It was a late night in August 1998 that I always think back on whenever the infamous events of Sept. 11 come to mind. My grandfather was in the hospital dying, and as our family was preparing to say goodbye, in the background the TV was on the news.

My grandfather loved history, law and geo-politics, which I believe he successfully passed onto me, and I vaguely remember watching an interview being shown of a man I had never heard of named Osama bin Laden. He was in a cave being interviewed by a Western journalist raving against America, and he said his terrorist organization had declared war on America and that he was going to attack the United States. I remember thinking to myself, ‘How is this guy in a cave going to attack the most powerful country on Earth?’ Years later, on that Tuesday morning, I remember being stunned as I heard that man’s name on the TV again, with the realization that he had fulfilled his threat. Our world was suddenly and dramatically changed by the images that I will never forget, that played over and over again of those planes hitting the twin towers in New York. Surely this was a movie, we kept thinking, but no, this was no movie. Our country had been attacked for the first time since Pearl Harbor, and our world and all the exciting expectations that came with ushering in a new century and millennium were dashed.

In the immediate days that came after 9/11, like everyone around me, I experienced fear. Fear that this was going to be the start of an onslaught of terrorist attacks on our homeland, because 9/11 shattered the illusion that America’s strength and the oceans that separated us somehow meant we were invulnerable. Yet, even as scary as those days were, there were things I remember from the weeks following that horrible day that I have often thought back to, especially recently. I remember President Bush quoting Psalm 23 that night from the Oval Office, reminding us that in the valley of the shadow of death, we can overcome fear knowing a power greater than ourselves was with us. I remember seeing Republicans and Democrats on the steps of Capitol Hill joining hands singing “God Bless America.” I remember seeing American flags plastered anywhere and everywhere, and churches packed. I remember seeing real unity in our country, real love for our neighbor, patriotism, and a spiritual realization that our country had been shaken at its core and for a brief moment, we individually and collectively looked heavenward for help to face this new threat. But, sadly, as with just about everything in the age we live in, our attention span is short, our memory fades and we forgot the lessons 9/11 taught us.

Today, as we get ready to mark the 19th anniversary of that day, our country is facing an ongoing pandemic, economic hardships, mental and emotional free fall, racial reckoning, riots in our streets, and an upcoming polarizing presidential election. Yet, this time around, as our nation is engulfed in the most severe crisis I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, we are not responding to this moment as we did almost 20 years ago. Instead of uniting, we are more divided than ever before. Instead of loving our neighbor, we spar with them on social media. Instead of listening, we’ve become accustomed to shouting. Whereas when we faced 9/11 we understood what had happened, in today’s polarizing media landscape it’s as if our reality is on different planets for understanding what is happening before us. Our national institutions are in danger of implosion. For the first time in my life, I am actually deeply concerned for what future awaits my children growing up in this country.

Yet, all is not lost, and it’s not too late. We have been here before. The details are different to be sure, but our families, churches, leaders and nation have risen to the occasion in our past when we faced tyranny, civil war, depression, wars, political turmoil, and social unrest. And while there are many factors for how America has weathered these challenges, there is one consistent theme embedded in our story, and that is our turning to God in times of crisis. The question facing us today is, will we recognize our need for Him in our hearts, our lives, and our society or will we continue on the course we have been on, heralding our own self destruction? As Francis Chan said, “The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time.” We need hope for the future, we need love to triumph over hatred, faith to overcome fear, brokenness to be made whole and confidence to face uncertainty. We need racial reconciliation, we need healing, and we need to value what matters most. We need Jesus. We need a relationship with Him over religiosity. We need a move of God in our hearts, our homes, and our land. And believe it or not, how you and I respond to this moment, ultimately determines if it’s too late for our country or not.

If we humble ourselves, realizing we can’t fix our problems purely through political or societal means, if we look up, and call on the Ancient of Days, if we resolve to search and seek to know Him, if we are willing to stop doing the same things over and over again expecting a different result engaging in true insanity and change from our futile ways of thinking and living; then we will be heard, forgiven, healed and revived, in our lives and in the life of our nation. Almost 20 years ago, I vividly remember as a high schooler, watching us take a step in that direction, but we ended up forgetting the wake-up call, that for a brief moment, got our attention to what matters most as Americans and as human beings. If we don’t wake up to the spiritual urgency of the hour in which we find ourselves, we may not get another opportunity.

Pastor Stephen Mitchell is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Bible Church in Severna Park, Maryland. He is also the author of Taking A Stand In Our Dying Land and has spoken in various churches and retreats. He is a native of Frederick.

(40) comments

JerryR

This pastor wrote a great article, all the negative responses are from the leftwing nut trolls that are always on the FNP site. This is your party – no wonder we have the problems we do with these Ding Dongs around.

patomd969

Reading all the negative comments saddens me. Poor Greg F, I'll especially pray for you. You must really be unhappy. And, by the way, there is only one God - our creator. Read the Bible.

phydeaux994

I agree patomd969, ONE GOD....for everybody HE/SHE ever put on this Earth. And we all have a shot at HEAVEN. I Repeat, ONE GOD for ALL.

Greg F

Which one? There are literally millions of them and for you to say billions of others’ gods is pretty presumptive. Yours will see the dustbin just like the old Greek gods did...it will be.

phydeaux994

No Greg F, that’s the point. There’s always been just ONE. All the others are inventions of Man, by men seeking power. GOD was here long before Man. BTW, I enjoy your comments, even though we may not agree on everything.

DickD

If there really is a heaven and we get there, let's throw a big party. We could thumb our noses at the Devils. They are most likely Trump supporters.

