- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

"And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning. Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying 'Alas, alas, that great Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come.'"

— Rev. 18: 9-10

Standing in front of a packed Times Square Church in midtown Manhattan last Sunday, its pastor, the Rev. David Wilkerson, choked back his tears.

"Oh, Lord," prayed one of America's most famous preachers, "there is a message You are trying to deliver to this nation and the world and we dare not miss it."

Around the country, the question of "why?" runs as a counterpoint to the patriotic strains of war preparation.

"Theologians and pastors around the country are saying God had nothing to do with this calamity, but because they are preaching this, we are missing the message," Mr. Wilkerson said. "And if we miss the message He is trying to proclaim to us, much worse is in store for us."

Answers to the "why" of the horrific events of Sept. 11 goes far beyond reasons offered on a CBN broadcast by the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who blamed liberals, abortionists and homosexuals for the terrorist attacks. Mr. Robertson later repudiated remarks made by Mr. Falwell, who has since apologized.

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham and a preacher in her own right, says the attacks were a divine warning.

"I think the attack on Tuesday, from a spiritual perspective, God would use as a warning to His people," she said Monday on CBN. "And I believe if we don't repent, we're going to see something worse. And so I don't believe God has totally left. There are too many people turning to Him right now in prayer.

"But I believe you can't shake your fist in God's face, as we seem to have done over the last few years. We have told God nationally, politically, corporately, 'God, get out of our schools, get out of our businesses, get out of our government, and get out of the marketplace. And it's OK if You stay in a church or a synagogue, but don't come out on the street.' And then God, who is a gentleman and doesn't force Himself on anybody, just withdraws very gently by degrees."

Commenting on the attacks, World magazine publisher Joel Belz fingered "the gods of nominalism, materialism, secularism and pluralism" for blame.

"And it's hard to think of more apt symbols of all those 'isms' than the twin towers of the World Trade Center anchored in the financial capital of the world and capped as they were with transmitting towers for the major media and entertainment networks," he said. "Babel needed just one such tower; New York built two.

"And let me confess I loved those towers; I walked beneath them just last May and marveled at God's gifts to men and women to fashion and construct such places of beauty and service. But the false gods forsook us last week."

Several commentators have brought up a mysterious passage in Revelation 18 that tells how 'Babylon,' a fabulously rich seaport city famed as a trade center, is destroyed in an hour. In "Our Day of Infamy," an essay quickly penned after the disaster, National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser linked New York to the 2,000-year-old text, sprinkling the verses liberally through the column.

"In some circles, people are looking at Revelation 18, and asking if that has any relevance," said Allan C. Carlson, publisher of the Religion & Society Report in Rockford, Ill. "There are some uncanny aspects to that language. It is kind of unnerving, as it talks about the merchants who watched their world destroyed.

"It's fairly specific; it's not just one country because it talks about kings that Babylon is not so much a city or place but a system of gross materialism and pleasure."

He said there is some precedent to the idea of world events heralding divine judgment.

"In the 16th century," he said, "the Ottoman Turks had pushed deep into Europe and were almost to Vienna. Martin Luther expressed the opinion that the invasion of the Turks was a judgment against the corruption of Western Christendom."

But Americans generally do not perceive any problem with the country's condition, explained Mr. Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge, a well-known drug-rehabilitation ministry.

"We are missing the message," he said. "We have moments of silence and call that repentance. We have politicians on the steps of government buildings singing 'God Bless America' and we call that turning back to God. We see the National Football League calling for a moment of silence during halftime, and we call that a spiritual experience. Is that all that's going to come out of it? Laughing with ["The Tonight Show" host Jay] Leno?

"What hypocrisy. The politicians pontificating about God now are the very ones protecting abortion rights. When a nation is under divine correction, it will humble itself as did Nineveh or give God lip service and then turn to its own strength and power to rise above the correction. I thank God for our national unity, but it is temporary."

Can divine judgment be avoided? Yes, the preacher said, but only if President Bush "will tremble at the Word of God, that he will stay on his knees and not be turned aside by advisers."

But any message about judgment must be worded quite carefully, said the Rev. Dutch Sheets on www.glory-of-zion.org, a Web site representing a coalition of 10 Christian prayer ministries in Colorado Springs.

"The way in which we pray could very well determine whether our nation turns toward God or away from God," he wrote. "Sorrow can lead either to bitterness, which perpetuates greater defilement, or to repentance resulting in salvation. Measured, accurate and biblical responses from those of us representing God are critical."

He suggested the purpose of the attacks "is to release massive fear."

"The church's job will be to arise and see through what is happening, discerning what the true purpose of God is."

Seattle Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of Toward Tradition, a conservative Jewish group, said Americans were long overdue for some introspection, as the country tends "to forget, amid peace and prosperity, what the face of sheer evil looks like."

"This forgetting has been easy for us. We are taught it in the schools, where children are instructed that there is no such thing as evil, only differences in point of view. You see, to admit the existence of evil means we would have to define evil according to someone's morality, and we all know that in a multicultural society this would be wrong. "

"When confronted with tragedy, the Jewish way is, then, to assess one's own moral condition," he said. "But and here is the tricky part while the victim gauges his faults, he is also commanded to strike back in devastating force. In short, the strategy is counterattack accompanied by an equally remorseless attempt to identify the flaws that made the attack possible in the first place. Let us pray that something positive may come out of our suffering."

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