Where will we be when the crisis passes?
Isn’t it amazing how popular God is these days?
I’m seeing little “prayer chains” everywhere. Church attendance is reaching record numbers. Church leaders are advising the President. Even my dry cleaner’s billboard says “God Bless America.”
And if the ACLU is complaining, I haven’t heard about it.
It’s heartening, isn’t it? In the middle of all of this black, dark, scary awfulness, it’s nice to think that maybe there’s a silver lining – maybe this will be the impetus for a long-overdue return to acknowledgement of our reliance on God.
I suppose that, on one hand, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. When do people tend to turn to God? When they feel out of control. When they realize that they can’t “manage” a situation by themselves. When they’re in over their heads.
And we’re certainly in over our heads right now.
But being in over our heads shouldn’t be anything new to us. We were in over our heads from the moment we entered this world. We couldn’t take a breath, couldn’t move a muscle, if God did not sustain us in every single moment of our existence. Sometimes it just takes crazy men trying to kill us to remind us of that fact.
And so we drop to our knees, and we beg and plead for protection.
But here is my concern. What will happen when the threat is passed? Will this turn towards God last? Or will we just go back to our “live for the moment” American lifestyle?
The whole experience reminds me of the week, eleven years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer. I immediately ran to the Blessed Sacrament. I thanked God for my life. I told him, “I guess if you want me, I’m coming.” I turned my life, and my death, over to Him. I asked Him to save my soul. I told Him that, if I lived, I would live to serve Him. No more selfishness. No more materialism.
I did live. And, a few months later, my brother said, “I can tell you’re feeling better. You’re looking at cars again.”
So much for good intentions.
Will we, as a nation, do the same? Is this change real and deep, or is it just a momentary pause in our selfishness?
I think that, in order to effect a real change, we need to take a good, long look at ourselves, and our collective morality. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these “we were attacked because, in our sinfulness, God withdrew His hand of protection” types. It’s not that I believe it’s impossible. It’s just that I don’t pretend to know the mind of God. Maybe He withdrew His protection. Maybe He didn’t. Either way, the attacks of September 11 were not His doing, nor were they in accord with His will. Evil men did evil deeds that day.
Besides, I don’t take my spiritual cues from Falwell, Robertson, et al. I take them from Pope John Paul II, and in his numerous messages to the world in the wake of the atrocities, he has never placed the blame on our sinfulness, or on anyone or anything except the perpetrators themselves.
But JPII has said, repeatedly, that we need to examine our collective conscience. His messages consistently remind us that, in coming before God, we need to examine ourselves – as individuals and as a nation -- and root sinfulness from our lives.
It only makes sense. After all, how does this look? “Hey God, please protect us. Yeah, we know we’re still killing 1.3 million of our own unborn children every year, but don’t let that stop you. We’re the good guys here, and we want you on our side.”
It seems to me that God would perhaps have a bit of a problem with that.
What we as a nation need is not just a blind run to God for “protection.” We need a deep, ongoing national conversion. We need, individually and collectively, to turn to Him and turn our lives over to Him. All of our lives.
We need to extend the respect for life we saw in the aftermath of September 11th. Rarely in my life have I been as moved as I was at the stories of the firefighters and rescue workers at Ground Zero. They worked and dug and searched -- in impossible conditions, at great personal risk – in the hopes of finding just one more person still alive under the rubble. They didn’t have to. They could have dismissed those individuals as mere statistics – additional casualties in an overwhelming atrocity. But they didn’t. They recognized that each individual has value, and they set out to save as many individuals as they could.
Our prayer, as a nation, should be that we extend that respect to all human life. The unborn. The elderly. The poor. The lonely. The forgotten. If we can really begin to see God’s image in them, then maybe -- just maybe -- this conversion will be for real.
And we can truly become “One nation, under God.”