Evil, Memory, & Sept 11, 20 Years Later

I was deeply engrossed in a chapter of Dante’s Inferno when the home phone rang. My grandmother who religiously watched the morning news shows was on the other end. She told my mom to turn on the T.V. She did. In the minutes that followed, we heard Katie Couric speculating about how a Cessna or another small plane could have struck the North Tower. Then in horror, a good portion of America and I watched another shadowy airliner slam into the South Tower. In that confusing moment, I understood that the United States was unquestionably under attack. Over the next few hours, the horrors continued to unfold. As images from flight 77’s crash into Pentagon, the collapsing of the South Tower, the collapsing of the North Tower, and the crater that was flight 93 filled our living room T.V. screen, I felt my stomach drop. The dark black smoke bellowing from the towers, the photos of men and women jumping to their death to escape the flames beneath them, and the images of terrified firefighters covered in the white soot of death reminded me and a whole generation of viewers that deep, abiding evil existed. It was not confined to the fanciful musing a of renaissance theologian who spoke of farting demons. It was brutally real. It was our reality.

Evil & Nostalgia

Over the last 20 years, nostalgia has begun to redefine our understanding of 9/11. As memory often does, it has started to smooth over the horrors of the day, focusing on the heroic actions of those who fought against the terrorist and risked all including their live to rush up staircases to reach the hurting. We have rightfully remembered and honored those like Todd Beamer who attempted to retake Flight 93 from the terrorists, but we have forgotten those who hijacked the planes. In some circles, the 19 hijackers appear primarily as the catalyst for the day’s heroism. The brutal evilness of that day has become less and less poignant.

I agree with those who think an over preoccupation with and glorification of evil proves unhealthy. At its worst, the practice can foster additional expressions of evil. There is a reason sports broadcasts never show streakers. I am thankful for their discretion.

But our increasing inability to remember the unfiltered evil of September 11 proves equally dangerous. While memories should fill our souls with warm fuzzies, they should also gift us wisdom for the future. Our society struggles to understand China’s genocide of the Uighur people and the Taliban’s abuse of women in part because we have forgotten the brutality of evil. A mere 20 years ago, 19 men happily turned 4 airliners full of innocent passengers into bombs that claimed the lives of more 3,000 fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. September 11 showed America that evil is not something found only in the imaginary world’s renaissance literature. It is something intrinsic within the human condition. Great heroes are needed because great evil exists.

The Jerry Falwell Controversy

Two days later while the dust still hovered over New York, Jerry Falwell shocked many Americans when he blamed, “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way” for the events of 9/11. In that moment (which he would later apologize for), he repackaged the well-worn theory that every evil deed has a direct earthly cause. He argued that America needed to reinstitute school prayer and other Christian values to avoid future attacks. Though transactional religion where we give God our tithe and he gives us health connects with many hearts, it is not the religion of Jesus.

The Sunday after 9/11, my pastor, Lance Quinn, took a different approach. He led the Bible Church of Little Rock to Luke 13:4-5 where Jesus discussed the collapse of another tower that had caused the Messiah’s listeners to wonder what evil deed had brought those ancient souls to the grave prematurely. The text reads as follows:

“Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus’s point is two-fold and direct. Those who died in the towers and the planes did not die because their sins or the sins of their nation were greater than the sins of those still alive. Instead of lobbing stones at the victims, Jesus reminds his listeners that towers collapse because evil exists. It profoundly affects us all. Unless we repent, believe, and lay hold of Jesus’s offer of eternal life, we too will perish.

The Days After

In the days immediately following the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, churches swelled with people looking for answers to the problem of evil. Sadly, most never found them. They just chose to forget them. No more earth-shattering terrorists attacks occurred. The memorials went up. Those shocked by September 11 slowly drifted out of church and back into the hum of everyday life. They once again preferred to think of evil as being as real as the demons of Dante’s Inferno.

Despite the culture’s amnesia, the darkness that formed 9/11 continues to lurk within our hearts, corrupting minds and claiming lives. It has not disappeared and keeps reappearing all over the globe. Until Jesus comes back to establish his kingdom of peace, towers will continue to fall.

