is the best post about 9/11 that I have read. It doesnt revert to pro-war rhetoric or call people to some ludicrous version of extreme patrioism. It just reminds me that God indeed does work out all things for the good of those who love Him.

    I think it is unfortunate the previous comments are about a reinstilled patriotism. That only seems to build walls between people and be abused by people who want to promote hate, disguised as being in the national interest.

    Thanks Matt for your thoughtful and inspiring words. I appreciate your insight as always. Be blessed!

  4. Justin, what’s so bad about patriotism? I think everybody should be patriotic, whatever county he or she comes from.

  5. Justin,

    Thanks for the kind words. Always appreciated. I understand what you are saying in regards to RG’s comments. However, I don’t think patriotism is a totally bad thing as long as you remember that this is not your home and that there are better things in store. Being patriotic doesn’t mean you agree with everything your government does just like my complimenting you wouldn’t mean we agree on everything theologically. I think either side can be taken to the extreme.

  6. I said nothing about extreme patriotism. I think it is extreme patriotism that motivated the terrorists, and I’m against it, no matter what country a person comes from.

    It would be extreme patriotism for Americans to go around killing others simply because they happen to be Arab or Muslim. It is not extreme patriotism to fly the American flag and support one’s fellow Americans in need, which is what I was referring to in the aftermath of 911.

  7. Matt and RG, I just really dont see any benefits to patriotism. My allegiance is to the Kingdom of God and to no other authority. It seems to me that it is extreme patriotism that we are involved in right now as we do kill, or at least discriminate agains people who are from the middle east just because of their skin color or choice of clothing.

    I will not fly an american flag because it isnt about supporting americans in need, the life Jesus calls us to is about supporting any one who is in need. There are no longer national, cultural, or social distinctions when it comes to the body of Christ and our calling to feed the poor and help the needy, regardless of their country of origin.

    On the same note, I dont hold this view in a legalistic, sectarian way. I just think it falls short of God’s call on our lives. I dont question the integrity of someone’s faith or their commitment to Christ or anything like that because they feel a certain way about America, I personally just dont feel the same way and cannot because of my understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Two great resources on the subject are “The Myth of Christian Nation,” By Greg Boyd, and Lee Camp’s “Mere Discipleship.”

    May both of you be blessed.

  8. I’m with you on the Kingdom of God Justin. RG and Matt, I think your patriotism isn’t bad, but if you’re a christian you must understand that the Kingdom of God comes before anything that America does. If America wants to put vengence before forgiveness, that is the choice of America. It isn’t what Christ has called Christians to do. This is a little article I wrote on the Kingdom of God. Hope it give a little theology behind the Kingdom of God. (by the way I don’t believe kingdoms and nations of this world can live by the standards of the kingdom of God, because it’s so radical, different and not of this world. Yet at the same time totally of this world).

