How Christian Leaders Have Changed Since 9/11
Philip Yancey, author of What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters
The decade since 9/11 has taught us the limits of force. Imposing democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan has come at a terrible cost to all parties, with no guarantee of long-term success. Meanwhile, Tunisia and Egypt gained freedom almost overnight in a grassroots protest against powerful regimes.
As Christians, we believe in a counterforce of grace. Lewis Smedes and others have identified three stages of forgiveness: first, recognize the worth of the person you are forgiving; second, surrender the right to get even; third, put yourself on the same side as the one who wronged you. Increasingly, I'm convinced that we need more of this attitude toward those who seek to harm us.
In 1999, Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines was burned to death by a Hindu mob in Orissa, India. In 2007, German missionary Tilman Geske was tortured and murdered by five Turkish fanatics. The widows of both men made sensational headlines in those countries by repeating the words of Jesus: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
I am not a pacifist; I believe that we must pursue justice. Yet a Christian history stained by anti-Semitism—holding an entire people responsible for the actions of a few—teaches us the terrible consequences of not following Jesus' way. We dare not do to Muslims what we have, to our shame, done to Jews.
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Harry R. Jackson Jr., international presiding bishop of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches
I will never forget evacuating our ministry's downtown offices in Washington, D.C., on 9/11. For the first time in my life, I watched the U.S. population collectively experience a sense of vulnerability that heretofore had been reserved for persecuted minorities. For three weeks, local church attendance soared as deep spiritual needs were no longer anesthetized by drinking, sex, and overeating.
What was missing? First, local church revivals could have begun, marked by deep repentance and personal piety, prayer, and devotion to the Scriptures. Second, a national spiritual awakening could have broken out. Third, a prophetically motivated clergy and leadership could have truly become the nation's spiritual shepherds by "speaking truth to power."
Awareness of a missed opportunity during the weeks following 9/11 empowered us to more fully embrace future opportunities. A better understanding of how spiritual awakenings occur led our team to create a public policy group called the High Impact Leadership Coalition. This year, we have begun our most daring step toward creating a Christian counter culture: the development of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches, a confederation of 1,000 related houses of worship. We hope to influence the next generation's thought leaders by planting multiracial, disciple-making churches near major universities and winning 2 to 5 million souls in the next decade.
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Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International
From the ashes of 9/11 arose both horror and hope. We Americans, united in our grief, became better versions of ourselves: our giving was more generous, our volunteering more enthusiastic, our worship more ardent. We unabashedly flew our flags and sang "God Bless America."
As it did for others, the magnitude of the blow energized my faith and filled my heart with pride and gratitude to be an American. Something new awoke in me on 9/11: life was more precious, time was short, evil was frighteningly real, and I was more motivated than ever to ensure that goodness prevailed.