The outcome, after the attacks of Sept. 11, is not in our hands

Mr. Knowles, former managing editor of The Plain Truth, published by the Worldwide Church of God, makes his living as a writer. This article is part of Mr. Knowles' "Out of the Box" series of columns.

By Brian Knowles

MONROVIA, Calif.--If we are people of the Book, then we must view biblically the current terrorist crisis. After all, we derive our worldview from the Bible. Most of the coverage we read and view in the media is purely secular, although The Wall Street Journal ran a head that read "After the Terror, God Reappears in Public Life" (Sept. 19).

If God had not disappeared from national life to the degree that He had, the tragedy of Sept. 11 in New York and Washington might not have happened. Clearly it was a shofar blast of warning to a decadent America.

In the Song of Moses we read these telling words: "Jeshuran grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior. They made Him jealous with their foreign gods and angered Him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God . . ." (Deuteronomy 32:15).

Jeshuran means "the upright one." It is a name for Israel.

Once there was a time when this nation was more morally and religiously upright than it is today. But, under the heading of celebrating cultural diversity, we have embraced gods that the founding fathers would have rejected.

It is typical, in times of prosperity, for a nation to abandon the God who made it. At the time of this nation's founding, its fathers viewed America as "one nation under God." At some point we added to our coins "In God we trust." Were these merely pious platitudes, or were they core beliefs of a nation that knew its God and sought to worship Him freely in a new land?

Moralizing monsters

As a nation we have become soft and decadent. When Islamic fundamentalists cite our sexual promiscuity, pornography, movies and clothing styles as examples of decadence, they've got a point. I'm sure God is not pleased with our sexual mores, either.

But which is worse, the existence of pornography or the slaughter of 6,000 innocents going about their daily business? Islamic extremists have set themselves up as the rods of Allah's anger against "infidels." How pleased must God be with those whose hearts are full of hatred and who murder indiscriminately those who have never personally harmed them?

Sooner or later these monsters will have to face their Creator. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. It is unlikely they will be confronted with 72 hot-to-trot virgins apiece. There is no doubt in my mind that we face a deadly evil here. Behind it is Satan the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).

It isn't Osama bin Laden alone who is the problem; it's the mentality that gives birth to terrorism. We are not fighting only terrorists; we are fighting a mind-set that is born of resentment and religious zealotry. The result of such mentality is that the barbarians are at our gates, and if we don't do something about it they'll be inside in no time.

The nation as a whole, and every Christian, has a right to self-defense. We do not have to lie back and take it. But, before we fight back, there is something else we must do.

As I write these words we are in the midst of what the Jewish people call The Days of Awe: 10 days of self-examination and repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Day of Shofar Blasts is a wake-up call to God's people. Nothing could be more appropriate for God's people today, whether they be Jews or Christians. Nothing could be more appropriate for America.

The call to repentance

If we expect God to bless America as it commits to do battle with the forces of evil, then it must not itself be a force for evil. We read in Scripture, "The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29). We also read, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).

If we take pride in being the world's only remaining superpower, we will fail, for pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Our nation must humble itself before the true God if we expect Him to bless our efforts.

"Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor" (Proverbs 18:12).

Though, in context, the psalmist was speaking of Israel, the principle applies to any nation: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord . . ." (Psalm 33:12).

What is true for an individual is true for the nation: "When a man's [or a nation's] ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7).

These are not only spiritual truths; they are working principles for Christians and Jews. They come alive in real life.

If the church had a voice in these times, it ought to be calling the nation to repentance. More important, it ought to be setting for the world an example of humility before God, of obedience and of faithfulness. We cannot ask the nation to do what we ourselves are not willing to do. We, as a people of God, must come to the conviction that we will no longer contribute to, or participate in, the sins of the nation that bring upon us disgrace and dishonor.

If we, and the nation, clean up our acts, then perhaps God will bless us in our attempts to fight off the evil that threatens to engulf us and bring to ruin the civilized world. The barbarians may well be at the gates, but the God who sets up kings and puts them down is on His throne in heaven (Daniel 4:32; 5:21; Psalm 47:7-9).

In Him and in Him alone is our hope. It is He who will determine the outcome of what could be a bitter and protracted battle.

Depths of hell

Scripture tells us that, unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain (Psalm 127:1).

It is not the might of the American military that will deliver us; it is the power of God: "Woe to those who go down to Egypt [to allies] for help, or rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord" (Isaiah 31:1).

Terrorism is a mighty satanic force in the world. It was spawned in the darkest depths of hell. It is cold, amoral, pathological, deadly beyond description. It has no rules, but it has objectives. It will kill and destroy any way it can. We must fight it with every resource at our disposal. Our greatest resource is the God who made us. If our lives please Him, He promises to deliver us from our enemies.

In Judaism--the religion of Jesus and the original apostles--is a teaching that says: If your enemy comes to kill you, anticipate him and kill him first.

Terrorists are terrorists only when they are alive. As I have so often written, evil unopposed is evil encouraged. Not only is it not wrong to fight a deadly enemy, it is an obligation.

The president and his administration have a duty to protect the nation from foreign and domestic enemies. Each of us has a duty to do whatever he can to protect our nation, homes and families.

Just how effectively any of us can accomplish this will depend on the quality of our relationship with God and the skill with which we mount our defenses.

In Nehemiah's day God's people prayed, and they posted guards (Nehemiah 4:9). What did they pray?

Listen to how relevant this prayer would be today: "Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in the land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders" (verses 4-5).

The terrorists, and the pond scum that support them, have insulted and despised our nation and our people.

Pray for the president

Our president is a Christian. Our attorney general is a Christian. They are two of the key players in protecting this nation from the evil of terrorism. They need our daily and constant prayers and intercessions for protection and success.

God can give us the victory. He will do so--if our ways please Him.

As a nation we have become fat and decadent. Yet within our degenerating populace remains a remnant of godly people. It is we who must clean up our own acts before God, then relentlessly intercede for our president and our nation.

The battle that lies ahead will be long and arduous. We will see more brutal acts of terrorism--perhaps worse than the ones we have seen--before it's over.

The enemy has been acquiring nuclear weapons (suitcase bombs). It has been stocking up on germ and biological weapons and developing the means to deliver them. We will undoubtedly take many casualties.

In the end, when the dust settles and the blood dries, we may emerge the victor.

If we do, it will only be because God was with us.

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