9/11, jesus and a honeymoon stuck in the looe

16 09 2009

Honeymoons are meant to go with a bang. Ours was certainly memorable. For many reasons. Including getting the car stuck in the Looe. We thought September 8th would be the most memorable date in 2001, but it was not so. Whilst relaxing in the calm of a Devon cottage, 3 days after our wedding, we first heard the newsflash on Radio 1 – an explosion in New York. Minutes later, an update – early reports were coming in that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre. Another update. Another explosion. Definitely planes. A coincidence? Air traffic control asleep? Could it be…? September 11th rapidly overtook September 8th as the memorable date of 2001.

The Iconic Image

The Iconic Image

It became the “Where were you when…?” moment for a generation too young to remember presidents being assassinated. It changed everything.  Everything.


It certainly changed our news broadcasts. I started buying Private Eye. We first heard phrases like “pre-emptive strike”, “axis of evil” (now including Scotland), “regime-change”. And “freedom fries”.

8 years on, who has ‘everything’ changed for? My life hasn’t significantly changed. I don’t buy Private Eye very often now. I do hand in my illegal Evian when I go through airport security. I am told to live in fear of bombs and death, obviously; but since the IRA terrorist threats of the 70′-90’s, that is not such a big thing. Yes, global politics have changed significantly. But what about us, on the ground? How much has actually changed in daily life?

Probably not a lot.

Everything has changed most significantly not for most of us, but for people thousands of miles away. For ordinary people in Iraq. For ordinary people in Afghanistan. Ordinary people. In many, many ways, for the better. But at severe cost. Severe cost. Many soldiers have been killed. According to www.antiwar.com almost 5000 US and coalition troops in Iraq and 1,300 in Afghanistan. That is significant.

Everything has changed

Everything has changed here

But how about these numbers. Iraq Body Count, who obviously have an agenda to push, reckon something between 93,000-102,000 civilians have died in Iraq as a direct consequence of the war.  And in Afghanistan the numbers are much higher, though I have struggled to find a website that looks sensible to quote a figure. It may be in hundreds of thousands.

What do we do with these numbers? We compare them with the 2,993 civilians who died on 9/11. Why? Because we must. Because the difference is disproportionate, and must make us uncomfortable. Even if it doesn’t change the fact that we are at war; even if there was no option other than military action; even if there was no choice. One thing that faith in Jesus shows us is that there is no point, and no possibility, of hiding from uncomfortable things. We must face them. We must look them in the eye, or we cannot look him in the eye.

So also we cannot hide from the stories in the Old Testament that detail war and death and make some of us extremely uncomfortable. To be honest people, honest to ourselves and to God, we have to take the bad stuff out from where we like to hide it and look at it. There can be no brushing under the carpet, no pretending things aren’t as horrible as they are, even if there is no other way for them to be. I am taught that by Jesus and his camper van full of grace. He sees all the bad stuff, and it pains him, but it does not make him turn his face away. He opens his arms wide and still loves. Looks upon us. Walks with us. Bad stuff and all. There cannot be forgiveness if there is no recognition there is anything to forgive.

So as Crown-of-Thorns and crosswe reflect on 8 years of painful consequences so many thousands of miles away, hopefully the numbers can help us. Help us to be honest. Help us to get angry. Angry about something worthwhile instead of Katie&Peter™ or Adebayor’s stamp or whether Sam Mitchell should have come back to EastEnders. And then turn that anger into responsible action. And help us feel and know the extent of God’s incredible love for us, broken humanity.

As Arsene Wenger said yesterday, “With human beings, you can never rule anything out, good or bad…” And with God, you can never rule forgiveness out, however big the tally of our badness. Which is also frightening, and wonderful, and liberating, and grossly unfair, and that is grace. And it actually makes me smile.

And by the way, we had a lovely honeymoon, after retrieving the car from the River Looe.




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