    The masterpiece “Nightwatch” painted by Rembrandt has continually been a favorite throughout the ages. The painting is known for its contrast of light and dark. After the famous painting started to age a protective layer of varnish was placed over top the art work each generation in order to keep the original vibrancy. As a result the painting continually became duller with each layer. In the 1970s chemists were able to remove the layers of varnish without harming the painting. With the removal the original brightness and freshness of the painting was restored. Though the original color was breath taking there were some who said, “This is not my Rembrandt anymore.” They had become familiar with looking at the painting through the varnish and were distressed by the energetic original color.
    Varnish had a job in protection of the masterpiece paintings of old. Today we have the ability to return back to the first masterpiece of Christianity painted by Christ himself. It might be that the church has looked through the varnish of history and tradition too long feeling comfortable with the true look of the foundation of Christianity. What was it that Christ taught? What followed him in the teachings from his disciples? These are pressing questions to relate to the church of today. When Christ is brought in contrast, Christianity might be a dull representation of what Christ was actually teaching in his ministry. The reality may be under the depth of religious varnish.
    The gospels especially Matthew and Luke show what occupied the mind of Jesus. Whenever he spoke, words about a kingdom would often flow. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand their need for the kingdom. He wanted them to understand that that need for the kingdom was the greatest need in their lives. The kingdom is so central to the Christian life that a person has to be willing to give up everything to take part in it, like a man who would sell all he owned to purchase a field in which a great treasure lies (Mt 13:44-46).
    The kingdom is not easily defined in short clear statements. When Jesus described the kingdom he almost always spoke in form of parable. At large the kingdom is the reign of God in the universe. The kingdom of God ushers an idea of giving over the will of self and deciding to follow the will of the king. We also know that the kingdom is the epitome of love, joy, peace, hope, sacrifice, humility and forgiveness. Jesus demands the citizens of the kingdom to live by the attributes that characterize the kingdom. They must be humble like a child not letting their self importance get in the way (Mt 18:3, 4). They must also be forgiving for why would God want to forgive anyone who is not willing to forgive others. Georgia Harkness summarizes the kingdom as, “our ultimate challenge and ultimate hope.”
    The kingdom occurs when God rules in the hearts of people, but the shear identity of the kingdom is not merely internal. The kingdom is wrapped up in the community. The kingdom is a collective body the kingdom is naturally a group of people. The kingdom is directed toward a redeemed society of people. A redeemed society is one in which salvation is sought and found, not as one individual alone, but as an over expanding community of individuals.
    Kingdoms of this world are sources of oppression, fear, war, greed, hate and depravity. God’s kingdom acts in complete opposition to the natural way of this world. The kingdom of Christ lifts up the oppressed and acts against the oppressor. The kingdom of Christ is not a neutral ground. God has sided with the ones who are poor, insignificant and unintelligent. He has sided with those who are the least in the world. He has sided with the people that have been bulled over by the world, the ones the rich have stolen from and walked upon. Jesus said that it is hard for the rich man to enter the kingdom (Mt 19:23, 24) and the prostitutes and tax collectors will enter before the pride filled, self righteous Pharisees (Mt 21:31).
    Though the fullness of the kingdom is seldom preached in churches the church in America has become numb to kingdom terminology. The one who preaches the kingdom says “the kingdom is here” and “the king is at hand”, but nobody understands this proclamation as an actual threat to the normal way of life. The thought that the American way of life is doomed and destined for destruction never crosses the mind of the hearer. The proclamation of the kingdom never causes one to react by thinking there is a secret kingdom rising up and approaching the boarder and it will eventually conquer.
    Throughout history words of revolution lead to immanent death. Nations fear revolution. Even today there are power struggles, civil wars and revolutions all through the continent of Africa, in the Middle East and throughout Asia. For some reason in America today this language leads to nothing more than another sermon on Sunday morning. The one proclaiming this revolution is treated like a nice guy who is no different from the man down the road promoting the status quo. The message has fallen on deaf ears, but in reality the kingdom of self is heavily defended territory and will not be taken without a heated battle.
    The kingdom is essential to the mission. Jesus told his disciples that the good news was the kingdom of God far before his own death (Mt 24:14). Jesus is part of the kingdom and the consummation of the kingdom, but there is so much more. The world has been waiting for a kingdom that is no longer after wealth, power, prestige and pride. The world not longer needs nations that only care for themselves hording the resources of this earth. The world is in desperate need of a kingdom of peace. The world is in desperate need of a new path to live and walk. The world has only seen what the prince of the world has shown it. The prince of the world only wants to steal kill and destroy, but the world needs an example of how to live life in complete abundance (Jn 10:10). The world is in need of a kingdom that has not been tainted and perverted.
    The kingdom has the ability to reach the entire world like yeast spread throughout dough. It only takes a little yeast, but the impact is radical. Albert Schweitzer said, “As for humankind today the realization of the Kingdom of God here on earth has become a matter of survival or extinction.” The kingdom of God is the only possible explanation of liberation from the world. The kingdom is the only way the world can be redeemed.
    Please rise up and claim your citizenship in the kingdom promoting the kingdom and showing the world love through service so they can see the love of Christ and join His Kingdom.

    -Derek Murphy

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