A Christian Concern for September 11, 2021: The Veneration of Death

As I watched the media coverage of the coming twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approach, I grew weary of how mainstream Christian conservative pundits, media figures, and politicians seem to want to exploit this travesty. It reminded me of just how depraved and misguided our leadership class is and how with each coming opportunity, even the Christian-right will use death and dismay to promulgate political ideology to pull at the emotional heartstrings of the vulnerable. For a true believer in God and a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, remembering September 11 is not about the Taliban, left-versus-right, Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, or anything else political. It is a sober call to remember the brokenness of society, the depravity of all humanity, and a call to a humble repentant obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The awful reality of modern American ethos is that traditional protestant religion, which had dominated American culture since its inception, is no longer the standard. It has been replaced with a progressive “civil religion” which even infects the halls and parishes of the most conservative organizations and communities.

“French Enlightenment philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau first coined the term ‘civil religion’ in his Social Contract (1762). Rousseau criticized traditional religion for advancing dogmas that he believed led to ignorance, intolerance, and arbitrary limits on personal liberty. He did not advocate abandoning religion, though. Instead, Rousseau proposed that a civil religion—grounded in a minimal set of ‘positive dogmas,’ such as freedom and liberty—could unify society and provide it with a moral grounding.”[1]

Written nearly three hundred years ago, Jean Jacques was a prescient voice in a time where religious dogma ruled the world. No one, not even in America, could have guessed (at the time) that this civil religion, where the state is more important than the Church, could have become an American staple. That is the reality we now live in these days. If you wish to refute this proclamation, look no further than American Christendom circa 2020. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Church leadership was all-too quick to accept, and support, the closing of Churches and synagogues in our communities (issuant by the state). This was in tandem with the allowance of liquor stores, smoke shops, and the like to be deemed essential. In case you never understood the gravitas of the situation: places of worship – not essential; places where sin prospers – essential. Church leadership was silent while other forms of evil concupiscence were allowed to thrive, infect, and distribute pain and suffering on humanity. Pastors, clergy, eldership, and the faithful stood by while political clergy and Pope Fauci destroyed our communities, schools, and families. Where the Church was once the forefront of defense against sin, was now its silent partner. Civil religion is here, it permeates our media, and indoctrinates our children while poisoning our parishes.

This all has monumental consequences for how we, as a nation, view events such as the anniversary of September 11. While this should be a time of mourning, remembrance, and repentance; it becomes of time of hatred, derision, and grief.

I spent the last week in my car listening to talk radio punditry with the likes of Dan Bongino, Glenn Beck, Sebastian Gorka, etc. bloviate endlessly on the ills of the Biden administration and how his actions dishonor the memory of our fallen. Old 911 calls from twenty years ago were broadcasted on the radio with solemn reverence. Glenn Beck has various non-profit organizations that recalled and recanted the stories and lives of people destroyed by these events that transpired decades ago. A local radio show played news updates from that day with live commentary about where they were, what was happening, and how it affected them. So much emphasis was given to grief, which was always sprinkled with sporadic rebukes of the current administration’s failures and incompetence. It was a hodgepodge of the media venerating death and destruction, all with little, if no context.

I noticed an emotional tug and exhortation to exploit the patriotism of the average American, especially the Christian American, to join in on the victimization of America’s fallen. The same individuals that deride the victimization culture of the left (justifiably), had no compunction with exultating America as the great victim of the crime of “being the greatest country that ever existed.”  The hubris of our perfection as the only Country to endure catastrophe for the sin of being better than everyone else who endured similar incidents. Had Israel ever endured attacks of devastation? What about the United Kingdom? The irony was too thick to cut and too shameful to stomach. America’s perfection was the reason for such ire as if we were the suffering servant undeserving of the great calamity that befell us on that faith day: September 11, 2001; it was our Golgotha.

I am not advocating that Americans should not remember, or even mourn, September 11. What I am speaking to, as always, is the biblical way in which to view worldly events. In all the prostrating, grief, emotional outcry, that I listened to in the past week over the airwaves I never heard anything having to do with God’s sovereignty (Psalm 115:3), God’s justified wrath (Romans 1:18-23), or the need for repentance (Jeremiah 18:7-8). American humility and confessional posture; its self-respective sinfulness that was such a large component of the 1st and 2nd great awakenings no longer exists. Instead, humility and repentance have been replaced with self-indignation and pride. The level at which Americans are still so angry with the Muslim world and its intention to strike at the heart of the “Great Satan” is never so revealing as to the waste of life, time, and treasure we just saw evaporate in Afghanistan. The bullish pride Americans still have in their greatness, so prevalent in the face of humiliating defeat with the re-established Taliban government in Afghanistan (which was responsible for the events of 911) is astounding. Pride and prejudice still permeate our civil religion, which is the Glorified United States of America.

What Christians should be realizing is that the fall of Afghanistan, to the very people who attacked us twenty years ago, proves that American exceptionalism is false modesty cloaked in fake righteousness cloaked in unrighteous freedom. There is no freedom without Christ (John 8:32) and America is far from knowing the truth. The option to choose your gender, despite God’s divine order (Genesis 2), is not free. The liberty to kill unborn children in the womb (genocide) is not true freedom. Promoting same-sex unions in opposition to the will of God (Genesis 2:24) is not free. Divorce rates at 50% causing the decay of the family (Matthew 19) is not freedom. Worshiping at the altar of the almighty halls of Congress give no true Christian real freedom; the freedom we are granted in the unification of Jesus Christ, and His work at the cross. It is only in the prostrations of our faith, given to us by grace, in obedience to the scriptures and the will of God that one can truly accept and understand the events of September 11. Christians should realize its significance in the Christian life, and the need for human (all human; not just American) salvation.  

Once again, I sympathize with those who lost family and loved ones in the events of September 11, 2001. I pray for their betterment and growth. I am not trying to be too critical of all the celebrities and politicians who are trying to honor the fallen. I am merely pointing out the realities of the Bible: that Christians should be more concerned about honoring God, than humanity, with whom we are so consumed with memorializing. If the biblical text is correct, God created all things, under the heavens and the earth, for His glory (Isiah 43:7), not ours. Civil religion is about the state’s Glory, not God’s. This is lost among many believers, unfortunately, and what becomes of it is ignorance, self-aggrandizement, and bullish pride, all of which consume the annuls of Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. If Christian Americans wanted to honor the victims of 911, they would turn toward God for biblical truth in a fallen America that is riddled with sin and disobedience, while exalting Jesus Christ and humbling themselves. This is the true act of discipleship lived out in the service of God’s Kingdom.

Footnote:

[1] Arthur Remillard, “Civil Religion: History, Beliefs, Practices,” in Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices, ed. Terry C. Muck, Harold A. Netland, and Gerald R. McDermott (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 643.

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