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 Pilgrim Fathers.


© This is Kim, Dae Ryeong's article as first published  by the SEMI on October 15, 2001.  The SEMI is a weekly periodical for the Fuller community.  

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