September 11th was a horrible day. A day worth remembering. However, does anyone remember the devastation of September 14th?
President George W. Bush declared September 14, 2001 to be a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. And at noon, eastern time, a service began at the Washington National Cathedral that was headlined by the President and mega-evangelist Billy Graham. However, these were not the only speakers. Rabbi Joshua Haberman took the stage to read Scripture, and Imam Muzammil Siddiqi offered a prayer. This service was broadcast on every major channel and seen by much of America and in many schools. In fact, at Compassion International, where I worked at the time, everyone stopped working to watch.
During the Clinton administration, people often talked of how the President, by his poor example, was teaching a future generation promiscuity and lies. Those people were right. The President does wield great power, and Clinton probably did teach really poor sexual ethics to a generation of kids. However, those critics were silent when President Bush later taught a generation of kids that there is no difference between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. That service on September 14th violated the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd commandments, just to name a few. And for the most part, the Christian world stayed silent. And what's worse is the much-revered Christian leader who participated in a worship service where prayers were offered to Allah. I seem to remember that his remarks included references to Jesus Christ, but long after the words are forgotten, the visual image remains. Billy Graham and President Bush had no problem worshipping with Muslims and Jews. And the whole world watched, and the whole world was silent.
Is it any surprise that 12 years later we have a generation of young adults who think tolerance is the most important attribute? Is it a surprise that we have witnessed such a dramatic rise in acceptance of sinful behaviors ranging from getting stoned to homosexuality? Is it a surprise that the church is facing new movements such as the Insider Movement or the Hebrew Roots movement? And a big reason for these changes is the young adults who have dramatically different views about the world from their predecessors. In fact, more Americans today claim no religious affiliation at all, and the largest number of those is under 30. Those are the people who were young and impressionable in 2001. Could it be that they were influenced by September 14th?
I am not saying that one worship service entirely changed the culture, but I do believe that this one had a larger influence than we think. It was a moment when the world stopped, and people took notice of what was going on. And the church (for the most part) stood by silently when the truth of "You shall have no other gods before me" was attacked in a very public forum. And that silence was deafening. Maybe it was because everyone's focus was on the looming war or the shock of what had happened. Maybe no one wanted to shatter the apparent unity that encompassed the capitol and the nation. Maybe we put America above God. Whatever the reason, we are certainly reaping the harvest now.
May God forgive us for our sins, including those of omission, for it is only in His mercy that can we find hope.