I watched a Frontline documentary last night titled “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.” It chronicled the spiritual journeys of many people of many different types of faith, virtually all of whom experienced a fundamental shaking of their faith in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
Let me tell you what I saw.
I saw hideously, horrendously evil events lead to destruction and death and devastation.
Then I saw ordinary people become heroes in helping each other, whether offering physical assistance going up the stairs or assisting others down or protecting their nation’s Capitol by storming a cockpit or cleaning up the smoking debris in the search for remains and artifacts that might bring others peace.
I saw people like you and I become towers of refuge for others through prayer and donations and prayer and comfort and prayer and resolve.
And in the months and years that followed, we all forgot what we wanted to forget but also who we could be for each other and the glory of God.
Let me tell you what I see now.
I see a nation that has squandered its abundance and splintered over political ideology, as if the nation’s salvation had something to do with the distribution of wealth and economic opportunity … as if 535 people in a domed building or a single sitting President could somehow determine it.
I see the wealthy become more wealthy while the poor become more poor and more numerous in this supposedly Christian nation.
I see hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and fires that God has allowed to be sent our way — just as He allowed the planes to fly into buildings and into the ground on 9/11 — each instance an opportunity to care and give and glorify His name through our love.
And I see us largely turning a deaf ear and a blind eye and a fist clenched around our money and our compassion and ourselves … turning away.
Oh, we’ve made our token charitable donations. Including some to creepy televangelists with multi-million dollar residences and jet airplanes of their own.
Don’t get me wrong. There have been others — Shane Claiborne comes to mind — who never asked a dime and who continue to preach and live a gospel of love and generosity and penitence from greed. But we pretty much treat them like shelf curiosities. Modern-day John-the-Baptists.
We might be willing to go out to the living room TV and see them in the deserts of the Sudan or the dumps of Honduras. Maybe even donate a few bucks.
But if we ever believed what Jesus of Nazareth said in His uniquely human-and-divine way, we don’t show it:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~ Luke 6:38
Maybe because we never understood what He said in the first place; because we thought He was just talking about money, and that was all: give money and you’ll get money back. Yeah, that’s the so-called “gospel” that the creepy televangelists preach, and look what it got them.
Because the wealth is in the giving; the blessing is in the loving; the growing is in the denying self and taking up our crosses and following Him.
I’m talking about me, here. I see what’s in the mirror, too, and I don’t like it any better than what I see through the window or the TV or the computer monitor.
What has shaken my faith since 9/11/2001 is the question: “How could God entrust something so precious as the blood of His Son, the gospel of His grace, the generosity of His salvation … to such a worm as I?”
Oh, sorry, if that offends some of you language purists and self-esteem fanatics and political correctness junkies: “… to such a one as I?” That’s what I meant to say.
How could He believe in us?
Dolphins could do better with the gospel. Pets do.
But I look back to 9/11 and I still see who we were … who we could be again, and more.
And I’m grateful He still fills us jars of clay with His precious Holy Spirit, the power of His Word, the promise of His providence, the potential of His love.
And against most but not all hope, I still believe that we … that I … can do better.
Just like He does.