Discussing
Did 9/11 make America a more, or less, Christian nation?

Gideon Strauss

Jamesggilmore
August 16, 2011

<i>While for a time it appeared that Americans were engaged in a serious conversation about the character of this nation, as a result of 9/11</i><br><br>You know, to be honest, I really didn't see this. I saw a lot of cowboy posturing, and a lot of "we're gonna get those bad guys," but not a lot of conversation about who we are as a people, what our character is as a nation.<br><br>When the President of the United States told the American people to respond to 9/11 not by thinking about what they could sacrifice in the service of their country, or by asking why there's a small but devoted group of people who are <i>willing</i> to sacrifice their lives in order to deal our country a blow, or by questioning what actions of ours might have brought people to the point where they despise our very existence, he just reinforced the status quo and told people what they wanted to hear: They hate us for our freedoms (some of which we're now going to take away), and your response to the attacks should be to go to the mall in defiance.<br><br>So we went to a series of wars that most Americans experienced as video games on the CNN or Fox News inset—both of which resulted in quagmires, and one of which was completely unrelated to 9/11 <i>and</i> started on the basis of allegations that later turned out not to be true. Instead of broadening military service, as we did in World War II, we asked a small minority of the American public to do 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, while the rest of us just have to put yellow ribbons on our cars and stand and applaud when they show the returned troops on the jumbotron at the ballgame. The wars that were started after 9/11 weren't paid for by increasing taxes, as previous wars like World War II had been, but by borrowing from our children and putting programs for seniors and the poor in jeopardy.<br><br>We <i>didn't</i> ask why the 2/3 of the world that walks along the edge of the knife of starvation, famine, and poverty might resent a nation that uses up a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, wastes more in a day than many countries use in a year, and flaunts its ostentatiousness all over the world via satellite. We <i>didn't</i> ask what effects our own way of life and our "American dream" has on those who mine the cobalt, have the oil pipeline pass through their land, or build our plastic products in overstuffed factories. We <i>didn't</i> ask, in Kennedy's words, what we could do for our country—we just asked whether our country would be able to keep doing stuff for us.<br><br>To be honest, I don't think we were much of a "Christian nation"—in <i>any</i> sense of the word—before 9/11, and I don't think 9/11 changed that. There are many good and positive things that are part of the American character—our resourcefulness, our work ethic, our optimism, our compassion, our sense of mission to the world. But I think the decades since 1980 in particular have really brought out the shadow side of the American psyche—our sense of individualism as more important than any responsibility to others, our selfishness, our willingness to ignore what is done in the name of our country and our lifestyle. And 9/11 only reinforced <i>those</i> values. <br><br>9/11 could have presented us with an opportunity to seriously think about who we are as a people, and what we could do to be better citizens and neighbors to those with whom we share this pale blue dot in the middle of a vast universe. It could have presented the Church with an opportunity to seriously consider what a prophetic witness looks like in the richest, most powerful nation in the world. It could have led us as a culture to ask what being a culturally "Christian nation" really means in terms of our responsibility to the other nations of the world. But instead, it was used as an excuse to go shopping, engage in pat and shallow thinking like "they hate us for our freedoms," and start two brutal, deadly, unpaid-for wars.

Katherine
August 16, 2011

I remember the towers. I also remember vividly the horrific images of children dancing in the streets after Osama Bin Laden was found and executed. Was that Christian Justice? It was a celebration of a revenge killing.<br>I saw faces of children raised to hate a man and a culture for an act that did not represent the teachings of their holy book. Christ said "Forgive". You can't turn the other cheek with your head bowed in submission certainly but I challenge you to define a "Just War" in Christian terms.I sat on my couch and cried for the damage this Kleos had done to a nation's soul.I also wrote this poem.WHAT OF PEACE?<br>My heart weeps for a soul, a life, spent in pursuit of hate.<br>Innocence lost, as a world stops turning to celebrate a dead man.<br>Because he is dead.<br>Cowboy justice. The American way!<br>One nation wrapped in revenge, bonded by blood.<br>Justice for a generation born in towering shadows of shattered trust.<br>A child of war.<br>The face of war, the face of death, the greater good.<br>Dancing in the streets.<br>And yet I weep.<br>For a soul shattered in the pursuit of revenge.<br><br>And now…   What of PEACE?<br>PEACE to heal the shattered souls of two kindred faiths.

