October 25, 2014

9/11 — Reflections on Disappointing Reactions

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.

• • •

By Eagle

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?

Comments

  1. Eagle,

    Thank you for sharing. The day for me was so surreal, as I commented in Damaris’s previous post. I was so personally touched, with extended family in NYC, family and home in Pittsburgh and being close to DC on a client site which was the regulatory arm of the World trade Center. To this day thinking back or seeing footage gives me chills and pangs of grief.

    I had relatives who escaped the tragedy in NY, relatives who were firefighters in the aftermath, stories on what had happened in Pittsburgh, and a boss in DC who wigged out when I ended up back in Pittsburgh the next day when in reality the company had told everyone to stay put.

    As for faith tradition reaction, we pulled together, my Catholic circle, my marriage encounter group which was also included some of the best non-denoms I ever knew and we comforted and prayed.

    If I had encountered someone who had shown the kind of giddiness as you described above – I’m afraid they would have seen my wrath at their immaturity, their self-centeredness – luckily I did not have to witness this. I feel the same when some out on the fringes offer conspiracy theories – grouping data to support an idea… I didn’t like it when I saw it on either side of the political aisle.

    And for a time the churches were full and there was genuine concern for each other… all things are possible….

    Regards…

  2. “Isn’t Christianity just lovely?”

    Thank you, my friend, for holding that mirror up before us.

    JtM

  3. Is the closing sentence “Isn’t Christianity just lovely?” really necessary or appropriate? The experience you had certainly exposed an ugly arrogance and silly belief system. But it was the nonsense of a few people. I was at a non-denom baptist church in a midwestern university town at the time. The Sunday after the attacks our church was involved in getting volunteers to be available to accompany female Muslim students (or spouses of students) in shopping, errands, etc. in case they would feel uncomfortable or meet with any overt prejudice. Could I tell this snippet and conclude that “Christianity is indeed lovely!”?

    Again, not discounting the absurdity of what you saw but this seems to be painting with a very broad brush. After all, the simple, comforting service you sat through was also a Christian one.

    • As one who had permission to edit Eagle’s post, I decided to let it stand because it represents his honest bewilderment.

    • It just blows my mind that you consider such a reaction inappropriate. As if it’s somehow his fault that his observations affected him so, and a more mature person would have taken it in stride. These observations do not describe a niche view of a few people. That kinda stuff is rampant in American evangelicalism, and we ought to at least be honest and admit it. That would be the first step in addressing the problem.

      • Amen to that. Eagle says things we need to hear, and while he is direct (a trait I share, although mine is normally referred to “painfully blunt” and/or “no bullshitte”) , I have never read anything from him that is purposefully ugly, demeaning, or just plain nasty.

        As to what his Dad heard on the day JFK died….I have to add that I have heard this and worse as a Catholic, especially since moving here to Falwellville (it really is a great place to live, which is truly why we picked it!) Anything from a slightly crinkled nose and fake smile up to and including being told that I am not a Christian and that I worship idols….all responses to finding out I am Catholic. (We are only 6% of the population, which is unusually low, even for the south.)

        The ignorance is upseting, but the spite and ugliness is just NOT congruent with Christianity of any flavor, style, or size. I stay calm as to now throw gas on the embers, but have wanted to (more than once) yell back that..

        “HEY…between us Roman Catholics and our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we WERE the only christians for the first 1500 years after Christ rose!!! So, yeah, maybe we know a little bit about being Christians! And it is bread and wine, NOT crackers and grape juice”

        Sorry, rant over….but it happened again this weekend so I am a bit touchy!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Remember, Pattie: The only reason these Bible-Believing (TM) Christians HAVE a Bible to Believe in the first place is because the Bishops of our Church kept all the Shirley Mac Laine types from rewriting it in their own image back when years AD were in the low three digits.

    • David Cornwell says:

      ” “Isn’t Christianity just lovely?””…

      Fairly or not, this how so much of the world sees us today. We are no longer defined by our love toward each other and for God’s creation, but by those things that we are against and seemingly hate. In some ways this becomes simply a mirror image of Muslim fundamentalism.

      So– the image reflected back isn’t a very lovely one.

      Eagle doesn’t mince words. And we need to hear his honestly.

      • Agreed, David. Eagle’s thoughts are always transparent and honest…which is more than I can say for most of the Baptist and non-denominational pastors I’ve worked with over the past eleven years. Eagle and I had similar experiences, but dealt with it in different ways. I chose to move toward historical Christianity…and have been the butt of jokes by former friends in the old world I was a pastor in.

        The evangelical response to any disaster is either one of judgement (see Katrina and Pat Robertson, AIDS and Pat Robertson, etc.) or to say “Ministry opportunity!”. Did anyone who went on evangelistic trips to New Orleans post-Katrina care about the are prior to the disaster? There were people there who needed the love of Christ both after AND before.