Greg F

One doesn’t need a god to be happy at all. I’m happy as a clam dropped out of the days catch. Where was your god On 911? AWOL. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover a few times and it is contradictory Mumbo jumbo written by a bunch of guys who didn’t even know where the sun went at night. You pray all you want. I’ll have a sammich for you. Equally effective.

phydeaux994

I haven’t read the Bible cover to cover. I always got stymied trying to figure out how Adam and Eve originated all of Mankind without a lot of Incest going on.

DickD

You are taking it too literally, phy.[lol]

bosco

It was the begats that always slowed me down.

[ninja]

DickD

Obviously, you are not a Catholic priest. Growing up, the Catholic Church didn't want us to read the Bible, as they didn't want us to interpret the Bible .

bosco

For good reason, DickD, you might figure out they were lying to you all along. Study the history of the bible as written and revised over the years and you will become enlightened.

[ninja]

bosco

Pancho needs your prayers, it's true

Save a few for Lefty, too

He only did what he had to do

And now he's growin' old

[ninja]

Dwasserba

Daily Mass at St. John's was packed to the walls on Sept. 12 and it was the first time I competed for a seat after dropping our daughter at Visitation. Now I am transported back to my childhood watching daily Mass where I sat in the sloping balcony with my class every morning. Attendance was taken there, so duck out at your peril...in summer we were assigned Masses to go to so the priest had someone present to "sing back" responses. The current pastor is a good homilist. It's kind of surreal, but these are surreal times.

threecents

I don't know if belief in God can help us unite, but bible belt religious beliefs are the cause of much of our division - whether LGBT rights, women's rights, or belief in science, and even that nationalistic belief that we are the exceptional nation under God.

Greg F

Take all the examples of wars started over religious differences and that should give you an answer. More people have died as a result of religion than almost anything aside from illness and old age. Religion is not a peaceful thing, and the bible calls out numerous times for killing, maiming, eating, and worse to those who are not of the faith. If there were a god, he/she/it/them should be down on its version of knees to beg our forgiveness.

pdl603

How about we just take all the wars started by democrats and say they are no good nicks.

Greg F

Liberal protesters got us the vote and out of Vietnam. Who wanted us in? Conservatives. Who started the gulf war and Afghanistan...thenlongest running war ever? Republicans. Who lied to get us into Iraq with fake WMDs? Republicans. Get your facts straight and take a few history classes we know you forgot to take in school.

Greg F

Liberals freed the slaves...not conservatives. Liberals for women and blacks voting rights and liberal women worked toward equality republicans still fight tooth and nail.

Greg F

Nazis were the conservatives that started WWI and II. Your new further trump wants to make it a trio.

DickD

The Republican party was the moral majority. Now they have thrown aside their morals to support Donald Trump. The moral majority has become the immoral minority.

NewMarketParent

@DickD

I don't think that really ever was the case. Think about all of the public pastors who have fallen. The things they were doing were while they were in the public eye. It was lip service being paid to help consolidate political power. Remember the Newt was having an affair as the same time as Clinton, but was publicly calling Clinton out.

There are a lot of people that use public morality as a cloak to hide their failings and flaws.

Dwasserba

There is that theory that those who lead are most likely to experience Satanic attack, which makes sense for how it dismays/disappoints/discourages believers and non-believers alike. Pray for pastors.

pdl603

Exactly you don’t think. CNN/MSDNC tell you what to think.

Greg F

You don't need to be a party member or religious to have morals. I've met more immoral party members and religious folks than not.

sevenstones1000

Donald Trump’s god is called American Carnage.

public-redux

“Can you believe that people believe that bullsh_t.” ~ Donald Trump

Dwasserba

"A holy man says that just to be spared Satanic attack," said no one ever

Greg F

Which of the nearly 1million gods pay and present are we supposed to be under? Zeus? Rah? Mephistopheles? All of them weren’t in the constitution and many of us want nothing to do with your religious piety. It’s myth to coddle and control the masses that gives a shared false narrative. Your god can just go away like all those have due to the rusted messages they espouse and the blatant disregard for common sense.

Dwasserba

He loves you anyway

Greg F

He who? Odin? Beelzebub? Iggy Pop?

jsklinelga

Pastor Mitchell,

There is a stark difference between the events of 2001 and the current turmoil in this country. In 2001 we united behind God. In 2020 One nation under God is at the center of the division we are now witnessing..

public-redux

“In 2001 we united behind God.“

No, we didn't.

Hayduke2

Public - [thumbup] “If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” Wife of Flight 93 pilot

Dwasserba

Speak for yourself

public-redux

D, It seems your comment was directed to jsk. Is that correct? Because “we [Americans] united behind God” is obviously incorrect. Ask anyone who pays no attention to God.

NewMarketParent

@jsklinelga

I guess you skipped right over the words "reckoning" didn't you?

public-redux

“ In 2020 One nation under God is at the center of the division we are now witnessing.“

No, it isn’t.

Greg F

it's sure at the middle of the battle in a heck of a lot of places....and in the US it has been for a long time.

public-redux

There are a lot of “one nation under God“ folk on both sides of some very divisive issues. There are God-folk who think God supports same sex marriage and the ones who think he doesn’t. Most of the opposition to legal abortion is from God-folk and most God-folk support legal abortion.

Since most Americans are God-folk, any divisive issue is going to have lots of them on any side.

In the sense that the “one nation under God” folk don’t agree upon God or his wants and needs, I suppose one could say that it is at the base of the divisiveness but I don’t think that is what the commenter meant.

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