20 Years

As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we should strive to make the most of the days that God has given us. We should remember and find inspiration from those who lived, died, and served valiantly on September 11, 2001. Then we should recall the evil that made the service of those heroes necessary and set out to discover the answer to those profound philosophical and religious questions that we have put off for the last 20 years.

May we learn the lessons of our past.

“But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Why Questions Don’t Threaten Jesus On Easter

God is not threatened by our questions, doubts, and critical spirit. From the moment Jesus said, “Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is at hand,” people placed his life under the microscope of suspicion. The miracle of the resurrection proved no exception to this rule.

Is the Resurrection Real?

No one in the ancient world thought Jesus would conquer the grave. Though we should commend the women who first arrived at the tomb for their expression of faith that first Easter morning, we should still note they arrived expecting to find a bloodied and decaying body. Luke 24:1 reported that the women walked to the tomb with “the spices they had prepared.” When they went and told the fearful disciples that Jesus was alive after encountering angels and the risen Jesus, the eleven friends of Jesus said the women’s account was “an idle tale (Lk 24:11). Though Jesus had spent much of his public ministry discussing his upcoming death and resurrection, no one believed God’s Word. Rather, they believed because they saw the empty tomb and the Jesus’s “hands and his feet.” The facts of the first Easter were historically verified Because they disciples doubted the possibility of the resurrection. The old preacher J.C. Ryle hit the easter egg on the head when he wrote,

The unbelief of the apostles is one of the strongest evidences that Jesus rose from the dead. If the disciples were at first so backward to believe our Lord’s resurrection and were at last so thoroughly persuaded of its truth that they preached it everywhere, Christ must have been risen from the dead.

If God can overcome the doubts of the apostles, he will not feel threatened by your doubts and concerns. I invite you to bring them to the tomb. Wrestle with the narratives found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Search for Jesus’s body. Look at the historical evidence in favor of the resurrection. Test and see if a man bloodied by a flogging, crucifixion, and a spear wound could remove a massive tombstone and overpower a Roman guard. Examine whether 500 people could hallucinate. See if the disciples had the weapons and skills necessary to steal the body. Come investigate the resurrection.

A Miracle Worth Believing

But do not stop there. Do not nominally agree with the miracle and then go on attempting to overcome the shame in your heart and that nagging fear of death that blinks in the back corner of your soul like a smoke detector with a low battery. You may smoother it with the pillow of good works and you may close the doors of religion behind you seeking acceptance, but death’s warning still beeps.

Instead, join the disciples and the women of the first Easter morning and believe in Jesus. Jesus explains the purpose of Easter in Luke 24:46-47 when he says,

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

We fear death for we know we are not perfect. Though we make peace with our faults, we know in our heart of hearts that God does not. And we cannot rest peacefully at night not because of what our parents told us but because our hearts condemn us. Though we may have done many things right, we have all told a white lie, sent an angry text, or posted something on social media that we later had to remove. We have all messed up our lives, our world, and offend our neighbors.

God must deal with us. A God who sweeps sin under the rug like a parent who refuses to recognize the crimes of their drug addicted kid, pretending they have done nothing wrong, cannot be a good God. God must deal with our sin if he is good and loving.That dealing with sin results in our death.

But on the cross, Jesus dies. His gives blood, his life source, for our souls so that we might live. Jesus who was both fully God and fully man and who spent his life sharing truth, healing the sick, loving the oppressed, opposing demons, and feeding the hungry died upon the cross for our sins. This is the good news of the gospel. This is the news that should warm our hearts this Easter morning. Jesus who said he could deliver us from sin and death made good on his promise. The tomb is empty Jesus. All who believe on Jesus though they die, they too will be resurrected to eternal life. Jesus paid it all.


If you have questions about Easter, Jesus, and the Bible, I encourage you to bring them with to the tomb located in the gospels. Jesus is not threatened or put off by your doubts any more than he was stunted by the worries and unbelief of his followers that first Easter morning. He can withstand your questions. But I will warn you in advance, that your investigation may not go as planned. As the angels told the women that first Easter morning, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but he is risen!”

Christ the Lord is Risen Today!

Happy Easter!

Yes, That’s Your President!