        • Lee- You can’t have an event or a tragedy without someone in the fundegelical camp putting it in some End Times or punishment for sin perspective. It’s not just limited to the Pat Robertsons, but respected theolgians as John Piper and even the local pastor a few times.

          It can be from Hurriance Katrina, to that time (was it 2004?) where 3 hurricanes hit Florida. I heard it in regards to September 11, and remember when my local pastor at my church in WI attempted to explain the Iraq invasion of 2003 in the End Times perspecitve. It continues to happen to this day. I remember going to the local fundegelical mega church McLean Bible and hearing Joel Rosenthal put the Iranian nuclear porgram in an End Times perspective. I heard Christians mentioning this when Russia invaded Georgia. On and on it goes…

          And just within the last week I saw someone who I knew from National Community Church try and offer up the suggestion that the Washington, D.C. earthquake could be a sign of the End Times.

          There are many Christians who take this almost perverse pleasure in the suffering of others. What is that condition called….? Sociopath? (I think…) A disaster happens and they take joy in trying to put it in End Times theolgical perspective. How sick is that?

          Two other quick points…when Christinas make these types of proclamations about a national disaster , etc.. which don’t bear fruit. Is that any differnet than what Brigham Young and Joseph Smith did? To make false prophecy and continue to do so? I would also suggest that instead of being like Jesus weaping for Jerusuleum…that many fundegelicals act like Jonah at Ninevah in eager anticipation waiting for the city to be destroyed just because they wantt o see their enemies smitted.

          But what shocks me is how embraced it is and how many parts of the church exists and thrives becuase of it. Again I think it goes to show (perspective of an agnostic here…) how Hal Lindsey and Nelson Derbyshire destroyed American Christianity.

          • Good points, Eagle. It seems that those who claim the Bible as their final authority often forget Jesus’ words about no one knowing when the end times would come.

            I think the most disturbing thing I ever encountered while serving in an evangelical setting was the death of a teenager, and the pastor of my church instructing me to go to the school because it was a “great ministry opportunity”. I respectfully declined. I had witnessed other pastors and youth pastors “counseling” teens wrapped up in mass grief before, which invariably resulted in a “sinner’s prayer” and reminding the person receiving counseling of their “awesome youth group that meets every Wednesday!”

            Yuck.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And just within the last week I saw someone who I knew from National Community Church try and offer up the suggestion that the Washington, D.C. earthquake could be a sign of the End Times.

            When all you have is an End Time Prophecy hammer, everything looks like a Fulfillment nail.

            There are many Christians who take this almost perverse pleasure in the suffering of others. What is that condition called….? Sociopath? (I think…)

            Sadist.

            I would also suggest that instead of being like Jesus weaping for Jerusuleum…that many fundegelicals act like Jonah at Ninevah in eager anticipation waiting for the city to be destroyed just because they wantt o see their enemies smitted.

            That’s about it. The best commentary I ever read on Jonah was in one of the old Whole Earth Catalogs. It pointed out that the Book of Jonah ends with God’s question to Jonah because all of us have to answer that question for ourselves.

          • I believe the word you are looking for is “sadistic.” Sadism is taking pleasure in the pain of others, although it may be specifically pain that the sadist is inflicting. I do believe, however, it’s not that fundagelicals are naturally drawn to the enjoyment of others suffering by nature, like a sociopathic sadist would. It may have more to do with: “I work so hard to not sin and obey God, and here all these people are just enjoying their sin. Its about time they got what they had coming. They’ll pay the price for not being righteous like me!” Righteous indignation is all too often jealousy with a halo, and so it’s easy for fundagelicals to see their justification in the “punishment” of others, including, but not limited to, hell.

            Here’s a excerpt from the fundagelical catechism:

            Q: What is my only comfort in life and death?
            A: That I am not miserable completely for nothing,
            but the things which I have given up
            will all burn anyways.
            Though being good is hard,
            this world will someday be destroyed,
            and every bad person in it.
            God will judge the world,
            all the sinners will be eternally punished,
            and I will be eternally rewarded
            for having been miserable while on earth.
            Because I was a good Christian,
            Christ assures me that I will fare better
            and calls me to vote Republican.

          • Miguel….you put into words what I was thinking..

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I heard it in regards to September 11, and remember when my local pastor at my church in WI attempted to explain the Iraq invasion of 2003 in the End Times perspecitve. It continues to happen to this day. I remember going to the local fundegelical mega church McLean Bible and hearing Joel Rosenthal put the Iranian nuclear porgram in an End Times perspective. I heard Christians mentioning this when Russia invaded Georgia. On and on it goes…

            I heard Christians mentioning this when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1980.

