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'...if My people who are called by My
name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their
wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.'" (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Some surprises: Who caused 9-11?
1. A Service of Mourning and Encouragement
Wednesday night after the Tuesday, September 11 terrorist attack in New York and at the Pentagon, Pohick Episcopal Church where I attend near Mount Vernon, Virginia, held a service of Holy Communion in the court yard to pray for America and for all swept into the maelstrom. Here are some reflections. They will not be an easy read.
Several years go (maybe about 25), when the threat of nuclear warfare with the Soviet Union still hung heavy in the air, a TV presentation named "The Day After" began in a midwestern city, ordinary sorts of events which suddenly erupted in absolute and unrelieved devastation. A nuclear warhead had struck ground zero, a major city in Kansas. The story continued as those who survived around the periphery tried to minister to the sick and dying. But there was no hope, no relief. Those courageous souls who cared for the dying were themselves dying from radiation. No one survived.
Not often recognized was the background musical score weaving in and out of that terrible tragedy. It was taken from the hymn the choir sang Wednesday night in the church court yard, (hymn 636 in the 1982 Episcopal hymnal, "How Firm a Foundation", tune "Foundation"). Go, read it. Or better, sing it.
One can only suppose that the music writer was a Christian wanting to make a background witness to the power of God to bring life out of unremitting death.
Monday, the day before the attack, I was driving down from Boston where I had helped my son paint his house, and of course, came through New York City (where I had gone to seminary for three years on 9th Ave. and 21st St. 45 years ago). And then on to Washington, DC and home in Alexandria, Virginia. Like most of us, just ordinary sorts of events.
2. God Writes History
We need to put the events of these days in historical perspective. Contrary to almost universal opinion today, one cannot understand history unless one understands what God is doing. God is the maker of history, not us. We just muck it up. It is worth pondering what God has been up to this last week. Or maybe the last four centuries of our colonial and national existence.
God is certainly not about making us "comfortable" or "protected" in the sense to which we Americans have become accustomed. God, I think, is more in the business of forcing honest choices from His creatures, in particular from those who say they are His children. He led the Hebrews for 40 years through the back side of the wilderness to test them, to see whether they would obey His commandments. "Choose this day whom you will serve..." He seems quite brutal about it, making it clear that it is a choice between life and death.
He is, I think, calling America into the deepest kind of spiritual warfare. All military warfare is simply an extension of the larger spiritual warfare going on all the time -- until Jesus returns. And under the same Godly discipline, as our Continental Congress understood. Lacking money, munitions, and soldiers, and facing the military might of the world's greatest empire, they spent money to buy 20,000 Bibles -- to help even up the sides a bit. They wanted to make sure that we were fighting the war God's way. Unlike the French Revolution soon to come, the American war was fought with almost no violation of the rules of war. And, as the founding fathers testified, God did even up the sides a bit.
In 1962, the highest court in the land, in an act of treason, made a very different choice: they told God (they had been working up to this at least since the 1930's) that His services were no longer needed, that our teachers and students in public schools would no longer be permitted to speak to Him, at least not out loud, with the implication that it would be appreciated if He did not try to speak to them. If He wanted to be sovereign over the universe, please not on government time. There would be no prayer in government-run schools.
This was treason because they effectively untethered the Constitution from its moral and spiritual moorings, leaving America morally and legally adrift -- that is to say, at their mercy. Pledged to uphold the Constitution, they instead trashed it.
It was the first Supreme Court decision in history to be given with no precedent cited. That was because there were no precedents to cite. The exclusion of God from American public life had no basis in the constitution or in our history. It was made up out of the supremely arrogant delusion that they could replace the law of God with their own law -- and they were not even law-makers. That is the basis of all tyranny. (Read "Original Intent" by David Barton, Wallbuilders, for the documentation -- www.walbuilders.com.)