While the pundits speculate about how the presidents-elect’s agenda will unfold during the first 100 days of his or her presidency, a good number of American will sulk about, muttering “That’s not my president.” Those who sob through their candidate’s concession speech often struggle to come to terms with the election results. To comfort their souls and to stick to the system that betrayed them on election night, the members of the losing party will spend the next four years telling anyone who will listen, “That’s not my President.”

Admittedly, the phrase does not always represent a denial of reality. At times, defeated voters on both sides of the political spectrum toss out the phrase to remind their listeners that they disagree with the President. When asked why President Bush, Obama, Reagan, or Kennedy did this or that, those who did not vote for these men can conveniently and rightfully distance themselves from the discussion, reminding the room that those men were not their presidential candidate of choice. That’s not my president, agenda, or goal for America.

But often the phrase contains a more sinister meaning. The speaker uses the expression to imply a level of disrespect and defiance. Instead of honoring, supporting, and praying for the man or woman who has been elected to the Presidential office, the defeated voter seeks to create a safe space from which she can attack, insult, and belittle the President, using whatever means are necessary: conspiracy theories, lies, insults, and riots. That’s not my President often equals “I am free to rebel and to destroy.” Such thinking proves detrimental to society. It also proves to be antithetical to the Scriptures.

Election Theology

Christians should avoid the rebellious use of the phrase “That’s not my President” and confess, “That’s my President.” The statement is not inherently political. Nor is it about party affiliations or about one’s understanding of policy. Rather, that phrase is a theological confession of God’s loving sovereignty.

In Daniel 2:21 God reminds us that, “he removes kings and sets up kings.” Or as Paul says in Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” When Christians refuse to honor and respect the President, they act as if God does not reign. They imply that someone snuck into the White House while God was caring for orphans in Africa. But that is not the God of the Bible. He reigns over all human affairs and every American election cycle. His power knows no limits and cannot be out maneuvered, cheated, or overwhelmed. God’s purpose always come to be. Though we may not like the November outcome, we can be confident that the outcome of the last election was God intended outcome. “The Lord of Hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand (Isa 14:24).” John Neuahas rightly noted,

Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final assertion Christians make about all of reality, including politics.

Moreover, we should be confident that the outcome of the last election is consistent with God’s goodness. Psalm 136:1 reminds us to “Give thank to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” God’s faithful love was not on the last ballot. All events represent God’s exercise of his sovereign power for the good of his people. Romans 8:28 famously states “all things work together for good” for those who love God. That includes all things political. Even the political realities that get under our skin still further God’s good plans for his church and for you. Consequently as Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes clear:

Christians should never get excited about the state. They should never get excited about politics. They are to be interested; they are to vote; they must be intelligent and informed; but they should never get excited about one political party or the other…to they extent that they do, the come under the condemnation of the Scriptures.

What is God Doing?

In the cosmic sense, I do not know why candidate A prevails over that candidate B. I cannot detail what God is doing; no one can. Even historical investigation faces limits when seeking to discern the purposes of the heavenly Father. God has declared, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Is 55:8).” Be suspicious of those who proclaim that candidate A is a symbol of divine blessing and that candidate B is a symbol of judgement. God’s world is far more complex than that. Philistia, Babylon, and Assyria all had good runs at Israel’s political expense. But God was not with the pagan countries. Today’s win or loss is not the end of the story.

Closing Thoughts

Though we do not know what God is doing in the short term, we do know who is. He is the good and sovereign Lord of the universe who works all things together for our good. We can say, “That’s my President” giving respect to whom respect is do and praying for good to come from the administration currently in possession of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1 Tim 2:2). The failure to do reveals that we have betrayed our Lord and equated the kingdom of God with a political party.

Of course, we can disagree with any President’s agenda. The presence in office does not prove the righteousness of their causes or policies. Might does not make right. We have the freedom in Christ to vote for candidates that will overturn the current administration’s policy wins and the next.

Lastly, the church must advocate for truth and justice, sharing the gospel with rulers as Paul did and rebuking kings who openly defy the direct commands of Scripture as John the Baptist did.

But even in those moments of evangelism and rebuke, the Christian must still confess, “That’s my President.” God’s goodness cannot be thwarted by crooked senators or deceptive Presidents. Even when its not ok; it is ok. God reigns.

All Christians should be able to say, “That’s My President.” What say you?