            There is also a major error intrinsic to putting ANYTHING “in an End Times Perspective” that’s been batted about on Slacktivist for a few years. “Putting it in an End Times Perspective” means “It’s Prophesied, It’s Prophesied” and Cannot Be Changed Or Influenced.

            The default End Times Perspective among American Evangelicals (i.e. “Christians” without any adjectives) is the Hal Lindsay version of Darbyite Pre-Trib Secret Rapture — a very pessimistic choreography where everything just gets worse and worse and worse until even God gives up in disgust and the only thing to do is beam up His True Believers into Heaven (at which point things get even worse in a seven-year countdown to The End). Grinning Nihilism (“It’s All Gonna Burn”) with an Escape Hatch before anything bad personally happens to Me. (Now that’s a dangerous combination.)

            One of the corollaries of this is The End Time Prophecy Checklist phenomenon, where the entire “scenario runs on rails” of Utter Predestination (“It’s Prophesied, It’s Prophesied…”). This encourages additional passivity and fatalism — “Eh, Kismet…” “In’shal’lah…”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The evangelical response to any disaster is either one of judgement (see Katrina and Pat Robertson, AIDS and Pat Robertson, etc.)…

          Which begs the question: Does God do ANYTHING other thant sit up there thinking up new ways to punish us? Does God do ANYTHING except Punish?

          … or to say “Ministry opportunity!”.

          Just like any other Political Activist with an Agenda. Remember Sarah Brady et al? Whenever you have a spree shooting or Columbine Massacre, the Gun Control bills are moving through national and state legislatures before the bodies are even cold. No people dead or wounded or lives destroyed, just An Opportunity To Advance Our Agenda.

          Except in Christianese you substitute character string “Ministry Opportunity” for string “Agenda”.

      • Dave, I understand that there are many Christians who grieved, mourned, and responded approriately to the terrorsit attacks of that day. This is not an indictment on them. I described the very conservative, fundementalist leaning that you find in Baptist, non-denom, reformed or third wave/charasimatic environments.

        • David Cornwell says:

          I worked for a subsidiary of Aon Corporation on the day of the attack. Aon was hit hard in one of the Towers in NYC. All the Christians I worked with responded very appropriately that day and the days afterward. There was genuine grief, hurt, and pain. During our lunch hour on that day a number of us met for a few moments of prayer and reflection.

          So, yes their were many positive responses, genuine, caring, and loving. It was encouraging.

        • Colon Britt says:

          No what you described was your own experience. on September the eleventh I was attending a Southern Baptist Seminary. There were no cheerful people to be seen on campus. no, ah Ha! this is the end times. I saw professors and students greiving. I am sorry that you had your experience but find it a little unfair to lump all of us together like you have in this articile

      • +1

    • Brian…you have to remember that I was in a very conservative fundementalist ministry. As such I had a limited definition of Christian. Many in that environment do. Christian means literalist, take the Bible at the every word, going to a reformed church. It also meant being politically conservative, embracing the pre-trib rapture, taking a literal view of creationism, etc.. Due to my mindset I didn’t consider Catholics to be Christians, that why I said I wouldn’t have gone to a Catholic service otherwise. But due to the ubber conservative nature of the fundys I knew you were not a Christian if you were in a mainstream protestant denomination, a liberal denomination, Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, etc.. I was just as guilty for thinking this but the culture re-inforced it.

      As I type this I can recall another situation as well. I recall my Crusade director commenting on one particular student who was a Lutheran. He said that if she were serious about pursuing God she’d go to a Baptist or non-denominational church.

      • Not a big fan of Campus Crusade – especially when it comes to Catholic youth – some deception to get them in and then the full tilt to conversion away from the faith. I steer all Catholic Youth I know away from that organization.

        My wife has a relative who is very strict non-denom and has had similar discussions with me about who is really saved. My comment was – where does it end? If you get rid of all the catholic/eastern orthodox, then mainline protestant, then all those that specifically disagree with this person’s view of theology, doesn’t it become scripture according to that person? Isn’t that like an individualistic pope?

        • David Cornwell says:

          “discussions with me about who is really saved.”…

          I’ve heard this discussed many times after the death of a person. It’s very disturbing.

          • I actually had a discussion with my wife’s relative who’s father had just passed away. In this particular instance we were at her Father’s wake, and I asked her how she was doing. After a few repetative God is good, God has blessed me statements, she went on to tell me she hoped her Dad was in heaven, but since he had not accepted the Lord (he was a devout Catholic) she had her misgivings. I tried to reassure and comfort her but inside I was a bit shocked – but I have to concede that my mindset is different so maybe this is legitimate from her faith expression.

      • Eagle, I understand you were responding in the context of your real life–just like we all do. It is sad you had those sorts of encounters repeatedly. I guess I just couldn’t help but wonder if a blogger cited a positive anecdote and ended with a statement suggesting all Christianity was great, what would be the reaction???