And what was the reaction of the people, the Christians, the churches -- God's faithful witnesses? We said just about nothing. We did not vote in legislators to impeach the guilty judges. The people who, more than any other in the history of mankind, had been entrusted to choose, direct, and be their own rulers, said nothing. We were forfeiting our right to self-government given by God.
Then eleven years later, the same Court decided that mothers had a right to kill their unborn children for any reason or no reason at all. At any time during the pregnancy. We are appalled at the possible death toll from the terrorists, perhaps 5-6,000. But we nearly match that daily, close to 4,000 little babies a day, 28,000 a week. What would "terrorist" look like to one of the little babies? Mom? A doctor in surgical garb?
Christians continue to keep their children in a corrupt school system which is in many instances criminally abusing their children with deliberately (or stupidly) misguided sexuality advice, often promoting the entire addictive and lethal pan-sexual agenda, including, but going well beyond the homosexual agenda.
And pastors of the flocks still say nothing, not at least so anyone is paying much attention. Christians have decided, in large measure, that voting, choosing one's own rulers, is not a Christian calling, so the world, the flesh, and the devil choose our rulers for us.
3. You Want
"On Your Own"?
1962, the year we told God to butt out, marked a stunning turn in the health statistics of America, which had remained reasonably steady for decades.
Birth rates for unwed girls 15-19 years of age shot up for 24 straight years. Pregnancies to unwed girls under 15 went up for 12 straight years (an increase of 500%). Sexually transmitted diseases climbed for 12 straight years, violent crime climbed for 27 of 28 straight years. Divorce rates which had been declining for 15 years turned upward for 17 straight years (a 300% increase). But one statistic did go down, SAT scores dropped for 18 straight years. Never before in American history.
If an archeologist unearths this astonishing information from our long-buried and abortive attempt at civilization some thousands of years later, he will surely wonder what disaster hit America to cause such terrible trouble. But Christians hardly even raise the issue.
So, what was God doing? He was, I think, responding to our request. He took His hand off America. We no longer had His protection. We wanted to do it on our own, we said, so He replied: "If you want to deal with reality on your own, you will deal with reality without Me."
4. Our New Education
To handle this new freedom of the '60's, we invented a new way to educate called "non-directive" education. It was invented by three persons, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and William Coulson (a personal friend). It was education by drawing out of the student what was assumed to be the inborn (cosmically evolved?) wisdom already there. One was not supposed to teach, just suggest. "Facilitators", not teachers. Father God and authority were in ill repute.
Two of the three discovered by 1970 that they had created a disaster. Maslow and Coulson immediately stopped their work and told everyone to stop using their methods because it would destroy education and badly harm children. They understood they had created a monster which would erode the moral fabric of the student's thinking. As one jaded youth in his newly enlightened wisdom somewhere said, "There is no such thing as right and wrong, only boring and fun." He may have been one of our school assassins.
Coulson was in New York City around 1989 just after a woman had been beaten and raped in Central Park by a gang of youths out "wilding", just having -- fun. He was addressing some New York teachers, and told them that the methods they were using (which he had helped develop) were teaching more children to do more of the same. They scoffed.
About that same time, I was preaching in Monroeville just outside of Pittsburgh, and said that our schools are killing our children. I knew there were some school teachers in the congregation, and thought later that that was a bit strong. And then children began killing children. It was not too strong. It was too weak and too late. Apart from their mother's wombs, schools were becoming the most dangerous place in the world for a child to be.
George Barna, writer and pollster, asks: "Is America on the edge of moral and spiritual anarchy?" He responds that, yes, we are, that if we abandon absolute truth, anarchy cannot be far behind. Janet Parshall writes, correctly, that there is plenty of evidence that the meltdown has already begun (Citizen, Oct. 2001)
This was, and is, America. To our utter shame, we have given Muslim extremists quite sufficient reason to call us "the Great Satan". In what other culture in human history have children taken lethal weapons to each other -- for fun?
