A few days ago, I received an email from a parishioner, with a link to a web site and presentation that has been making the rounds for some time now. It involves a remembrance of the tragedy of September 11, 2001; with a series of message panels quoting the American Founding Fathers and drumming background music giving way to images of that day, and the haunting music of a piece by Enya.
It is right for us to remember the events of that tragic day, when thousands of people died in the terrorist attacks. But I wonder why this presentation -- coming now from a different website that when I was directed to it before -- has returned to make the rounds again right now. I wonder why, even as I acknowledge the secular point of remembering the day, I feel manipulated emotionally by the presentation. It's as if I am meant to allow a sense of outrage become rage; to fan the flames of a fire that burns with anger, saying "Never again!" It's as if the viewer is meant to renew support for the "War on Terror" without thought for any consequence beyond the prevention of another attack.
Don't get me wrong: I don't want there to be another attack. Not here; not in Russia; not in Serbia; not in Spain; not in Israel; not in Afghanistan; not even in Iraq. I cannot conceive of the Christian faith calling for the death of any other person for any reason. Yes, sometimes it is necessary for the civil authority to go to war to defend the people; and capital punishment is allowed by the Bible -- and so sometimes a Christian people bring about the deaths of others. If we do not acknowledge that these deaths are undesirable, and tragic, we do not grasp the significance of our own deliverance from death by our Lord Jesus Christ, or the high calling entrusted to us to live more and more fully His life, given to us to save our souls, and to show to the world.
The amorphous "War on Terror" has other terrorizing aspects to it. We have surrendered a good deal of personal liberty through things such as the "Patriot Act" as we seek to prevent another September 11th type of attack. We've noted before my incipient paranoia: Does anyone besides me see a parallel between the unending state of warfare between Oceania and its opponents in Orwell's 1984 and the war on terror? As I have pondered what the future might hold -- and in an apocalyptic sense -- I felt that an essential element for the reign of the antiChrist would arise through the increasing instability of life, both at home and abroad. Make things uncertain enough -- destabilize the stock market, and so the economy, if nothing else -- and, when the "strong man" appears, promising to provide peace and security to us all, if we wil give him the power to act, we will, indeed, trade our liberty for prosperity. When you grasp the importance of the "unending state of war" and its impacts on political freedom and the economy as Orwell portrayed it, and the nebulous aspects of the "War on Terror," can you say that things are looking better -- or worse?
There are other things to say: I see a connection, for example, between the fall of the "Twin Towers" on Septeber 11th, and what our Lord had to say about the collapse of the tower in Siloam (Luke 13:4). But this might best be left for another day. But, brethren, while we should never forget those who died, and pray for them to be received in a blessed place of repose; while we should never forget those who lost loved ones that day, and pray for God to comfort them with His presence, mercy, and love -- we must also not allow ourselves to be diverted. The kingdom of our Lord is not of this world, but of the world to come. If we lose our focus on this truth, who will be left to lead those who don't yet know the way we are to go?