“Today we’ve had a national tragedy”, declared President George W Bush on September 11. Two American Airlines planes were hijacked and flown into the twin towers of the 110-storey World Trade Centre in New York. Soon afterwards, one hijacked United Airways plane ploughed into the Pentagon in Washington, nerve-centre of America’s military strength, and another crashed into a field near Pittsburgh. Even a week after the tragedy, no one knows the extent of the loss of life, but it is clear that many thousands perished, including hundreds of Britons. Expressions of sympathy flowed in from around the world. We too would record our sympathy for those who have lost relations, friends and workmates, and recognise the painful situation of those who did not know, at least in the early days, whether their loved ones had perished or not.
What are we to learn from these dreadful events? Clearly, we are to recognise the limitations of human might. Not even the most powerful nation in the world, with tremendous resources at its disposal, can prevent such a fearful catastrophe. Too often, this generation has followed the philosophy that man is the ruler of his fate. He is not. Every moment, individual sinners throughout America, and throughout the whole world, are being confronted, as they pass into eternity, with the solemn fact that they must meet their Creator, whom they have all their lives ignored. At the same time, God’s children are entering into eternal blessedness, and we would hope that there were some such among those who perished in what must stand as the world’s worst-ever terrorist atrocity – when thousands of people entered eternity together.
The question has been asked, How could God allow such a thing to happen? Much occurs in providence that we cannot understand, but we must learn to respond, as Abraham did, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Death came into the world only as a result of sin, but whatever happens in this sinful world, we must never lose sight of the fact that God remains in control – a fact that is of great comfort to believers when they experience difficult situations. And God may in very solemn circumstances remind individuals and nations of their duty to acknowledge Him – to give Him the glory that is due to Him.
It is solemn now to read the words of the architect who designed what was America’s tallest building: “The World Trade Centre should, because of its importance, become a living representation of man’s belief in humanity, his need of individual dignity, his belief in the co-operation of men and, through this co-operation, his ability to find greatness”. God was ignored, and now the World Trade Centre has become a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man, a scene where enmity between peoples triumphed, and where man’s littleness in death seemed painfully obvious. Greatness can only be found ultimately in the works of God, and those who look to the work of the Son of God on the cross will at last triumph over death and the grave.
America has, as a nation, consistently refused to acknowledge God, although her leaders, in a way that is now almost unheard of in Britain, make reference to the Most High in their public statements. From the beginning, the idea of the separation of Church and state found unscriptural expression in the American constitution in the refusal to permit the establishment of religion. But, in a way never intended by the country’s founding fathers, religion has been banished from schools and from every government institution. It is almost as if atheism is being promoted as the official religion of the United States. Things have gone to the absurd extent that it is held to be unconstitutional to display the Ten Commandments in a public building unless they are accompanied by other historical material. The liberal elite who have so long had their own way in the supreme court militantly oppose every form of national acknowledgment of the Most High or His laws. No doubt, every one of that liberal elite would oppose unnecessary killing – except in the womb – but their opposition lacks the divine authority which comes with the Sixth Commandment. Only a God-given moral code provides a solid foundation for human society.
In view of the fact that these four planes were hijacked by Muslims, it is surely noteworthy that America only recently issued a stamp in honour of an Islamic festival. We have no doubt that most Muslims would condemn these atrocities, but the truth is that the Koran encourages those who die in battle against the infidel to believe that they will be brought to a paradise where their lusts will be amply satisfied. There is a debate among Islamic scholars as to whether such suicidal actions as have been seen in America and Israel are justified by the Koran. Yet militant clerics in this false religion continue to send young men to violent deaths on this basis.
No one can deny that there is a high degree of religious observance in America. Yet, when it is examined more closely, it is clear that the picture is far from rosy. A wide variety of false doctrine is being proclaimed in many pulpits. One cannot then expect to see much fruit in godliness and holy living. Much of American religion is only a veneer. Pictures of President Clinton clutching his Bible on his way from church, at a time when he was in political trouble because of his marital infidelities, stick in one’s mind as a symbol of how little effect such religious observance has on the lifestyle of most Americans.
In fact, the religion which actually finds a place in the hearts of most Americans is materialism. In this they are no worse than other peoples in the West, but they have greater opportunities to acquire the good things of this life. How few are asking, “What must I do to be saved?” Rather, most people are taken up with the questions: “What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” or, How can we find happiness? All these are relevant questions, but sinners are presumptuous when they ignore the Saviour’s direction as to what our priorities should be in life: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat 6:33). They are accordingly condemned who are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”. And it is idolatry for people to put anything in the place of the sincere worship of the true God, although they may, formally, engage in some type of Christian worship. Those who sincerely worship God from the heart do enjoy a degree of true happiness in this life, but it is in another world that they will experience perfect happiness. So the scripture tells us: “At [God’s] right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps 16:11).
No nation can go on provoking God and not expect that He will speak in judgement. In this case, God has spoken loudly – very loudly. When the most high God has been overtly ignored by the nation as such, and in practice ignored by the great majority of her people, the question arises, Where are they who have ears to hear, and the understanding to recognise that this was indeed His voice? We can only pray that the Lord will in great mercy open many ears to listen to Him as He speaks in the Scriptures, that He will send the Holy Spirit to bless the labours of all whom He sends out to speak for Him, and that He will send out many more such men as ambassadors to make known His testimony throughout America and the wider world.
And let each of us as individuals take to heart those words of the Saviour, which should impress us deeply when reports reach us of such solemn incidents: “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Mat 24:44).