Note from CM: Regular iMonk readers will recognize the voice of Eagle, one of the faithful members of our online discussion community. Eagle says he is an agnostic, and he has certainly been through the wringer when it comes to negative experiences with religious types, including the “fundagelicals.” We love having him here. He keeps us sharp by asking good questions, making us wince with his descriptions of how Christians have acted toward him in the past, and by just being himself — honest, funny, and plain-spoken. He is a friend.
Eagle wrote me the other day and described his experiences on 9/11. I asked if I could share them with the community and he graciously agreed. His is a perspective some of us in the church need to hear.
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I want to make you aware of a neat and limited exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History that is worth your visit if you live in the area or will be visiting it in the next week. The exhibit is about September 11, showing some personal artifacts from the disaster in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Centers.
As a heads up, the exhibit is popular and the line was long today. I wanted this to be a morning event; instead it turned into a day-long event. I waited about an hour and a half to get in. So if you want to see it, get there early. It’s open from 11:00 to 3:00 from now until September 11, 2011. The other part of the show dealt with how the news media covered the event and how historians are preserving it. It’s a good exhibit, albeit heavy.
The final part is an interactive where you are asked to record what you were doing on September 11, 2001 — How did you hear the news? What does September 11 mean to you? I sat there at a table and decided to write down the story an acquaintance who worked at the Pentagon told me about how he had the day off from the part of the building that was hit. I also wrote how my grandmother told me that September 11 was similar to Pearl Harbor for her. When my grandmother passed away in October 2009 at 100 she was almost like a history book. She remembered being a kid, 8 or 9 and people celebrating the end of World War I. I loved talking with her because of this….
I put down those memories of 9/11….
What I didn’t put down was my experience as an evangelical/fundamentalist on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and seeing how some evangelicals responded to the event, in comparison to the Catholics and non-evangelicals that I knew. I elected not to put that down because in all honesty I wish I could just forget about some of it.
But here is the other part of how I remember September 11.
I had that Tuesday morning off, as I had grad classes at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Everything had happened by the time I had heard. Up late the previous night, I slept in and was getting ready when my Mom called. “We’ve been attacked!” she screamed. I didn’t know what she was referring to and turned on the TV. I was shocked, just shocked, by the replay of images on the television screen. I couldn’t believe I was watching a plane fly into a skyscraper.
I left my apartment and looked at how things were on Marquette. I saw that the line to give blood was lengthy at the Blood Bank and winding down Wisconsin Ave, the main avenue in downtown Milwaukee. Marquette had counselors available in the student section with people glued to the TVs and I saw that they were going to have a special mass due to the occasion at the Church of the Gesu on Wisconsin Ave.
I came back to my apartment and had a flier at my door saying that due to the days events Marquette University was closing for the day. Due to my frame of mind I wouldn’t have gone to a Catholic service but due to the events I just felt like I should go to church. I did so that afternoon. A couple of Marquette students were protesting outside the church “No Blood For Oil” as I remember one person holding up a sign. The church was packed. Many people there were in shock, upset or disbelief. As I recall I could tell that some had been crying. The mass started and the priest went through the Catholic service. I don’t remember fully what he said, what I do recall was that he started out by talking about how our generation had their “JFK assassination” event, and that the terrorist attacks were of the same size and scope of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The atmosphere was one of grief, sadness and mourning.
Next I buzzed off to Family Christian Stores in Mayfair to pick up the Michael W Smith CD on Worship which was released on September 11, 2001. Crazy I know….
The experience in the Jesuit Catholic Church service contrasted with my experience in Campus Crusade for Christ that Tuesday evening of September 11, 2001. I remember walking into the Student Union and then into the room where Crusade was. My staff director was almost giddy and talked about how his wife was watching TV when the other plane flew into the other World Trade Center Tower. Another student leader for Campus Crusade told me, “Dave, the End Times are here….and the rapture is going to happen soon! When it does happen I want to be in a skyscraper so I can fly into the air and be with Jesus!”
The atmosphere in that room within Campus Crusade was starkly different than the atmosphere in the Gesu Jesuit Church I was in several hours earlier. (Dare I say this….?) But it seemed that some evangelicals were almost elated that September 11 occurred as they thought it would “hasten” the End Times Prophecy. And sadly I have to confess that due to my state of mind I went along and it didn’t bother me at the time like it does greatly today. I don’t remember a lot of mourning or ability to empathize. Instead it seemed is if there was this subtle “joy” from many people caught up in placing End Times events in a historical and Biblical perspective.
I didn’t want to write that down and leave that on the Smithsonian record. Truth be told I wish I could forget being involved in fundamentalist theology and seeing their reaction that day.
I was thinking about this earlier at the Smithsonian exhibit and I called my dad to ask him this afternoon about how he heard the news about JFK being assassinated and what he was doing. He told me the story of what it was like to be on his Surgical Internship at Duke University on November 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. My dad’s internship was with the Urology Department and he worked with a number of Baptists. When the news came in about Kennedy being killed in Dallas dad, who was Irish Catholic, was shocked. What distressed and discouraged him more was watching his Baptist co-workers be happy that a Catholic was killed because they didn’t want one in the White House. One person told dad it was “about time” that someone took him out. As a Catholic, my dad still struggles with Baptists and other evangelicals because he can’t comprehend why anyone would be happy about the death of another person.
Isn’t Christianity just lovely?