I was in second period band when someone from the front office of the school came into the room, whispered something in the band director's ear and then announced to the class that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. She began her statement by saying, "I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but our country is under attack as two passenger jets have hit the World Trade Center in New York City."
It's funny the things you remember so perfectly. I feel like I even remember the temperature of the room.
I also remember this well: George Bush standing with firefighters and his bullhorn saying, "The people who hit these buildings will hear all of us soon!" According to his book, he said this in a response to someone in the crowd shouting, "We can't hear you!"
Chills. I got, and still do get, chills.
Retaliation. There's got to be some sort of inner (almost definitely sinful) human desire to get someone back who has wronged you. So, when the President of the US stands at Ground Zero and tells those who had gone into the fallen building and the country that we were going to get them back for what they had done and we were so overwhelmed with emotion and anger, we cheered. We clapped. We went to war.
Today, we remember all of those who lost their lives on 9/11/01. Today, we remember and honor the lives of those who we now consider heroes: those who risked their lives to save another. Today, we remember all of the loved ones who lost their lives fighting insurgents and terrorists in far away countries. Today, we honor those still serving overseas.
And we should. We should remember. We should honor.
But, I can't help to rethink my original feelings when I heard Bush's bullhorn moment. What is it that makes me feel so patriotic? What is it that gives me chills? What is it that still angers me when I see the TV footage?
Can I get the chills? Is that right? Or am I moved by something I shouldn't be? Doesn't God call on us to forgive completely? Does Jesus call on us to love our enemies? If so, and I truly believe that, why is it that I constantly think about how angry 9/11 made me? Can I truly get excited when I find out that the man who masterminded these attacks has been shot and killed by our own forces?
These are some of the most difficult questions an American Christian can ask themselves.
Because, as a Nationalist, the first reaction is to flood the White House gates with an American flag around our shoulders. Because victory, over something so tragic, is sooo sweet.
We are a nation with a history of getting what we want.
We've always had an innovative military system. We've always had a string of religious principles that has been with us throughout our short history. We've always been geographically separated from so many of the world's problems. We have led the Christian movement in many ways in the world over the past 200 years. We were also that nation that dropped two obliterating bombs on the nation that invaded our naval base. We helped end the Nazi regime, but we also interned Japanese and Native Americans. We fought each other hard over ending the enslavement of humans. And even after that, it took another 80 years (and we are still not there) to treat all American citizens like actual humans. Our leaders sometimes swear oaths with God's name mentioned. We have religious, Biblical themes throughout almost everything we do. We allow churches to function without the headache of paying taxes. But we also highly profiled Muslim citizens wanting to fly from place to place after 9/11.
We are used to getting what we want. We are strong. We are relatively united. And our culture is that which supports and encourages any citizens to strive their best to get what they want or need.
Which is why, I think, we are so offended when we are attacked on our own soil. And, because we operate inside of that paradigm of thinking, our reaction draws emotional stimuli. And when our leader says out loud what we are feeling deeply inside ourselves, we get chills.
Because we have to defend our lands. From our very beginnings, we don't like people telling us what to do.
The question, then, truly is this: can American Christians, a group that from our Jewish backgrounds has been somewhat nomadic and lacks a centering geographical location for our "home", live in an authentic dual citizenship between God and country?
There are so many fundamental conflicting values between the two. And, perhaps, these are best seen and discovered when we remember times when we were so offended by actions against us.
To me, these questions, these ponderings, and these conflictions are the reason that as American Christians, we must study the Holy Scriptures. We must learn and synthesize the history of the Church. We must read and prayerfully consider what Christ asked us to do when he spoke about how we interact with one another. We must read Paul as a guide for our lives of faith.
There seems to be a movement in American Christianity to refer to Scripture whenever they don't know the answer to something. I tend to think that they're right...they just often choose the least important decisions to focus on, rather than overarching themes and principles. We focus so much more on gay marriage, something Jesus didn't even mention by our records, when we ought to be focusing on loving our enemies, something he spoke strongly about.
If we forget who we as Christians are, and we often do in America, we run the risk of making hasty decisions that increase violence and war in the world, rather than bringing about peace and love.
Isn't that our goal? Isn't that God's goal? Peace, hope, faith, and love?
I think so.
America has changed Christianity significantly since 1776. I can't explain it, but I'm convinced that we can be both American citizens and Christians.
The question, for all of us, should be on a day like 9/11, how?