EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–On this, the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I propose a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that a cohort of Americans calling themselves Sons of the Kingdom seize Malaysian and Saudi Arabian Airlines jets and fly them into the Petronas Towers (designed after minarets) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Saudi Royal Palace in Jiddah. Over the radio, they’re heard to shout “Remember 9/11” and “Praise Jesus!” just before impact. Thousands of Malaysians and hundreds of Saudis die in the attacks.
What would Christians around the world do? And how would this compare to what Muslims around the world have done since 9/11?
Of course, even as the fires still burned, every Christian with access to a microphone would express shock and dismay and, in no uncertain terms, declare that these were not real Christians. This would be a bit different from the Muslim disavowals heard in September 2001. Without a doctrine of regeneration, they were left to say that these were bad or misguided Muslims who had misread or ignored this or that passage in the Koran or Hadith. But the Christians would most likely call Sons of the Kingdom “false professors,” not at all born again.
Be that as it may, Al-Jazeera could send film crews throughout the U.S. — from the streets of New York City to our nation’s capital to farming villages in Iowa to the border towns of Texas and Montana — and they would find no celebrations in the “Western street.” No chants of “Jesus is great.” None.
As quickly as the SOTK perpetrators were identified and their compound located in, say, Idaho or upstate New York, federal agents would move in for the capture or kill. There would be no “inaccessible tribal regions” to which the murderers could flee and find extended refuge.
Meanwhile, both the government and NGOs, including many church groups, would dispatch relief teams to the crash sites, should the Saudis and Malaysians allow it. Everybody from the U.S. Navy to Samaritan’s Purse to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief crew would be ready.
World, Christianity Today, and Christian Century would stop the presses and work overtime to properly lament and analyze the horror done in the name of Christ. Broadman & Holman, Crossway, P&R and a host of other publishers would start fielding and soliciting manuscripts on the shameful events, putting things in a Christian perspective.
There would be days of fasting and contrition, resolutions of indignation and regret. Churches would take up special relief offerings; scholarship funds would surface for those orphaned in the attacks. Christian colleges and universities would hold soul-searching conferences, asking how such a group could arise in our midst, seeking ways to build bridges to the wounded parties. And it is inconceivable that Christian leaders would sit down at the table for respectful discussions with those who indulged, harbored, funded or encouraged the Sons of the Kingdom.
Christian families would visit their Muslim neighbors down the street, assuring them of their concern and respect. And if they suspected that another neighbor was sympathetic to the attacks or had anything to do with funding or otherwise facilitating them, they would report them immediately to the authorities — and let the air out of their tires if it looked as if they were going to make a run for it.
Of course, the liberals would try to link the attacks to Christian “fundamentalism” and much of the “mainstream media” would lap this up, scheduling broadcast interviews with professors from what’s left of Union Theological Seminary or the Harvard Divinity School. Meanwhile, the reviled “fundamentalists” (AKA evangelicals) would be marshalling resources to help the victims in the name of Jesus and condemning the SOTK’s abominations from the pulpit. And if an American Protestant or Catholic had the temerity to suggest that the Saudis and Malaysians in those buildings had it coming because of the Muslim siege of Vienna in the 17th century, the incidence of “honor killings” in Jordan, or 9/11 itself, these churchmen would be shunned or worse.
Contrast all this with what we have seen in the Muslim world in recent years. Where does one start? Perhaps with crowd scenes of delight even as the World Trade Center towers fell. Perhaps with the adulation and protection of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. And then there were the bombings — a bus in London, a train in Spain, a wedding reception in Amman, and nightclub bombings in Bali and Sharm el-Sheikh. Not to mention attempted bombings of trans-Atlantic airplanes with rigged shoes and explosive liquids.
Consider, too, the call to jihad in mosques around the world, the fatwas issued on cartoonists and writers, the menacing insularity of Muslim neighborhoods in France, England and Sweden, the ongoing fraternity with the likes of Ahmadinejad and Qaddafi, the petulant, sectarian chaos of Sadr City, the slaughter of school kids in Beslan and theater-goers in Moscow, the polls showing millions of Muslims affirming the 2001 attacks, Libya’s warm welcome of the Lockerbie bomber, and the all-justifying hatred of Israel and her friends. Furthermore, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Abu Sayyaf, etc., continue with their terror, hailed and even elected (in the case of Hamas) by many Muslims.
How in the world could someone declare Christianity and Islam to be moral equivalents?
Mark Coppenger is pastor of Evanston Baptist Church in Evanston, Ill., and professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.