The Real Spiritual Impact of 9/11

Americans don't go to church more often now, but 9/11 was still one of the most important spiritual moments in recent history.

Continued from page 4

Then Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, described Islam as a "wicked, violent" religion--and the floodgates broke open. A steady parade of conservative Christians followed. Criticizing Islam itself - as opposed to "Islamic fundamentalists" or terrorists - went from being taboo to acceptable to downright popular in conservative circles, including influential secular figures like William Bennett, Gary Bauer, and Anne Coulter. Significantly, President Bush has apparently decided not to counter this overwhelming criticism against Islam.

At the same time, it should be said, the defenders of Islam probably way overstated their case by repeatedly asserting that Islam is a "religion of peace." Clearly, the Qur'an, like the Bible, includes passages that can be used to justify violence. Many Islam defenders, failing to acknowledge that initially, may have lost credibility.

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Evangelicals Got a Dramatic New Cause

One sector of Americans--conservative evangelical Christians--views the attack in starkly different terms than the rest of the country. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were mocked when they blamed the attack son America's misdeeds but they were expressing a sentiment with some broad appeal.

Evangelicals are also more likely to view this as a sign of the apocalypse or end times. As Beliefnet member Dicks77 put it: "I admit, as I saw Manhatten in flames from across the river in NJ, the scripture came immediately to mind: Revelation 18:9 - 'When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: 'Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!'' Makes you think, at least."

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Just as important, evangelicals increasingly view the battle against Islam as the defining article of their faith--on the same level of importance as fighting abortion or communism was during the Cold War.

Fighting Islam--or, more to the point, converting Muslims--had been a major Christian cause even prior to 9/11. The Southern Baptist Convention four years ago reorganized its International Missions Board to focus on the part of the world where Muslims live. That year, the Convention published a guide for use when praying for the conversion of Muslims. This year, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary even created a master's degree program to help students minister to Muslims. Some called this the "10/40 Movement", a reference to the latitude and longitude of the Middle Eastern and Asian parts of the world with biggest Muslim population.

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