The horrific images of September 11, 2001 are forever seared into our collective conscious. Kamikaze planes, billowing smoke, imploding buildings, panicked crowds, and broken bodies overwhelmed our souls. To borrow a phrase from President Roosevelt, this day of infamy changed the landscape of our country forever.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, the United States appeared to experience a religious reawakening. The catastrophe literally brought America to its knees in prayer.
We did not engage in ACLU approved, politically correct moments of silence or personal meditation. God’s people prayed. We prayed in churches, cathedrals, synagogues, and mosques. We prayed at home, work, school, and worship. We prayed at flagpoles, street corners, courthouses, city halls, and seats of government. We prayed in words, song, silence, and tears.
People also turned to the church for comfort and consolation. In the aftermath of the Twin Towers’ attack, believers and non-believers alike attended worship services in record numbers. Church attendance grew a dramatic 25% in the days following September 11.
According to a Barna survey, however, church attendance quickly returned to normal levels within a month of the tragedy. People who had packed sanctuaries in September found better things to do in October. The immediate crisis had passed, a semblance of normalcy had returned, and people seemed to remain the same.
Military chaplains say that there are no atheists in a foxhole. Life-threatening crises often evoke a temporary faith. People play “Let’s Make a Deal” with the Lord God Almighty serving in Bob Barker’s stead as the game show host.
There are no atheists in a foxhole; but it does not take folk long to lose their faith once the crisis has passed. Perhaps this observation is too harsh. It might be more accurate to say that people lose any URGENCY about their faith on the far side of a disaster.
However, in the aftermath of September 11, we dare not be the same people or nation ever again. We are called to live faithful lives as citizens and Christians.
America was brought to its knees on September 11. As God’s people, we are challenged to remain upon our knees in service, remembrance, prayer, and changed lives. In the midst of uncertain times, we also remember that our lives are based upon the firm foundation of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Even if all else around us falls apart, our God will care for us this day . . . and forever more.
Fifteen years later we are called to pause . . . to remember . . . to pray . . . and to hope.