5. Forcing a Choice
And what was God thinking all this time? I think He was thinking, "I am the only source of life there is, and I want to share that life with My creatures, but I want in My kingdom only those who want to be there. So I will not force anyone to be with Me. But I will force them to make a clear choice -- 'Choose this day....' Nevertheless, no matter how badly they behave, '...if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.'" (2 Chronicles 7:14)
How does God force a clear choice? Sometimes by giving us our head. "You want 'on our own'? So here's 'on your own.'" He takes away His protecting hand. "Protect yourself -- if you can."
That is the context we face today with the New York and Pentagon disasters.
There will be grief, there will be thousands of funerals, the likes of which we have not seen since the civil war in which we killed half a million of ourselves. And there will almost certainly be more attacks. And more children killing children. Two oceans no longer protect America, and we are fools to think that we can protect ourselves from attack. We are now vulnerable like everyone else.
6. When the Lord
Comes to Town
America, more than any nation except Israel, was formed consciously under the plan of God. His plan, surely, was that by the time we became so vulnerable, we would have become spiritually mature enough to take on the spiritual warfare of the nations, we would be securely trusting Him, not the oceans. We would be telling the nations how their political freedom rests in the hand of God. That was our "manifest destiny", well understood by early Americans. But we had other ideas. We had come to think that our freedom rested in our own hands.
Nevertheless, God has put His case before us. He has told us that any alleged god who cannot keep his promises is no god at all (I Kings 18:20 ff., and Isaiah 40-50). That is how we are to view Him. He has offered to be our Lord and Savior at some considerable cost to Himself. He does not take our loyalty to Himself lightly. But He will prove His own case. In this covenant relation, we have every right, every obligation, to test Him at His word, to find out whether He can do what He says He will do (see Malachi 3:10, I Kings 18:20 ff., Isaiah 40-50). God is not afraid of an honest conversation. We are the ones who do not show up.
Some of you may have seen the videos, "Transformations" and "Transformations II", documenting what God can do when people invite Him to town. God can heal both our people and our land. Physically, spiritually, any way we need to be healed. (If you have not seen these, call The Sentinel Group at 800 668-5657. They will change the way you view evangelism.)
God's own people have always been His biggest problem, not the pagan and secular folks. Squishy, spineless Christianity does God no honor. He is not interested. He is spewing us out of His mouth. If that seems like an uncouth image, it comes from the risen Son of God (Revelation 3:15).
I have heard debates via the media on whether we should forgive the terrorists. Nothing at all about why we are in this position, nothing about ourselves repenting. Repenting, maybe, for having been such terrible witnesses of the Father's love to those terrorists who now attack us. "Hey, we're the victims, aren't we?!" We have the victim role down well. We are victims because we, through our highest government officials and our ignorant, cowardly spiritual leaders, have chosen to do it "on our own". God is the maker of history, even (nay, especially) in the crucifixion, not the victim of it. And He expects His people to join Him, even (nay, especially) in the crucifixion. Pick up your cross daily....
We see the symbolism of the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon -- the corporate, commercial, and military might of America. On our own. No hand of God. We are fools indeed to trust that any of those, no matter how beefed up, can protect us from the power struggle of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The devil will take the hindmost. And if they do not repent, the foremost as well.
We must stop focusing on the terrorists long enough to do our own repenting. We need to fall on our knees and our faces and ask God to take us back. Life in America is changed forever. We face again that same ancient fork in the road: "Choose this day..." Let us pray that we in America have had enough of "on our own". Hearing of the courage of the rescue workers raises my hopes that we might have the humble courage also to get on our knees before God.
And then, perhaps once again choosing to be under the law and grace of God, we may get in shape to deal with terrorists and the lawless, and witness to the nations as to what true freedom and strength are. Then we will be able to proclaim, as we did in the Pohick Church court yard, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress! my God, in whom I trust!'" (Psalm 91)
Some surprises: Who caused 9-11?
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