        In some ways, my response missed the point of your post, anyway. You were telling your story, not diagnosing all of Christianity. Thanks for sharing openly.

        Brian

    • Part of me cringes, and yet there is something so right about Eagles response. This religion called Christianity, of which I have been a practitioner, has been guilty of so much ugliness. Why should I defend it?

      Jesus never called us to practice and follow religion or a religious system, he called us to himself.

      This is why, I am increasingly finding myself move towards a faith in the living and risen Jesus and away from this thing called Christianity, which is as much a product of human design as anything else.

      • But remember that we do focus on the negative in a lot of these forums. There are also things we did and still do well under the umbrella of the church – we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, take care of the orphaned, house the homeless, give counsel to those in prison, and, like Chaplain Mike, give support to those who are hurting or who’s love ones have died, or who just need compassion. Yes sometimes we are overzealous, sometimes we hurt more than we help, sometimes we treat chritianity as a business, but that is more of the exception. We aren’t perfect, we’re human….

  4. Yes, Christianity is lovely. Sin is ugly. The writer obviously can’t tell the difference. What he was offended by wasn’t Christianity, it was sin. Which, anybody remotely familiar with Christians should be able to see remains in Christians. Simul Iustus et Peccator is indisputable.

    Sin includes bad doctrine. Doctrine is important, even though it separates, because what Christ taught is important. Christianity isn’t about end times prophecies or denominationalism. Those are bad doctrines. The reason bad doctrine kills is that it leads to these types of encounters and libels Christ, giving a false witness. It calls Christian things that are sinful and human. Christianity is about accepting faithfully what Christ taught and still gives in the Word, and giving totally to one’s neighbor, even the roman, the atheist, or the muslim. Christians’ failures are expected and predictable, and should only be seen as a problem for those churches that reject Simul Iustus et Peccator.

    • You are correct, but your intellectual rationalization of the behavior written about is poor comfort to someone like Eagle.

    • I think the most important issue, and perhaps what bothers Eagle the most, is how the rest of Christianity tends to just turn a blind eye to the uglier side of our Brethren. If we don’t denounce this kind of behavior rather forcefully then we give the distinct impression that we support it. Of course even when we do denounce this it doesn’t typically get the media coverage that the wackos get, so the rest of the world frequently gets the impression that the wackos represent the mainstream. Thankfully for us Eagle hangs out here and does get to see the non-extreme side of things.

      I’ve always been a big believer in church unity, so this type of thing is difficult for me, but it gets a whole lot easier when I read something like what Eagle’s dad went through. Disgust roiling around within me tends to do that. I also try to remember that fundagelicals tend to be the most vocal about what I consider numerous relatively minor sins and often the most blind to their own. I will not let them get away with hatred in the name of God!

      Thanks for the story Eagle. It put me in a bit of a bad mood, but some things are worth getting upset over.

      • Ken…Yes you nailed it on the head. This is why I admire and respect Greg Boyd for calling John Piper on the carpet about the tornados in Minneapolis of the I35 bridge collapse. If the ELCA was being punished for debating homosexuality; then what did the good folk of Joplin, Missouri do to deserve getting the worst tornado in US history? And as someone told me the other day..Las Vegas nad Amersterdam are still standing. Between the legalized drug and prositution culture and brothels in Nevada and yet God hasn’t “smitted” them

        Many Christians give the subtle endorsement of John Piper by refusing to challenge him. But I respect and admire Greg Boyd for his actions. I wish there were more of them out there.

  5. I think it was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “I like their Christ, but not their Christian.”

    The Church is made up of real live sinners, that’s for sure.

    One of my heroes of the faith said some really awful things about the Jews. Just awful.

    But he said a lot of great things about the One who loves and died for even those who often behave very, very badly.

    • Here is the full quote: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    • Perhaps you should disown this man as your hero. Lots of Christians have said good things about Christ without those horrific insults to the Jews. Choose among them.

      • No. I don’t think I’ll disown him for saying something stupid in his old age. If people disowned me for all the stupid things I’ve said and done, I’d be totally alone.

        I choose to focus on all the great things he has said about Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of sins for sinners.

        • Luther’s rants against the Jews were a little more than merely ‘stupid,’ but you, as a Lutheran, have little choice but to minimize them.

    • John From Down Under says:

      +1 (really) Like

  6. “Truth be told I wish I could forget being involved in fundamentalist theology and seeing their reaction that day.”

    Eagle – It is sad that this sort of reaction took place. And sad that you had to spend that particular day in the presence of emotionally and spiritually immature Christians.

    I remember that day very well. I was actually watching the news coverage when the second plane hit. That evening after work I went to a service that our fundagelical church held where we mourned and prayed for our country and for those who attacked our country. I’m sorry that you had your experience and not one like I had.

