I was 18 years old, and it was a surreal moment. For me, I compare it to what (I’m assuming) my dad’s generation went through when Kennedy was shot. I hear it said that this was the day that the age of innocence died. For my generation, this was the day that the age of invincibility died. We joined the dark fraternity of countries that have been victims of a heinous crime and tragedy perpetrated by madmen. This would be the event that would define my generation.
This week marks the 10th anniversary after that event, and for many it is a solemn time as they reflect on how their lives changed which will be marked by a ceremony at ground zero (more on that in a moment). For me, 9/11 reflects what is great about America, because for a second we abandoned our preconceptions of partisanship, division, or cynicism and simply were Americans. No other picture of that kind of unity is better than the picture of the a Hasidic Jewish man saving a Pakastani Muslim on 9/11. Two men who had nothing in common at all, and conventional wisdom would suggest that they should be enemies, but rather they dismissed that narrative in favor of a better one. One where we help our fellow man. The part I love about this story is as the Jewish man was picking up the Muslim, he says, “Brother, if you don’t mind, there is a cloud of glass coming at us, grab my hand, lets get the hell out of here!”
Like many of you, I learned of the decision by the mayor of New York to not have any sort of religious significance during the 9/11 ceremonies. I understand why that decision was made, but it doesn’t mean I agree with it. I think it is unwise to have a purely secular event where we remember those that were lost without petitioning God for comfort, peace, and wisdom. Of course, that is something that we have the freedom to do right now and don’t need a government official to tell us to do so, and that is what I think we should do is believers.
Like many of you, my natural inclination to the news that there would not be any sort of religious aspect in the 9/11 ceremony was to write Mayor Bloomberg, write congress, write President Obama, write whoever I could think of to voice my concern and displeasure. Although that would be cathartic to an extent, the letter/email that I would have sent would have gone to a rather large pile of correspondence from people politely (or otherwise) exercising their freedom of speech and their freedom to redress grievances. Therefore, I would suggest that we take this opportunity to somberly remember that tragic day, mourn those who we have lost on that day and in the subsequent wars, and pray for the next year, 5 years, 10 years, etc…
I applaud Rick Warren for holding such an event at Lower Manhattan Community Church. I applaud leaders in Oklahoma City for planning a night of worship on 9/11. For God to move in a mighty way in our nation, it starts in our communities, and we should stop looking for trickle down salvation. Our responsibility is to minister to those around us and to take Christ in our world locally, and not let our disappointment cloud the issue that we still can freely worship and freely plead with God to move in a mighty way. For proof, look at history. Pentecost was not an organized or planned event, but rather one that started in a small gathering. Martin Luther was not a head of state, but a rather unknown before his hammer met the nail that started the Protestant Reformation.
We should never forget that a small, thoughtful, and committed group can change the world. We should never forget this because a small, thoughtful, and committed group of people is the only thing that ever has changed the world.