Where were you when they shot JFK? For a generation that was a defining question. Anyone who was old enough to realize a our president was assassinated knew where they were and what they were doing that fateful day in November 1963. Why? Not only was it a historic tragedy, it was a cultural marker. The assassination would set in motion (indirectly of course) a tumultuous decade that would be bookended by Richard Nixon’s impeachment in 1974. Our nation would never be the same.
Fast forward almost 40 years (a generation) and the question became “Where were you on 9-11?” I could tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing. I wasn’t doing it for long because I headed home. Our nation was under attack and the extent of which was unknown as the day progressed. How many of you remember being riveted to the television? Not only that day but for several days afterwards? Once again, we remember details of that day because of its significance. The significance however, extends beyond the tragedy of that day to the point of 9-11 being a historical cultural marker. How has it been a cultural marker?
1. Innocence was lost. You would think that after 2 World Wars, Vietnam, Korea and the Cold War we would have sensed the evil and dangers that lurk around the world. All of those wars were abroad. It was always someone else’s country in some other part of the world that suffered the brunt of war. Not this time. This time it was our own back yard. Our safe haven was penetrated from within our own borders. What was once unthinkable, enemy attack on our soil, is now in the psyche of every American. After a decade of “soccer moms”, peace and prosperity, our innocence was shattered and will never be regained. Only the coming redeeming work of our Lord will ever move the needle back towards innocence in this land called America. The proverbial evil cat was out of the bag.
2. Evil became more bold. 9-11 was an absolute horrific display of evil. The fact people would fly airplanes into buildings for the express purpose of killing as many as possible is a sheer utter evil inspired event. Ultimately we know as Christians that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age.”1 Since the fall, this world has been the home of evil (Cain and Able anyone?). Truth is; evil takes place every day. Yet rarely has evil been so visible, so on display. Now here is the downside; we become desensitized to it. Lesser acts of evil become, well, lesser acts of evil to us. This opens the flood gates for the spread of evil through our culture, because by comparison, what really is so bad about someone shooting 10 people after living through 9-11?
3. Our Culture has experienced tumultuous change. History records the 60’s and early 70’s as a time of significant cultural change and turmoil (drugs, radicals, feminism, Roe v Wade etc). History will record the period after 9-11 the same way. Same sex marriage, transgenderism, rampant spread of pornography, mass shootings are all a part of the post 9-11 culture. Once evil takes foothold it never lets go. Never. Evil begins subtle but always ends with utter shocking domination of its’ prey (Sodom and Gomorrah anyone?). In the shadow of 9-11 allowing same-sex marriage seems docile, porn is no big deal, being transgender, eh, whatever makes them happy. Even mass shootings are becoming less shocking. Consider how the Columbine School shooting held our nation’s grieving attention for months afterwards, while the movie theatre shooting (ironically again near Denver) this past summer saw more people killed, three times as many people injured and yet moved out of our national concern within days. This speaks to the different era we live in post 9-11.
Innocence lost, evil becoming more bold, and a culture that is drifting unmistakably towards an increasing indifference to evil… that is why 9-11 still matters.