  7. Thank you, Eagle, for your willingness to be transparent, even after all you’ve been through.

  8. Thank you, Eagle, for sharing your very personal experiences here. Thank you, also, for including the experiences of your Dad. I was there, in Catholic School, when Kennedy was shot and I experienced the same sort of thing…whilst we were in Church, praying the Rosary, the Protestant Kids were whooping it up on the playground. It seemed such an odd thing at the time.

    Fast forward to 9/11. My Mom had died in May. My Daughter had married in June. We had moved to FL for my Husband’s work in March, and had just gotten transferred back that August (the new house wasn’t even finished yet!). That past Summer, my Husband began to show the vague signs of the disease that four years later took his life. To say 9/11 was a blip on my personal radar is to give it almost too much importance. Yet, like you, I also experienced the same odd disconnect: mourning from one group of Church Folk, elation from another. Cries of “Christ is coming!” and point-the-finger judgment seemed to trumpet from one particular quarter of The Church whilst, in other quarters, mourning for the incredible loss, grief and shock was the predominant experience…and prayer, much prayer was the response.

    I have since made my peace with the wide spectrum of reaction events such as these bring. My Spiritual Father has helped me to learn that the greatest response is simply this: kindness. To respond, to react, in kindness. Here, elsewhere, wherever I find myself. Simply to be kind. And to recognise how very difficult it is to simply…be kind.

    So this has become my prayer: Lord, grant me wisdom, humility, love…and to be kind.

  9. Eagle (and Chaplain Mike) – thank you for the time, courage and generosity in sharing your recollections. I’m glad you had at least one supportive and human spiritual experience that day, and I’m saddened and shamed that the subculture I was once part of (I don’t count myself as agnostic these days, but it’s been many a year since I was even close to being an evangelical) dropped its humanity at the first sign of trouble and went into End Times mode. (Sadder still to see so many react so promptly to that theological dog whistle these days, after more than 20 years of bad doctrine and false teaching.)

    9/11 was horrific for many reasons, and any faith the elides or glosses over the stark, heartbreaking tragedy isn’t worth considering.

  10. I think the reaction Eagle saw also points out the personality and teachings of particular churches and pastors and not faith traditions as a whole. We may be able to break it down further to the individual, but I believe that individual is influenced by his/her local church. Which is why, from my personal view the completely independent pastor led church, who is led soley on his interpretation of scripture can be a negative thing and in certain situations breed christians that we all seem to rail about here at iMonk….

  11. See my comments from yesterday.
    Christianity should, and can, be lovely. So often, in this country, where it has meshed with consumerism and politics, it is anything but lovely.

  12. God bless you, Eagle! I suspect we have all encountered, been caught up in and then moved away from such experiences with triumphalist doctrines like these you mention.
    I live in the UK and my husband and I had spent that day at the American Museum in Bath, walking through rooms soaked in American history with artefacts and furniture from generations of settlers. As we turned on the radio to drive home, we spent the next 2 hours in the car in shocked silence, listening as the voice said, “oh no, it’s coming down!” and the noise as the first tower toppled – and then the semi-articulate descriptions of what was going on in New York. I don’t know how they managed to keep talking as the scale of events was beyond comprehension.
    Having spent a day with America, there was a deep sense of empathy, sitting in that car, mentally hanging on to God’s hand, praying wordlessly!
    I can only think that the familiar words of that Catholic Mass must have weighed very heavy with meaning for all who were there that day.

  13. On a side note: The next time IMonk’s backend software gets updated it would be nice to be able to send a direct link to someone’s comment. I recall a time a few weeks ago where Eagle had a particularly excellent comment that I was considering sharing on facebook. Unfortunately I didn’t because I would have needed to include instructions to scroll down 3 pages and look for the guy named Eagle. No need to fix what’s currently working though, just file this request away for the future.

    Thanks (again) for your excellent contributions Eagle!

  14. Eagle, a couple of things you’ve said remind me of Amos, chapter 5. I’ll paste your words together, then Amos 5:18-24 (which may agree with you 100% on both points), and then enough said.

    “…it seemed that some evangelicals were almost elated that September 11 occurred as they thought it would “hasten” the End Times Prophecy.”

    “Isn’t Christianity just lovely?”

    18Woe to you who desire(AG) the day of the LORD!
    Why would you have the day of the LORD?
    (AH) It is darkness, and not light,
    19(AI) as if a man fled from a lion,
    and a bear met him,
    or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
    and a serpent bit him.
    20(AJ) Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light,
    and gloom with no brightness in it?
    21(AK) “I hate, I despise your feasts,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
    22(AL) Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
    and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
    I will not look upon them.
    23Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    to(AM) the melody of your harps I will not listen.
    24But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Didn’t Amos and the other prophets refer to The End as “That Great and TERRIBLE Day of God”?

