ST. LOUIS (BP)–Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North was onboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Detroit to Reagan National Airport in Washington when terrorists flew a plane into the west wall of the Pentagon Sept. 11. As his plane banked, diverted to Dulles International, a passenger looked out the window and said, “The end is near.”
North recalled the events of Sept. 11 as he addressed the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in a patriotic service June 10. A conservative commentator and former national security adviser in the Reagan administration convicted for his role in the Iran-Contra affair, North said that his faith eliminated his fears about what would follow the attacks on the nation.
He recalled thinking, “Jesus, if that’s what everybody says it is, I am in your hands.” The thought was his only solace, he recounted. “If you know where you are going and why you going there, you need not fear anything,” he said.
His opinion, North said, is opposite those of liberal media personalities who are dispensing alarmist rhetoric about the threat of terrorism in the United States today. Those who have no assurance of their eternal destiny, he said, easily fall prey to fears about another attack, whereas fear would not prevent him from gathering together with a body of fellow believers.
North, who became a Christian in 1978 after his commanding officer ordered him to read the Bible, praised the response of President Bush and the nation to the Sept. 11 attacks. The Commander-in-Chief, he said, had summoned the nation to prayer and assembled a formidable international coalition in only 26 days. The nation is approaching the 250th day of the first war of the new millennium, he said, but would persevere because the nation is “turning to prayer as the solution to its problems.”
The president has earned the respect of American military personnel, North said, precisely because he called the nation to prayer. He is “the right president at the right time and they are reverent about it,” North said. “I am glad George W. Bush is the 43rd president of the United States.”
Just as the president has turned to prayer as an answer to the problems facing the United States, North said Christians must turn to prayer for the nation, for the president, for Israel and especially for the soldiers fighting valiantly in Afghanistan.
North served as a FOX News war correspondent in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the early days of the war and has seen the dangers Marines face. Faith and the words of the Bible comfort many of the soldiers, he said. Approximately 1,500 Marines were given more than 2,000 pocket-sized New Testaments after a pre-deployment chapel service aboard the amphibious assault vessel USS Bataan.
The soldiers’ willingness to turn to faith, North said, is a good sign.
“The average age of those young men — to include the 26-year-old company commander and the 31-year-old gunnery sergeant — was 19-and-a-half years of age. That is good news because they are going to come back and spread the word,” he said.
North said his message was not intended solely to arouse appreciation and patriotic sentiment among Southern Baptists. He intended, he said, to draw deeper spiritual parallels to the type of courage exhibited by the Marines.
Christians must be able to courageously risk rejection, he said, in order share the gospel with others in the hope of turning people away from sin and hatred.
“We ought not to be timid. We ought not to be afraid. We must have the courage to confront others with the gospel and the courage to present it just the way it is written is this book,” he said, raising his tattered Bible in the air. “In this book every single word is true.”
North’s half-hour message followed the performance of patriotic hymns by the combined student choirs of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., and Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn., and the presentation of the colors by a United States Navy honor guard.
Seven members of ALERT – Air Land Emergency Rescue Team – also repelled from the ceiling of the Edward Jones Dome and unfurled a large American flag as part of the Pastors’ Conference finale. ALERT is a disaster relief and humanitarian aid training and service organization mobilized during national and international crises. The organization is based in Big Sandy, Texas.
Centered on the theme of “Lest We Forget … Our Country,” the closing session included a tribute to the armed forces. North commented that the tribute was stunning.