The People the Tower Fell On

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There’s a feeling I don’t have a word for.  It’s the mixture of disgust, embrassment, and indignation.  I feel it most often when people claiming to follow Jesus engage in acts that are just so opposite to what Jesus is about.

I know that I’m not supposed to feel this way, and I’m working on that.  But I don’t really want to write about that today.  What I want to write about is one of the specific things these buttheads do to that evokes these feelings from me.

What they do is this: For almost any disaster you can mention, there is some moron with an axe to grind who is going to broadcast his idea that it was God’s will for this disaster to occur.   Usually these people have decided that a single, particular sin is worse than all the rest and they’ve further decided that the people who suffered this disaster were a prime example of that sin.

When the World Trade Center fell, there were two groups who said this was God’s will and a punishment for America’s sins.  One group was extremist, militant Muslims.  The other group was extremist, militant Evangelical Christians.  Ironic bedfellows, there.

When I read Luke 13 this morning, I thought of these knuckleheads.  An interesting passage I never much noticed before.   Jesus is in the middle of teaching at the end of chapter 12.   Chapter 13 begins”Just at that time there (arrived) some people who informed Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifice.”

And he (Jesus) replied by saying to them , “Do you think that these Galileans were greater sinners than all the other Gallileans because they have suffered in this way?

A few verses later comes the portion that struck me:

“… those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them– do you think that they were more guilty offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalum?”

It’s a hard to come to grips with the simple truth that our very existence is gratitious, unearned, and more than we deserve.   Jesus words aren’t exactly reassuring for any of us.   The people inside that tower in Siloam weren’t any more or less deserving than the rest of  Jerusalem.

More to the point here, though, is that the people inside the World Trade Center weren’t any more or less deserving than the rest of us, either.  The idea that God some orchestrated a special, Earthly judgement on 3,000 men, women, and children, is just so ludicrious.

When God says not to take his name in vain, I have to believe that he was worried about more than people saying “Oh God” or even “God Damn it.”  Somebody who claims that the World Trade Center’s fall is God’s judgement, they are triviliazing God’s love in a way much more profound than any exclamation ever could be.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “The People the Tower Fell On”

  1. i won’t comment on the grammar of the title; artistic licence i suppose.
    Can you define “militant” for me? At least how you mean it here?


  2. Yeah, I contemplated the grammar. I think Grammatically correct would be “The Tower that fell upon the people” but that sounded a little too Jane Austen.

    I could take the easy way out and describe militant in a functional/contextual way: here, I mean a person is by definition militant if they are suggesting that God drops the WTC as a judgement on the people inside the WTC.

    On a wider and more spiritual level, I’d say that militant might more properly defined as improperly applying the world’s way of fighting earthly battles to spiritual contexts. Scripture is clear that we are a world at war, but it’s equally clear that this battle is not the same sort-of battle as it’s secular counterparts. For example, our enemies are not men in this spiritual battle, and our weapons and armor are not made out of steel. I suppose it would be more accurate to descibe this as “Earthly-style-Militant” but that sounds quite clunky.
    I think that this definition works here because if God were an earthly general, and this war were a secular-style war, leveling the WTC is an act that would in some way make sense. However, God is not an earthly-style general. This war is not an earthly war. He does not operate in this way.


  3. The title of your post suits me just fine. It is grammatically correct. Language is there not to limit our expression, hopefully, but to expand it, else we are marching lockstep using Newspeak like the inhabitants of the world of “1984.”

    “There’s a feeling I don’t have a word for. It’s the mixture of disgust, embrassment, and indignation. I feel it most often when people claiming to follow Jesus engage in acts that are just so opposite to what Jesus is about.”

    You say you’re working on eliminating this complex of feelings you have when encountering Christians who engage in things that are opposite to what jesus is about.

    Don’t eliminate these feelings, brother. Jesus wouldn’t, Jesus doesn’t. If we follow Jesus and do and say and think and feel what we see him doing, hear him saying, perceive him thinking and feeling, as revealed in the gospels (including Revelation, which is a fifth gospel), then we are being disciples.

    A disciple cannot be greater than his master, so let’s be willing to follow Jesus, even into places of rejection and shame. We can’t be better than He is.

    “When God says not to take his name in vain, I have to believe that he was worried about more than people saying “Oh God” or even “God Damn it.” Somebody who claims that the World Trade Center’s fall is God’s judgement, they are triviliazing God’s love in a way much more profound than any exclamation ever could be.”

    You are right, brother, in this statement and in whatever else you mused in this post. The safest road is to follow Jesus and personally to do nothing we do not see Him doing in the gospels. Grab my meaning here, brother, and I think you do. I’m not saying don’t get married because he didn’t, but I am saying, don’t sin because he didn’t. I know that’s hard, but we can always try, knowing that it is in our power to begin an act of righteousness and only in His power to complete it in us.

    Stay with the gospel plough, and keep planting the good seed.
    Harvest time will come before you know it.


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