9-11 and New Orleans

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Four years ago today, two airliners flew into the World Trade Towers in New York City. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon. Another plane, perhaps intended for the White House or Capitol, was heroically crashed in Pennsylvania by the passengers instead.

At the time, we declared that all this was a portent of God’s judgment on our nation. When disaster befalls a city, Scripture says, the Lord is the one who has done it. As a nation, before those events, and very significantly after those events, we have deliberately sought to evade our public responsibility to repent of our sins, and to return to faithful worship of the triune God of the Bible.

And now, just several weeks ago, a major American city has been destroyed by a hurricane, an act of God directly, with no intermediaries, no middlemen. That city was New Orleans, notoriously corrupt, and notoriously riddled with vice. Was this too a judgment from God?

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for failing to discern the signs of the times. He was not rebuking them for not possessing the gift of infallible inspired judgments, but rather for being spiritually dense. But four years ago, when we identified the idolatry of America as one of the central reasons God struck us in the way He did, the response from many Christians was that we were “going beyond what was written,” that we had no authority to say what we did, and that to pronounce the ways of God in this fashion was religious arrogance.

In the interim, we are rebuilding the skyscrapers, but we have not yet repented. We have now avowed that we will rebuild the city of New Orleans, and I dare say we will do so. But we have not yet repented of our idolatries. Like the sinners under judgment in the book of Revelation, we gnaw on our tongues but refuse to repent.

So are such things judgments from God? Of course they are. If we were to declare that God had destroyed New Orleans because the president had signed this version of the federal highway bill instead of that one, then we would be speaking far beyond our authority to speak. But if we say that all things preach Christ, Lord of heaven and earth, and all events summon men to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are simply confessing that Christ is in fact Lord. Our confession ceases to be theologically academic, and becomes real—and to the point.

Think of it another way, think of it merely as a conditional issue—and I speak here to those fellow Christians who are leery of this kind of clear word, Christians who are leery of the Church recovering her prophetic voice. If September 11 was a judgment from God, was it a just judgment? If the destruction of New Orleans was a judgment from God, was it a just judgment? If God were to do this same kind of thing to a major American city every other year for the next ten years, would that be just? Is there anything in our civil body politic that might be drawing this kind of divine attention? Is that even a possibility?

Or would we use such occasions to accuse God of injustice? Of God exacerbating the problem of evil for our apologists? Would we use such events as opportunities to accuse Christians of being ministers of pride—because they were calling for us to humble ourselves?

How long would it take before we Americans thought of accusing ourselves? As a nation do we have anything to repent of? I merely ask.

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