      Great and TERRIBLE.

      Not a spectator sport with catered box seats.

      And that’s where Pop Eschatology has gotten it all wrong, and sometimes made themselves inhuman.

  15. Randy Thompson says:

    It’s really odd and not a little disturbing how the Darbyite rapture teaching causes some people to approach disaster as though it’s “good news” because it is a sign that the end is near, and they won’t be around for it. For these folks, there’s a numbness towards the evilness of evil, and the tragedy of tragedy. Tragedies such as 9/11 serve to feed escapist hopes instead of compassion. The tragedy for some of these folks is that they are totally unprepared for tragedy when it happens and Jesus doesn’t rapture them out of it. There’s a certain unreality here, both on the theological level and on the human level. it’s almost as though some of these folks were already raptured, at least mentally.

    • Randy for me the Derbyites remind me of how Jonah approached Ninoveh.

      • excellent comparison!

        • I’ve been reading the article and the responses, and I must say, Eagle, that you are closer to the Kingdom of God than many who call themselves evangelicals. I, too, cringe at the insensitive things people do and say, assigning providence to tragedies like this. We may have God scratching his head, saying “How do people come up with these things?”

          • I would not be a bit surprized to see Eagle several places ahead of me in the waiting line for Heaven!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      A couple years ago, I read a flashfic which did a twist on the whole idea of The Rapture.

      Yes, the Rapture went down. Yes, God beamed up a lot of Christians. The kicker was, God beamed up the ones who were only looking for an Easy Escape, then went down to Earth to live among those who wanted to stay and be part of the New Creation. He needed the first group out of the way so He could return and renew Creation without their interference.

    • Randy…perhaps this is why when my faith fell apart I wrestled with a lot of issues. Some Christians and their theology becoming wedges for me. Other issues such as the one about evil could not be discussed. In the circles I was in many people didn’t want to disucss evil. I need to reflect upon this but maybe I finally got an answer to the problem of evil. Maybe what it comes down to is that some evangelical Christians are so numb to acts of evil becuase (Debryshire theology here…) they believe that they will be rescued and removed from it. Why worry about a problem God will deliver you from?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      t’s really odd and not a little disturbing how the Darbyite rapture teaching causes some people to approach disaster as though it’s “good news” because it is a sign that the end is near, and they won’t be around for it. For these folks, there’s a numbness towards the evilness of evil, and the tragedy of tragedy. Tragedies such as 9/11 serve to feed escapist hopes instead of compassion.

      Somehow I don’t think this was what Larry Norman had in mind when he ended “Only Visiting This Planet” with the line “This world is not my home; Ah’m just passin’ thru.”

      Also remember he sang “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” as a tragic lament instead of a crowing triumph.

  16. Eagle, I appreciate your honesty in sharing your experiences and I thank you for doing so. As a practicing Christian for most of life (except when I fell away from the faith during my younger days) I have struggled with similar experiences. How does a person reconcile the actions of self-professed Christians when compared to their profession of faith?

    What I’ve come to understand after years and years of inner struggle, anger, frustration, and hurt is that Christianity is about what Christ said, did, and does, and not about what Christians say, do, and have done. Any conclusion that Christianity is essentially flawed that is based on the actions and words of the practitioners is similar to concluding a high-performance sports car is fundamentally flawed because the driver ran it into a tree. Just because someone is subject to human error, it doesn’t mean their mode of spiritual conveyance is fundamentally broken.

    I understand your befuddlement and disappointment with the actions you saw on 9/11. I myself went to the church we were attending then on that day to participate in an emergency prayer meeting. I was praying along with others in a small group and had a weird, befuddling, and hurtful interaction with one of the church leaders that day. That and other experiences eventually led to my leaving that church and finding another place to worship.

    But, do the actions of a small group of people or a single person reflect the love of my God for me? No, and if anything I have to reflect that my own actions often fail to mirror even a small bit of the love my Lord and Savior has for me. The fact that I am unworthy points to the fact that my unworthiness is the very reason I am in need of a loving Savior.

    If I was perfect, I wouldn’t need Jesus. That’s explanation enough for me.

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences, Eagle.

  17. It has got to be confusing to outsiders that there are more “flavors” of Christians than there are of Baskin Robbins ice cream. Is it a sin to drink? That depends on which brand of Christian you asked. Smoking, dancing, tattoos, divorce, birth control – the list is long of “it all depends” when it comes to what Christians believe. I grew up in fundamentalist churches that believed Catholics were going to hell if they didn’t get saved.

    Christianity is just another religion if we are not being conformed to the image of Christ. “Christians” should look, act and sound like the followers of Christ, as in they continue doing the things he did.

