That day is permanently etched in our mind and the very sound of the words 9/11 awaken within us the deepest feelings of sorrow. At 8:15 am on that cool, crisp September morning I drove to Open Door Baptist Church just like I did every morning. Walking through the parking lot into my office I couldn’t help but to think how beautiful the deep blue sky was that morning. As I opened my Bible and started working on my sermon for Sunday morning, I could not help but think how it seemed like a perfect morning. A little before 9 am that morning the phone rang and my wife was on the other line asking me if I’d seen the news about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I had no television or internet access at the church so she was explaining the scene to me when all at once she gasped and cried “Oh No!” It was 9:03 AM, the second plane had just struck the South Tower and everyone in America realized that we were under attack.
The remainder of that day is a haze now. I remember going to my son’s school to pick him up early and Carla Brady asking me, “Is this the end of the word?” Thirteen years later, I can’t remember how I answered her that morning but I know that the same question was running through my mind. The world didn’t end that morning, but life as we know it was changed in so many ways. The blanket of security that we slept with at night was suddenly taken away and for the first time America seemed vulnerable. A lot of has happened since that morning. We’ve fought long drawn out battles in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars on defense and security. We’ve hunted down and killed the mastermind behind the plot, Osama Bin-Laden, and most of his cronies. Thirteen years of nearly constant battle and yet last night our President announced that a new threat has emerged named ISIS and once again America must send our military resources to fight.
While I’m supportive of the President in this endeavor and believe military force is necessary in order to protect innocent lives and secure peace, I also can’t help but think that we are missing a key ingredient in this formula. Let me explain what I mean. The basic premise that I would put forth is that we can never defeat an ideology with mere military force. Think back for a minute to the Second World War. While the war was necessary and just, it alone did not secure the ultimate defeat of socialism in Nazi Germany and Japan. Ultimately, it was what happened after the war that changed the hearts of the Germans and the Japanese. When the war ended, the United States and other allies did something amazing, they went back in and rebuilt the very nations they had fought so hard to destroy. This astounding act of courage, wisdom and altruism brought about a dramatic change and produced a peace that has lasted until this very day. Compare that to what happened at the end of World War I, when the allies crippled Germany with harsh reparations and thus set the stage for the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Second World War. It seems to me that we are creating the vacuums that ISIS is filling. Perhaps the answer is to have a two-pronged approach.
My thesis is that if we resort only to military force in the Middle East we will continue to see the rise of militant, radical Islam. What we need to do, therefore, is to combine strategic military strikes aimed at protecting the innocent with a massive effort at winning the hearts of the people through acts of kindness. In other words, we need to help to rebuild the Middle East in a manner similar to what we did in Germany and Japan after World War II. Specifically, I have in mind building hospitals, schools, highways, and other vital infrastructure that can improve the daily lives of people living in these lands. Such actions will speak louder than words and will certainly do more than bombs at changing the hearts and minds of the people. In the end, what do we have to lose? We can keep on going down the endless road of frustration that we’re on or we can try something different. Total disengagement isn’t a viable option so we need to adapt our strategies to include a balance between force and kindness.
As a follower of Christ and Pastor I also recognize there must be a supernatural element in the overall strategy. The church in the United States and around the world committing ourselves to the task of praying for the middle east. Specifically, we need to be praying for Christians in the region to be emboldened to preach the gospel and for God to open the hearts of minds of millions of Muslims to it’s saving truth. In Romans 1:16-17 the Apostle Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believers, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The Gospel is more powerful than any bomb or device invented by man. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can change hearts and bring peace where there has been no peace. Let’s pray that by this time next year, God will send a great spiritual awakening not only here in the United States but across the globe and especially in the middle east.