Keri
August 16, 2011

"We are citizens of the kingdom of God, first, and citizens of the United States of America, second. How we live the first shapes how we live the second."<br><br>This is a nice interpretation of "in the world, but not of the world."  <br>

Jay
August 17, 2011

When the news of 9/11 reached the President of the United States of America,he was reading a book to children.Instead of snapping to attention,he just sat there and continued reading as if nothing happened.This man, through 8 years of presidency claimed to be a Christian.This person,instead of rising to the challenge of true leadership,would give all comedians enough material, allowing them to retire early.<br>What America needed 10 years ago was a Winston Churchill. A king like David or King Soloman could have led America in a much more positive direction.<br>Instead of moving America on a peaceful road,the president went to war.<br>He picked a victim to invade that had nothing to do with 9/11. The country was Iraq,who has vast amounts of oil.Iraq`s leader was close to selling the rights of his oil to Russia,America`s old cold war enemy.<br>So,I would have to say that 9/11 moved America further away from being a Christian nation.<br>Greed and selfishness from America`s leadership at most critical times,sabotaged any Christian benefit possibility  that could have come out of 9/11.<br>Some have talked about a 9/11 conspiracy. I will never know it all.<br>Only God knows and on judgment day the truth will be revealed.

Maureen
August 17, 2011

The suddenness and magnitude of loss along with the variety of victims reminded me to love my neighbors and cherish moments with family as if they could be the last. It reminded me that I am needy before God. Neediness and vulnerability are not characteristics we like to associate with our country but in that moment we needed God and called on him for protection. O that we as a nation would do that without a tragedy to motivate us.

Jamesggilmore
August 17, 2011

<i>in that moment we needed God and called on him for protection.</i><br><br>Did we really call on God for protection, though, as a nation? Sure, we said the words, but did our actions bear out that we were trusting in God for protection, rather than to our own understanding?<br><br>I would suggest that our actions didn't reflect those words. A person or nation that trusts in God for protection will do what God commands, will act in accordance with the good things in their character, regardless of whether or not it will make them more vulnerable—because they have faith in God's promises of protection. <br><br>Did we hold to the good things in our national character?<br><br>Let's take a couple of examples: First, did we hold to our tradition of neighborliness and community? Interpersonally, within the country, the answer is a bit of a mixed bag; while there were lots of instances where people came together and risked or sacrificed their lives and livelihoods to help other people and times when it felt like we were all brothers and sisters, there were also some seriously despicable and shameful things said and done to American Muslims (or even those who people thought <i>looked</i> like Muslims, like the Sikh man who was killed). <br><br>Internationally, we started two wars—one of which had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11—and engaged in other shameful acts like imprisoning foreign-born people for indefinite periods of time without cause and without charges, subjecting our prisoners to all kinds of unnecessary humiliations, and perhaps the most despicable and un-neighborly of all acts, the torture of other human beings. And all of these were done in the name of "protecting the country." If we truly trusted in God for protection, would we have done these things which, before 9/11, virtually all of us would have agreed were wicked, to supposedly keep America safe?<br><br>Second, did we hold to our nation's tradition of coming together to sacrifice in times of our nation's need? During World War II, most of the nation was devoted to the effort to take down Hitler and the Japanese; most men who could serve in the military served, those who couldn't worked stateside in the war effort, and women took many men's places in the factories. Families tried to conserve every resource, knowing that every bit of waste hurt the war effort. The wealthy paid up to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax_in_the_United_States" rel="nofollow">94% of their income</a> in taxes to fund the war.<br><br>What happened after 9/11? A small subset of our population were sent off to tour after tour in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffering bodily and mentally if they lived through the ordeal at all, and subjecting their families to incredible stress during and after their deployment—a sacrifice that was distant from far too many of us. There was no major effort to call the young men and women of the middle or upper classes to sacrifice to serve the nation; our military was, and is, comprised mostly of people from working-class backgrounds. Despite the fact that the attackers and their ideological allies drew impetus and funding from our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, there was no widespread effort to get Americans to drive less, to use mass transit, or to conserve energy in any meaningful way. And the tax cuts put in place shortly before 9/11—which brought our nation's tax rates to record lows—were kept in place, thus adding the cost of these wars to our deficit and debt, which not only left the cost to the next generation but also put us in the mess we're in now, where budget deficits make it highly probable that even our meager social safety net for the elderly and poor will be cut (because <i>of course</i> we can't raise taxes on the rich). Was our unwillingness to sacrifice, our unwillingness to trust that any changes we made to our lives were for the greater benefit of our nation, a sign that we were looking to God for protection—or a sign that we didn't trust that our sacrifices for the good of the whole would be honored?<br><br>Those are just a couple of examples... but as a whole, I think that while our politicians said a lot of the right words, we <i>didn't</i> truly call out for God's protection, by which I mean acting in accordance with our ideals out of faith that God would protect us. And that, I think, should cause those who suggest that our nation is "Christian" to seriously search their souls.