  18. I just really don’t have an answer for why God allows some of these things to go on in his name. But then again, I don’t understand why he allows my sin either. But the worst is when I see Christians sinning against non-believers. Though I am not in control of others and its not my business to “fix” them, especially when I am enough of a handful for myself, when I hear about things like this, I can only think that something must be done! Problems of a systemic nature like widespread theological err (rapture-ism) or corrupt behavior (delighting in suffering) call for a reformation. Is the Church in America hopeless? Or will disconcerting tendencies like Eagle describes here be weeded out over time as they turn more people away from these specific expression of the Christian faith?

    It seems we all have room to grow in simply being gracious. Perhaps we just need to put aside our theological nuances of how to define “grace” until we can learn to at least be nice to one another. If a form of spirituality doesn’t produce decent, upstanding, and compassionate disciples, its hard to believe its about following Jesus.

    • Miguel…a few days ago I talked about evangelicals and perfectionism. My experience taught me that fundegeliclasim is devoid of grace. That it doesn’t exist and that its a myth. I understand that Christians are humans and that they will make mistakes. I get that…what I don’t get is why they expect themselves and everyone around them to be perfect. Then they introduce legalistic programs (ie accountability, daily devotions plans, lists, formulas, etc…) and what that does is force sinners to be dishonest and deceitful. I know myself well…my faults, shortcomings, etc.. Many people do but I think non-Christians and those outside the reformed/charasmatic/third wave and see through the facade. If Christians would be more open, and honest about themselves I think many would take notice and grant them some respect. But why respect those in a system that punishes the world and those around them internally while choosing to live in denial about their own sins. One of the sins that is tolerated in evangeliclasim today and embraced if I may state..is that of pride. There are lots of sins that can get you executed quickly and kicked out the door, but in this case you can express delight about the End Times and take pride in the destruction of others and that’s okay. Pride is a harmful, but for many fundys today it’s acceptable.

      • I think it was Brennan Manning that said something along the lines of, “We promote grace in our words, but deny it in our practice.

        Hey, Eagle, thanks for sharing your thoughts today. Very poignant.

        Also, thanks to CM for posting Eagle’s commentary. Good fodder for discussion.

      • Once again, right on the money. This tendency to classify sin as something “out there” that other people do is not only dishonest, but destructive. One of the reasons I converted from the SBC to Lutheranism was so that I could just be honest about myself, even if only once a week. When I go to confess my sins to a pastor, I can be completely honest about anything I’ve done, and I am guaranteed that he will extend to me God’s forgiveness. (Unlike the Catholics, however, no Hail Mary’s)
        The church needs to welcome the broken and sinners, creating a community that that is a safe place for hurting and wounded sinners to find healing and forgiveness in the arms and death of Jesus. I know that no church is perfect, but in Lutheranism I’ve found an expression of the faith that does this pretty well without sacrificing my intellect.
        As a Christian, I ought to be quick to confess my own sin and slow to judge others. I resonate with G. K. Chesterton, who, when asked his opinion on what was wrong with the world, responded only with, “I am.”

  19. Thanks for the article Eagle.
    I left the fundamentalist fold some years ago. I guess I would have been dispensational, charismatic, young earth creationist. I was really shaken when I went to University and studied science. My problem became the question ‘if they are wrong about the age of earth, what else is suspect?’ I ended up Agnostic for a few years. It took me years to sort things out.

    I am glad that it actually represents a small part of Christianiity, and that there are other expressions out there. I still have many people around me who are of a fundamentalist mindset. The sure wonder about Anglicans (of which I am one). I think they think we are not Christian.

  20. Eagle

    I, too have been blessed by your frank questions and honest inquiry. I wish more fundagelcals ( am adding that word to my favorites list) were like you. So many presume to know the mind of God. Many evangelical leaders claimed the 9/11 was to punish America because of (insert your sin du jour into the sentence). So many are still trapped in the Old Covenant, waiting for God to “get us” for whatever sin He is mad about today.

    Life is hard. People do bad things. That is why we need, and have been given, grace. We can offer the hope we have in Jesus in the midst of trials and pain. And sometimes we don’t know the “whys” in this life. But we know about the Who and that is enough to sustain us. Thank you for this memory.

  21. Thank you Eagle for your reflections.

    While not surprised, since I still have some connections to that community, I am sorry that you and anyone else is hurt by them.

  22. There have been many reasons to mourn this summer on a far less scale but equally significant, beginning with the tornadoes in Joplin, the earthquake, the hurricanes, and the fires in Texas. I think for the most part the church got right – sending relief and volunteers.

