Christianity Today asked evangelical leaders to reflect on how they have changed in the ten years since 9/11. I want to highlight the last leader in the piece, Rev. Will Willimon, who is the bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. A friend pointed me in this direction, so it is simply a coincidence that Rev. Willimon is a bishop in the same denomination in which my father pastors. Here is his reflections:
On 9/11 I thought, For the most powerful, militarized nation in the world also to think of itself as an innocent victim is deadly. It was a rare prophetic moment for me, considering Presidents Bush and Obama have spent billions asking the military to rectify the crime of a small band of lawless individuals, destroying a couple of nations who had little to do with it, in the costliest, longest series of wars in the history of the United States.
The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.
September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son.
Interesting and challenging thoughts. Others featured in the piece (with the credentials cited in the article):
- Philip Yancey, author of What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters
- Harry R. Jackson Jr., international presiding bishop of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches
- Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International
- Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
- Anne Graham Lotz, author of Expecting to See Jesus: A Wake-Up Call for God’s People
- Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S.
- William Paul Young, author of The Shack
- Matt Redman, Christian worship leader, songwriter
- Margaret Feinberg, author of Hungry for God: Hearing God’s Voice in the Ordinary and the Everyday
- Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho
That is quite an impressive list, and many of the reflections are interesting, especially for those of us who feel a connection with Evangelicalism. If you aren’t tired out from all of the remembrances and reminders of the last few days or so, it is worth the time to read the whole piece (Willimon’s reflections appear on the final page, page 5).