For the first time I have opportunity to share with you after the horrible events of last Tuesday. My mind says our world fundamentally changed. My routine says nothing changed. My understanding says the changes barely have begun. My personal history says it was a horrible event, but the worst is over. My world awareness says the event has worldwide significance. My complacency says it was deeply regrettable, but life will continue as always. One part of me knows the situation is incredibly complex; another part of me oversimplifies all aspects of the situation.

I must struggle with conflicting realities. Each reality has elements of truth, but those realities often are in fundamental conflict. I watch our nation function in contradictory ways. Frequently those contradictions also consume me. The "before Tuesday, September 11" and the "after Tuesday, September 11" astound me.

"Before," this nation was so pleasure, money, and individual freedom centered that it was irreligious. "Confine religion to religious buildings. Do not share your religion with anyone!" "After," congress prays on the Capitol steps. Five presidents and countless dignitaries assemble in a cathedral for a prayer service. An emotional coach of the New York Jets professional football team made astounding statements. He said if our nation needed diversion last Sunday, go to church and pray. He said there could be no better national diversion than every citizen attending church and praying.

"Before," NATO nations constantly quarreled in their alliance. China viewed us as their greatest enemy. Russia regarded us with grave suspicion. "After," NATO unified. China was sympathetic. Russian citizens cried as they brought flowers to impromptu memorial sites, and their leaders pledged cooperation.

Around the globe stunned democratic nations held memorials and declared support. At the British "changing of the guard" ceremonies, protocol changed in historically unique ways. Among the changes: they played our national anthem. Could it be that people soberly realized current western civilization was threatened?

Our President declared the attack an act of war. That act of war killed over 5,000 innocent civilians. So we declared war against evil. I read of the panic in Afghanistan among innocent parents and children. In indescribable poverty, they desperately attempt to leave their country. Their experiences are also horrible. If they die, is that also an act of evil? I read of terroristic violence American citizens commit against American citizens of suspected Arab descent. Does justice function through acts of injustice? Is it "good" if "we" do it to "them," but "evil" if "they" do it to "us"?

Throughout history, moments of great crisis produce events of great evil. Events of great evil produce incredible opportunities for good. In days of deep darkness Christ's light can shine the brightest. May we each have the faith and courage to reflect His light in the days, weeks, and months of deep darkness ahead. Tragedy creates opportunity.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 23 September 2001

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