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The September 11, 2001 attacks on America reveal what is often hidden to us about ourselves, writes Clay Jones, a professor at Biola University near Los Angeles.

“We are scared of our own mortality,” he writes. “We tend to call the 9/11 perpetrators ‘monsters’ and their acts ‘inhuman.’ We find that comforting because if they really were inhuman monsters, it lets the rest of us off the hook.

However, the horrors of almost 3,000 senseless murders of civilians “are precisely human,” writes Jones. “They indict all of humankind in a particular way.”

Isn’t that a rather depressing way to look it? Yes, admits Jones:

What remains is a central, deadening sense of despair over the human species. Where can one find an affirmative meaning in life if human beings can do such things? Along with this despair there may also come a desperate new feeling of vulnerability attached to the fact that one is human. If one keeps at the Holocaust long enough, then sooner or later the ultimate truth begins to reveal itself: one knows, finally, that one might either do it, or be done to. If it could happen on such a massive scale elsewhere, then it can happen anywhere.

Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel wrote, “Deep down… man is not only an executioner, not only a victim, not only a spectator: he is all three at once.” Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi agrees, “We must remember that these faithful followers, among them the diligent executors of human orders, were not born torturers, were not (with few exceptions) monsters: they were ordinary men.”

Likewise, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who suffered eight years in a Soviet gulag, asked: “Where did this wolf-tribe appear from among our people? Does it really stem from our own roots? Our own blood?”

It is our own.

You see, as C.S. Lewis has pointed out, the real horror of war isn’t that people die. War doesn’t increase the mortality rate even one percent—everyone dies. The real horror of war is that death stares us in the face and reminds us of our ultimate destination. After all, only one thing is going to prevent absolutely every one of us from watching everyone we know die from murder, accident, or disease and that will be our own death from murder, accident, or disease.

Endless entertainment, whether of sports, sitcoms, or surfing the net, may amuse and distract us. Drugs and alcohol might blur the horror. But ultimately, the ugly truth keeps coming back—we are all going to die. And we are all going to die as beings 9/11-enabled!

These are just raw facts about humankind—true for atheist and Christian alike. But if we only stare into the face of our own corruptibility and mortality, despair is inevitable.

Who could ever hope again? Thus the liturgy-like rituals of patriotic bereavement seem incomplete.

And what is Clay’s point? Without Jesus, we are without hope, he concludes:

We needed someone from outside this world to rescue us, and that’s why many of us look to Calvary.

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