No religious elements will be included in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 9/11 commemoration service this Sunday. Quotations and poems will be read by a variety of leaders, and the list of 9/11 victims will be read in its entirety. Unfortunately, not a single prayer will be offered for the survivors of this tragedy, for our leaders, or for our nation. Nor will a single religious leader be included in the event.
The mayor’s decision is surprising, given his support for including the so-called Ground Zero Cross in the 9/11 Memorial and his defense of those who want to build a mosque and Muslim community center nearby. It might be difficult to decide who should be included, as is the case for most public events. But it is a mistake to allow no one to offer prayers or represent faith traditions at a ceremony for so many grieving families.
In response to the mayor’s decision, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren is planning a service at Lower Manhattan Community Church, a “daughter church” of Saddleback located two blocks from Ground Zero. The “Hope & Freedom” event will be webcast live. Manhattan pastor Ryan Holladay explained: “We want to give people an opportunity to process the anniversary from a spiritual perspective. It wasn’t just a national or civic tragedy, it was a spiritual tragedy.”
He is absolutely right. It is deeply troubling that the leader of our nation’s largest city apparently believes religion to be so inconsequential to our culture and problems. I cannot think of an event in recent history so indicative of America’s escalating secularism.
How should Christians respond? By viewing the mayor’s decision as a call to action. Christians are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14). Salt and light are powerful all out of proportion to their size. History proves that just a few of us can make an historic impact on our nation.
A small gathering of believers at Pentecost sparked the most powerful spiritual movement in history (Acts 2:1-12). An unknown German monk living in a remote village initiated the Protestant Reformation. A frontier preacher named Solomon Stoddard hosted prayer meetings that led to the First Great Awakening under the preaching of his grandson, Jonathan Edwards. The spiritual awakening currently winning more people to Christ than ever before in history began in war-torn South Korea 50 years ago.
What do these catalytic events have in common? They were led by people who were sold out to Jesus–men and women who were submitted to the Holy Spirit, grieving the secular state of their lost culture, determined to use their influence to serve their King.
Let’s join them.