    Another event not mentioned here was the assasination attempt upon the life of Pope John Paul II. In the circles where I belonged at the time, there was far more interest in the end-times implications than on the welfare of the blessed Pope. Thirty years removed, it’s now difficult to explain or justify why such a reaction seemed appropriate or normal. I can only charitably assume that ten years have given those CCC members enough time to reflect on their misguided reaction. Shock does strange things to people; that probably was not what they ultimately felt. Since Christians are not allowed to express fear, doubt, or sorrow, they probably didn’t know how to react.

    But what bothers me more is how quickly many have been to blame this year’s tragedies on God’s judgement. Are the fires in conservative candidate Rick Perry’s Texas as much God’s judgement as the earthquake damage in Obama’s Washington supposedly was? Not to engage in typical theodicy (how could a loving God allow such things, etc.), but how can you comfort someone who mourns the loss of a loved one, if the loss was supposedly the act of an angry God exacting his ten pounds of flesh? I heard Rob Bell in a recent video accuse some people of defining the gospel as Jesus saving us from God; I’m not a Rob Bell fan, but that is difficult criticism to refute.

    • ” there was far more interest in the end-times implications than on the welfare of the blessed Pope.”

      Oh, yeah, the Prophecies of St. Malachy madness. There’s only one/two/however few left, depending on how you count them/Popes before we get to The Last Pope and the End of the World.

      That, and the Real Third Secret of Fatima crowd (because there are those who were calling for years for the Third Secret of Fatima to be revealed and when it was, it was insufficiently blood-thirsty about Global Destruction and Woe and Gnashing of Teeth, so of course it couldn’t be true).

      Oh, and the World Has Still Not Been Properly Consecrated to the Immaculate Heart crowd, despite two separate Popes declaring it’s been done.

      We can’t laugh too much at the Rapture-wishers, because we’ve got our own More Catholic Than The Pope lot.

  23. Chad Williams says:

    I heard about the attacks that morning on the radio going to the bank for work. After it became clear that it had been an attack on our homeland, I drove straight to the Army recruiter to start the process of enlistment, unfortunately I could not join due to having asthma as a child. What suprised me I was the only person in that place. It really showed me how weak my generation was, after Pearl Harbor the line to join the military were huge. All people wanted to do now was protest and make nice with the people who want to kill us.

    • I may write about this later…but I think the leaders of our country squandered a huge opportunity to cultivate the best kind of patriotism after 9/11 by failing to call us to shared sacrifice and service on a nationwide level.

  24. Another Mary says:

    I know I’m late but I just got home from work. I really think the word Eagle and Miguel are searching for is a German term Shadenfroid rather than sadistic. A sadist will purposefully inflict harm in order to enjoy the suffering of others. The term Shadenfroid has to do with relishing the suffering of another even though you had nothing to do with it. Maybe it’s a fine point but…..
    I appreciate Eagle’s honesty and I hope he continues to search for Christ. My heart hurts over the stupid, cruel and mindless things the people can do in the name of Christianity. It’s a little like having a kid brother or sister who is addicted to Meth and has stolen from everyone you know and your family’s reputation is now shot but you still have to live in this town where ‘everybody knows your name’

    I went to the Baptist we used to attend, on the day of the attacks and we cried, prayed and asked for wisdom for the future.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think it’s spelled “Schadenfreude”.

      • It is….and we have no English word to translate it to.

        When we lived in Germany, our friends explained it as a combination of envy, pride, and unnatural joy at the suffering of someone (individual or group) that we feel “had it coming” and richly deserves their pain. And it is a very, VERY dark and nasty emotion.

  25. Eagle-

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Though I wish it wasn’t so, it rings all too true. And I am sorry all the more because of the fact that it is true. My heart aches for you, because I know and see in so many others your experiences with Christianity. And I apologize, for all of us.

    God have mercy on us who do not love as He loves us.

  26. Tim Keller, in his book Reason for God, speaks of such reactions. Citing comments by the likes of CS Lewis, Keller distinguishes between “religion” and “gospel”. “Religion” is based on one’s own efforts, which leads people to set their own standards, which then leads to them judging and expectations of others. The result to pride, tribalism, racism, etc… They are missing the point of the gospel.

    “Gospel”, on the other hand, leads to the opposite. Our reliance and indentity on/in Christ moves us away from such attitudes.

    It appears you, Eagle, found many in the “religion” camp, which can be plentiful in some churches. However, there are plenty of “gospel” people out there.

  27. Betty-Anne says:

    I’m sorry for sinful reactions to sin-filled events; both evidences of the reality that we live in a fallen world among fallen broken people who (even when they possess the power of the Holy Spirit) often fail to appropriate Him for His purposes. To call it Christian would grieve Christ greatly and is as untrue as saying the highjackers were committing an act of Christian faith. Were Christ on this earth in bodily form on September 11th, He would have wept … as He wept over the brokenness of Israel in the days He was here. Sin wounds. Always. And it will wound the hearts of those who are giving Him life and breath in their lives.