Paul
August 17, 2011

As someone not a citizen of the US may I be permitted to give an outside perspective to this debate? When, some eighteen years or so ago I finally got round to getting cable tv, I sat and watched both NBC and CBS evening news for the first time (both broadcast then in the middle of the night here in the UK). I was suprised - if not a little shocked - by the content compared to other national newscasts. EVERY single item referred to things happening in the continental United States: no news of any kind pertaining to the rest of the earth was mentioned. The networks here in the UK had that same evening shown an impending famine in Africa (again), Norway and Japans breaking of whaling quotas and the ongoing war in Chechnya (sp?)<br>    Now, post 9/11, I watch American newscasts and the situation is considerably changed. There is a world beyond the shores of the US and the greater mass of Americans are much more aware of it. Gone is the complete introspection of American news media - an introspection that was the US's achilles heel. Now as I watch American news networks I am struck by something else brought about by this realisation of 'another world out there'. Some, notably those deemed liberal, want to embrace this altered state and interact with the rest of humanity. Others, on the right, seem to take the view that, suddenly, there are barbarians at the gate. This last, from the perspective of a 'not American christian' is the most worrying for in this viewpoint, to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God and the US is one and the same thing.

SiarlysJenkins
August 19, 2011

I'm a devoted fan of Greg Boyd's series, "The Myth of a Christian Nation." By nature, a nation is not Christian, and Christianity is not a nation. If we start trying to make nations Christian, we will soon be up against the perplexities that faced European Jews about whether they were Germans / French / Hungarian patriots first, or Jews first, and whether a Jew could be a German, and now they are dealing with the conundrum of what it means for a Jewish state to have Muslim and Christian citizens.<br><br>I was also impressed a few years ago with an article in the <i>Wittenburg Door</i> examining the cynical argument that "you just can't run a country" in accordance with the Beatitudes. The bottom line response was, I'm not saying you can run a country that way, I'm just pointing out, that's what Jesus said. So, if we can't run a country according to the Beatitudes, let's stop pretending that this is a "Christian nation," even if a lot of Christian lived here, and some of the founders were arguably Christian, and there is profound theological content in Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.<br><br>Lincoln had this down well -- he knew that God could not answer in full the prayers of both loyal American citizens and those in rebellion, and candidly admitted that God might have his own purposes, different from both.<br><br>In that light, why should an event like 9-11-2001 make us any more or less a Christian nation than we already aren't?

SiarlysJenkins
August 19, 2011

Although there is very little I admire about George W. Bush, I think he did the right thing by finishing the story he was reading to the school children. Yes, he was the president of the United States, but there was nothing he personally could have done in the next fifteen minutes that would have made or broken anything. It was important for staff to gather information so he would have more than a first report before he made any serious decisions anyway. And it was a significant way of saying, we will not disrupt our entire way of life because someone hit us. We will carry on, while developing an appropriate response. It also brought his visit to sane conclusion for the kids he was reading to.<br><br>The response was, in many ways, far from appropriate, but that's another question.

Mvansweden
August 21, 2011

America is not nor has ever been a "Christian Nation" -- we are a secular society.  9/11 maybe allowed us to pause and reflect on the sanctity of life for a period but we're none the better for it.  my two cents.

Doyl Watson
August 29, 2011

Your intentions to encourage people to "ThinkChristian" is admirable, and much of this article is spot on, however on this 2nd of your articles I have read, you have made the same mistakes I commented on b4: An utter lack of Scriptural support, and a rather significant lack of Accurate Historical Basis.  Of greatest concern to me is that you do NOT KNOW our heritage very well and have merely bought the lies being sold by the Socialists who are attempting to subvert Christianity and our Constitutional Republic.  Tere are a number of really great books that could help alleviate this, but the two best are "The 5,000 Year Leap", by Cleon Skousen, and "Original Intent" by David Barton.  The Former is my favorite and illustrates very thoroughly how that OUR FOUNDERS believed firmly in God and Jesus, and used 28 Principles based primarily on THE BIBLE to guide them in establishing the Constitution and Our Constitutional Republic Under GOD.

Add your comment to join the discussion!