As usual, the morning of September 11, 2001,
was bright, calm, and peaceful in New York. Symbolized by
the Statue of Liberty, New York was one of the safest places
in America, the safest country in the world. And there the
World Trade Center’s skyscrapers stood under the blue sky as
an architectural vision of a strong nation confident of its
future. Who could ever doubt that the calm peace would be
interrupted by terrorist intruders from the sky? But when
the hijacked planes crushed into the twin towers of the
World Trade Center, these grand architectures smoke
billowing from the top floors, then crumbling into dust.
Because of This sudden attack the calm day saw the scene of
what a New Yorker describes as Armageddon and the day won
its new name, “Black Tuesday.”
Who could watch this tragic scene
without asking what kind of inhuman, unsympathetic hearts
did these savage things? New Yorkers typically do not show
much emotion. But on this day, covering mouths against smoke
and dust on a debris-strewn street, there was a huge
outpouring of emotion -- a lot of weeping.
Since this time on something has
changed in American consciousness. As a TV reporter put it,
"For New Yorkers it is a day without the twin towers; and
for Americans it is a day without the sense of security."
Indeed, Americans seriously began to ask, "Are we safe
here?” Are we safe here where the passenger airplane can be
hijacked for suicide terrorism? Are we safe here where our
society is vulnerable to another terrorism? Are we safe here
in this world where our military action against terrorism
can lead to another major war? Indeed, there is now a
widespread sense of insecurity.
The Psalmist of the Old Testament knew
this problem of insecurity when he sighed, "Look, the wicked
bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart"(Psalm
11:3). The security of innocent people was being threatened
because they were vulnerable to the attack of the hidden
wicked—the terrorists in modern sense. The sense of
insecurity was even heightened when he uttered, "If the
foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (v.
2). In this situation he had no means to defend from the
attack of violent enemy’s arrow. In the physical dimension,
he had no solution for this evil violence problem. But as he
sees in his spiritual vision that “The Lord is in His holy
temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven,” he finds the
spiritual source to meet the violence in the physical world.
“The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked. And the one
who loves violence His soul hates” (v. 5).
When confronted by terrorism, the
Psalmist found the spiritual source to appeal. Confronted by
the terrorists attack, this is the lesson we also need to
learn. We simply know that we are now in the situation where
military action alone cannot eradicate terrorism. Bombing
can destroy the facilities of Afghanistan, the poor country.
But the spirit of hatred that the radical Islam
fundamentalists have against America seems to be not the
kind that can be conquered by military power.
The root of terrorism is not simply a
matter of international politics. In its deep level, the
root lies in conflicting ideologies and the clash of
worldviews. From cultural perspective, two different
worldviews, two different definition of goodness are
confronting in our world. In this case, there is a group of
people who seems to be even unaware of terrorism’s evil
nature because their worldview had been indoctrinated in
other way. There is a group of people who is willing to
justify terrorism for the sake of Jihad, the holy war in
their sight. There are even bandits of terrorist candidates
who make this inhuman suicide terrorism their life goal,
their cause of existence. In fact, violence itself is not
what the Islam religion encourages. Yet, within the Islam
world there are radical fundamentalists groups who have such
cultural bias and hostility against Western civilization.
Having mentioned that they have undue
bias against Western civilization, especially against
American liberalism, we will still need to admit that their
bias is not without reason at all. From their perspective,
America is the country that exports the secular value to the
world. And that is the reality one can hardly deny. Wherever
we go in the world nowadays, we see there the imprint of
American pop culture on local cultures. One good example is
to see how American pop music is popular among young
generation around the world in our era. But as culture
changes so fast in our era, not everyone appreciate the
rapid change. And it is often the religious fundamentalists
who are most sensitive to the eroding of traditional values.
In the East, Falun Gong Movement is its typical example of
these radical fundamental groups just as it is the case with
Islam fundamentalists in the Middle East.
As the radical Islam fundamentalists
make their claim that their cause is to purify world from
the secularizing influence of America, we of course know
that this claim only reflect their cultural bias. Yet, at
this time we need to recall the vision the Pilgrim Fathers
had as they came to New England of North America, cherishing
an instrumental vision of God’s mission. The Puritans had
cherished a “great hope and inward zeal” of at least playing
a part in carrying forth of the Light of Christ to remote
parts of the world. They also strove to attain the
realization of Christ’s rule among the nations not just by
winning the souls but also by transforming the society.
Now, the question to be asked is: Is
America the Apostle of Christian value or the Apostle of
secular value? Yes, even if we have the power to bomb the
nests of terrorism, this is the question we will need
struggle seriously. We need to go back to the Puritan
vision. No less important than punishing the terrorist
groups is to refresh and rekindle the Puritan vision of the