The Days of the Dead
September 11, 2001, was, in many respects, a rather ordinary day. I began the day working at my desk, writing. But my plans quickly changed. Many of us spent hours staring not at our computer screens but at our television screens. We were stunned, staggered, overcome with disbelief.
But others still managed to put in a full day’s work. American business continued on. American culture, though shocked, continued on. We were dismayed, terrorized, but we kept on. Because the business of America is business, we kept going.
Among those keeping on, having productive days, were those who brutally murdered more than three thousand innocent people. It was all in a day’s work for them — an ordinary day’s work. The police were there, representing the full force and power of the government, protecting these men. On September 10, 2001, these men also took more than three thousand innocent human lives. On September 12, they did the same. Today, ten years later, they are still about their grisly work of butchering babies. Today, more than three thousand will die. Just like yesterday, and like tomorrow. That Muslim terrorists took more than three thousand lives on one day causes us to wring our hands, to weep and mourn, to implore heaven for answers. That abortionists do the same each and every day doesn’t even register with us. It is business as usual. Today it is happening again. It was Joseph Stalin who cynically quipped that one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic. He touched on a hard truth. We have a finite amount of compassion, a finite ability to enter into the suffering of others. It is the diabolical art of the propagandist to tap into and direct our compassion for his own purposes. What happened on September 11, 2001, was reprehensible, tragic, evil — a vile, unprovoked attack on civilians. We need not diminish this evil in order to better see the evil of every day. Neither, however, can we let that momentary evil distract us from everyday evil. We cannot, in fact, allow the evening news to establish our priorities, the shape of our thinking.
My fear, however, is that the stunning gap between the time and energy Christians have devoted to 9/11 and the amount of energy we don’t devote to the evil of abortion is not a function ultimately of television’s priorities. Neither is it, I fear, due to the very ordinariness of abortion. My fear is that we are at ease about abortion and up in arms about militant Islam because, having already been born, we are not afraid of abortion while we are afraid of terrorist attacks. Our outrage is doled out not on the basis of the moral evil but on the basis of how likely we are to be victims. When others are in danger, we murmur about what a shame it is and move on. When the target is on our own backs, that’s when we know that something must be done.
The evil of abortion, then, isn’t just something out there, something sinister abortionists and ignorant women are guilty of. We’re all guilty. The evil that drives terrorism and the evil that drives the abortion industry is the same evil that drives us to be more concerned for our own safety than for the least of these.
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount reminds us of at least three important truths. First, God is intimately involved in the smallest details of life. The hairs on our heads are numbered, and indeed it is He who knit us together in the womb. Second, God cares about the littlest things. He controls all things precisely because all things matter to Him. Because all things exist for the sake of the one thing — His glory — there are no small things. If He cares for the sparrows, and He does, how much more does He care for each of us, even those who are yet unborn?
The third point is a little more difficult. Jesus doesn’t tell us that because God is concerned about everything, we can therefore be assured that He is concerned with what concerns us. Instead, He tells us that because God is concerned about everything, we are called to be concerned with what concerns Him. He is to set our agenda, not the world around us. The problem, rightly understood, with Muslim extremists isn’t that they kill us. The problem is they go to hell when they die. The problem with abortion isn’t that those involved in that grisly trade are so wicked but that we are so wicked. The solution, then, is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
We weep like the Pharisees prayed — to be seen by men. We contort our faces over one evil while we smile our way through the greater evil. We wring our hands over Islam and its bloody scimitar. We fail to notice the blood on our own hands and the bloody scalpels in our midst. One day we remember. Every other day we forget. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereunto. May He daily grant us the grace to see the evil, to repent, and to seek His kingdom, His righteousness.
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