Days later, prominent conservative Christian leaders--including Focus on the Family president James Dobson, Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright, and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson-- issued a remarkably similar statement, imploring Americans to "repent" for their sins. Prayer is needed, they said, so that "God will restore the walls of his protection around our nation."
The discussion conjures both excitement and dread. On one hand, these believers seem delighted that a divine plan appears to be unfolding. With this horrific event, they believe, God has shown them the world is so evil that it is closer than ever to the end of human history--which means they will spend eternity with God. Yet they also believe God is punishing Americans for disobeying His commandments, which makes them fearful. That gives rise to their urgent need to stave off destruction through prayer, fasting, scolding, and trying to convert people to Christianity.
"There's a scrambling to interpret these events right now," says Daniel Wojcik, author of The End of the World As We Know It and an English professor at the University of Oregon. "The United States turning away from God in the end times is the standard jeremiad, reprimanding us for not being as religious as we should be. So this kind of tragedy is part of a larger scenario, a larger script. People believe it's part of God's plan for the redemption of the world. Some Christians will make meaning of it that way. They will say that we're just a step closer to the rapture and the battle for the world."
And sure enough, Bible prophecy books are "selling like hotcakes," according to Lynn Garrett, religion editor at Publishers' Weekly. Thomas Nelson books, one of the largest Christian publishers, is re-releasing an April 2001 book by San Antonio mega-pastor and Bible prophecy author John Hagee called The Battle for Jerusalem. Hagee is writing two new chapters, and the book will be re-titled Attack on America: New York, Jerusalem and the Role of Terrorism in the Last Days.