Every September 11, we are encouraged to “never forget” the violence perpetrated against our nation by a loosely organized network of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists. Every year, we are encouraged to harbor feelings of betrayal, hatred, and anger, ostensibly for the purpose of civic pride—though the purpose of fueling our need for and justification of vengeance achieved through focused yet faulty bombing and a reprehensible system of torture.
As a Christian, I’m forced to ask the question, “Really?”
Do we really want to be the nation that never forgets an offense? Do we really think that we have the moral superiority to act as if sins against us are the only ones that cannot be forgotten?
Do you want to hear someone argue for forgetfulness? Mention slavery and reparations in front a conservative white person. All of a sudden, we should let bygones be bygones.
You see, as a Christian, I’m compelled to admit my own need for forgiveness, and perhaps you readily admit this about yourself. The problem is that we’re not talking about individuals. We’re talking about nations and decentralized, extra-national organizations. How do we navigate forgetfulness and forgiveness in this situation? Well, the truth is that we can’t do this as a nation. However, since we, as individuals can admit our failings and forgive others of theirs, and since we comprise the power base of this nation, we can alter our nation’s course by changing our mindsets.
And yet, you might wonder why we even need to make a change to our nation’s post-9/11 course. It’s a fair point, but let me counter it by asking what is gained by not forgiving evil? How do we benefit ourselves by holding on to “never forget”? I’m afraid that we’re already headed down a dangerous road as we have adopted evil as our response to the evil displayed on 9/11. Evil how? We commit evil against others and evil against ourselves, and I’ll briefly explain each.
Evil Against Others
How many children, how many innocent bystanders have died due to our drone strikes in the Middle East? How much of what ISIS/ISIL has done is a response to our policies in the Middle East, especially our post-9/11 policies, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the whole “War on Terrorism” boondoggle?
Is our national conscience clean? Then, perhaps, if we’d like to stand up as a world leader, perhaps we should start by asking for and extending forgiveness, even if this is only being done on an individual level. It will filter upward.
Evil Against Ourselves
President George W. Bush was always quick to say that the reason we were the target of this terrorist actions was that the terrorists “hate our freedom.” Ok, well, if that’s true, why have we limited our freedoms in response? If they hate our freedom and we want to demonstrate our strength and courage in the face of their attacks, shouldn’t we embrace, celebrate, and even expand our freedoms instead? But no, because we have committed ourselves to a strategy of fear, of “never forgetting” and keeping the wound open, we have perpetrated evil upon ourselves, our heritage, and our posterity by destroying the freedom and liberty that made this nation great.
A Corollary for the Victims
Now, you might argue that the point behind “never forget” is that we should never forget the victims on 9/11, and I would agree that this is one of the biggest points behind it. It’s also one of the biggest problems. In The Great Divorce, on of CS Lewis’ greatest books, he relates the hypothetical tale of a women whose son died at a young age and never moved on. Because of her refusal to, not “forget,” per se, let the wound heal and allow life to carry on she was unable to enter into Heaven. Are we doing ourselves longterm damage by refusing to let this wound heal? Do we feel stronger because we are continually belaboring the tragedy of this day? Will we ever be able to regain our freedom when we continually feed the fear machine of terrorism by “never forgetting”?
In the end, I’d like us to reflect upon the idea of “never forget.” Does this help? Does this make us psychologically or spiritually stronger as a nation? Personally, I think it makes us weaker and encourages us to be afraid. It’s time to move on, not that we must forget the bravery of our first responders or the tragic, senseless loss of life, but that we must always remember that this will will remain being broken until Jesus comes and resurrects creation, starting first with His Church and carrying it until every corner of the cosmos has been reached and restored. As a Christian, I am once again compelled to disagree with this idea because I am invited by Christ to enter into eternity and to have an eternal view of life. Those who were lost are not lost if they died in Christ. Those who did not die in Christ are sadly, truly lost, but believe me that they were always lost, even while they were still here with us.
“Never forget” sounds profound and patriotic, but “Always remember” is a truer reflection of reality: always remember that this is a broken world so that tragedy may not catch you off guard, always remember that nothing and no one is safe unless committed to Him, and always remember that He has promised to save us and raise us up to new life. His kingdom is coming, a kingdom that will never fall.