Below is part of the sermon I gave on the Sunday following the attacks on 9/11/2001. It’s a little long for a blog post, but you might find it interesting, especially the comparison with Pearl Harbor.
Lessons from Pearl Harbor
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, is another date that will live in infamy. Many of you were alive at the time of Pearl Harbor, and I’m sure you recognize many of the emotions associated with Tuesday’s events. Since some are calling this a “Second Pearl Harbor” I would like to draw some comparisons to that event 60 years ago.
I find it interesting that after 60 years there is still strong interest in the Pearl Harbor attack as we see by the recent popular movie called “Pearl Harbor.”
•Both Pearl Harbor and the recent acts of terrorism were unprovoked, and both caught the US by surprise.
•Both took place in the morning, and both involved aircraft. The first bomb at Pearl Harbor fell at 7:55 and the first plane hit the WTC at 8:45.
•Both involved substantial property loss. At Pearl, 18 ships were sunk or seriously damaged, plus damage to buildings. In NYC, the entire WTC complex and many nearby buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged.
•Both involved a substantial loss of life. At Pearl, 2,403 men and women lost their lives, all but 68 were military. We don’t know the death toll yet, but I estimate Tuesday’s attacks will probably result in 6,000-7,000 deaths. (266 in airplanes, 200 at Pentagon, and 5,500-6,500 at WTC) Most of these deaths were civilians.
•Both attacks were personal to Americans. Hawaii was an American territory and the attack was against our military installations there. Many knew servicemen who lost their lives or were in Hawaii at the time.
Tuesday’s attack was even closer to home, and involved ordinary people at work, like any one of us. Many people were personally touched by these attacks, knowing people on the airplanes or in the buildings. My company had an office at the WTC. We lost 5 employees. We could see the burning buildings from our office in White Plains, knowing we had people there.
•Evil as it was, the Japanese had a strategic objective in attacking Pearl Harbor. Their objective was to neutralize our Pacific fleet so it would be out of commission for several years. This would allow the Japanese to continue their conquests in Asia without US interference. The US had become increasing hostile to Japan and had initiated trade and oil embargoes against it.
For the life of me, I can not find any strategic objective to an attack on civilian buildings such as we saw on Tuesday. That’s what makes Tuesday’s attacks senseless and diabolical.
Pearl Harbor Strategic Failure
Interestingly, from a strategic point of view, the Pearl Harbor attack was a failure.
It failed in four ways:
1. The most important naval weapon, the aircraft carrier, was untouched in the attack. Not a single carrier was in port at the time. Within a few months our carriers had engaged the enemy in significant naval battles.
2. The second most important naval weapon, the submarine, was also untouched by the attack. The sub base at Pearl was only moderately damaged and was soon back in operation. US subs were attacking Japanese shipping all over the Pacific.
3. The enormous fuel depot at Pearl was completely untouched. Even if no ships had been sunk but the fuel depot had been destroyed, our fleet would have soon been rendered useless for a substantial period of time.
4. The Pearl Harbor attack united Americans as never before. I suspect the Japanese wanted to demoralize us, but the effect was just the opposite. We were resolved to defeat an enemy that was devastating Asia and had now hit our home shores.
Why was Pearl Harbor a failure to the Japanese? I believe it was because God protected us so that we could be instrumental in defeating the evil of Nazi and Japanese expansionism. Without the involvement of the US, I don’t believe these evil expansionist empires could have been stopped. Because of US involvement in the war, Europe was eventually liberated and large parts of Asia were freed from the harsh rule of the Japanese Empire.
Current Attacks Strategic Failure
Do I believe the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon were strategic failures? Yes I do.
Certainly they were successful in their execution and in causing short-term disruption. But from a long-term strategic viewpoint, I believe they will be shown, just like Pearl Harbor, to have been failures, by the grace of God. I’m not sure why these attacks, were carried out, but by almost any measurement, they will be determined to have been strategic failures.
1. They caused an interruption in the heart of our financial district, but there won’t be serious long-term effects. Life will go on pretty much as before.
2. They caused a disruption of business and commerce, but I am guessing that the effect on the economy will be relatively mild. Increased spending for the military may actually help the economy.
3. They have united America in a way not seen for 60 years. Philosophical and political differences have been set aside and a spirit of unity prevails. If the objective of those attacks was to discourage Americans, they did just the opposite.
4. Much of the world has rallied around the US in an unprecedented show of inter-national solidarity. The war against terrorism will be a united front because countries now realize all are vulnerable.
5. It will make the US more sympathetic to Israel and more supportive of its struggle against Palestinian terrorism.
Why were the recent attacks strategic failures? Again, I believe God will protect us from serious long-term harm so that we can be used as his instrument to fight against this new evil.
Although the death and destruction is more than we can bear, it may have been the only way we could be united as a people and have to resolve to do what only the US can accomplish in the world.
So the reason for the history lesson this morning is to show that God’s sovereignty always prevails, and ultimate good can come out of disasters, terrible as they are. Where Was God? You may still ask, “Where was God in all of this?” I saw God many times as I watched TV this week.
•I saw God in the firefighters who ran into a severely damaged building to try to save lives, losing their own in the process.
•I saw God in people helping their co-workers to get out of the building.
•I saw God in the dedicated rescue workers who went on past the point of exhaustion in the hope of finding somebody alive.
•I saw God in the reaction of Americans, who lined up to give blood, who sent in donations, who gathered at churches and synagogues to pray and comfort one another.
•I saw God in those people holding candlelight vigils and mourning over the loss of life of people they didn’t even know.
•I saw God in the encouragement people were giving to the rescue workers, including local merchants giving food and drink to them without charge.
•I saw God in those who called for us not to take out our anger on Americans of Middle Eastern descent or those who practice the Muslim religion.
•I saw God in Washington, DC, as those of all religions and political persuasions gathered in the National Cathedral as one to worship God in all of this.
•I saw God in the moving memorials held in Canada and countries throughout the world, honoring the victims and upholding the United States in this time of crisis.
Where was God in all of this? He was in each one of us.
What Happens Next?
Our job is just beginning. We don’t know what the future holds. The most important thing we can do is pray for our national leaders.
We should pray that our national leaders:
-Will be open to God’s leading and follow His wisdom.
-They will maintain a spirit of unity consistent with God’s direction to them.
-They won’t be driven by emotions or hatred.
We should also pray for leaders around the world, that:
-Those harboring terrorists will shut down the camps, and give them over to justice.
-Nations will back up their claims of support for the US with appropriate action.
-The community of nations will have a spirit of unity and mutual support.
-Terrorism will be stopped dead everywhere through the determined efforts of every nation’s leadership (including Northern Ireland and Israel).
-Pray in particular for Pakistan, which will probably be on the front line of any action and without whose support, our job will be more difficult.
We should also pray for the nation in general, that:
-No more terrorist attacks will occur on our soil or against our people anywhere.
-We will have a spirit of reconciliation and love for one another after seeing how ugly hatred can be.
-We as a nation will turn back to God and revival will take place.
We must realize that God will not support us just because we are Americans. I don’t believe God supports one nationality over another. He will support us if we are his people, called by his name, dedicated to him and committed to him.
Our money says “In God We Trust.” Now is our time to prove it.
Prayer is effective and is our main weapon against the evil we are fighting against, because that evil is of a spiritual nature. Ephesians 6:10-13 tells us that our struggle is a spiritual one: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
I repeat: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We may talk of military action, and that is certainly one weapon we may use, but the most effective weapon we have is trust in God and prayer. The best thing we can do in this time of national (and even international) crisis is pray to God and put our trust in Him.