Christ and the War on Terror

On September 11, 2001 I was a junior in college. My brother had just moved to New York City to begin his freshman year at NYU, and he could see the Twin Towers from his dormitory. That same morning, hundreds of miles away, my roommate’s boyfriend sat in his office at the Pentagon while a plane slammed into the building. All the while, many of my classmates were panic-stricken as they tried to contact parents who worked in the World Trade Center. Like most Americans, I was personally connected to the events of that day.

Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11. We remember when we first heard the news, and when we saw the planes crash into the buildings. We remember who we called, and what we said. Ten years later, I can still feel the fear and the disbelief that shook my body that morning. At one point my roommate and I collapsed on our couch in tears and held one another’s hands as we prayed and cried out to God. It was an indescribably horrific day.

That day was also a turning point in our nation’s history. Just think about all that has changed in our country since then. Travelers can no longer pass through airport security without a ticket. Our government issues daily terrorist threat levels ranging from green to red. We have initiated two different wars.

But there has been another change in our country that goes beyond practice. September 11 changed our national psyche. Not only did 9/11 unite us, but it also shattered the illusion of our invincibility. We were attacked on our own soil, opening our eyes to a vulnerability we never knew we had, and injecting a new type of fear into our culture. This newly introduced fear is perhaps why the war in Afghanistan was popularly called the “War on Terror.” America wasn’t simply going after Osama bin Laden; America was going after fear itself.

With the 10 year anniversary upon us, I’ve found myself reflecting on 9/11 quite a bit, and my mind keeps gravitating back to that term: war on terror. It is a label full of meaning, but it is particularly poignant for Christians.

For most people in the world today, the “war on terror” refers to an American military campaign. But for Christians it can mean something entirely different. As Christians, we know there is only One capable of waging a war against fear. There is only One who can storm the gates of Hell and triumph over death and destruction. There is only One who can truly wage war on terror, and win.

His name is Jesus.

I make that statement, not as a partisan political commentary on America’s defense strategies, but as a uniquely Christian hope. In a world where September 11th happened, it is easy to be fearful. It is also easy to respond to that fear by grasping for greater control, control over our lives and the chaotic world around us. When we face that temptation, when we face September 11, it is therefore important to remember that the war on terror has already been fought and won.

As we observe this 10th anniversary of September 11, it is right to mourn and it is right to remember. But we need not fear.  Although 9/11 changed our country, it did not change our God. Our God is not the author of fear, but the vanquisher of it.