I sincerely regret that comments I made during a theological discussion on a Christian television program were taken out of their context and reported, and that my thoughts--reduced to sound bites--have detracted from the spirit of this time of mourning.
Like most Americans, I watched the September 11 tragedy unfold on television. I immediately called our Liberty University family of thousands together for prayer at 2 p.m. on the day of the attacks.
On Wednesday, one day later, I led the Thomas Road Church in another call to prayer for America. On Friday, September 14th, President Bush invited me to join him, his family and administration and 3,000 others to the National Cathedral for a special Day of Prayer and Remembrance, where we asked God for His comfort, protection and wisdom. Since then, by television and radio, I have attempted to call together millions of people throughout this nation and around the world in remembering all those who died, and praying for our nation, the victims of this barbarism, and their loved ones.
On Sunday, September 16, the Thomas Road Baptist Church, where I have served as pastor for 45 years, gathered thousands of dollars for the families of New York firefighters. Our members also gathered a huge collection of tools, clothing and other materials for the New York rescue and recovery efforts.
My statements on the "700 Club" on Thursday, September 14th, were called divisive by some whom I mentioned by name. I had no intention of being divisive. I was sharing my burden for revival in America on a Christian TV program, intending to speak to a Christian audience from a theological perspective about the need for national repentance. In retrospect, I should have mentioned the national sins without mentioning the organizations and persons by name.
I stated the deep concerns of millions of American evangelicals over America's sharp spiritual decline during the past generation. Over 40 million unborn babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade.
I was asking a Christian audience on a Christian TV program to claim II Chronicles 7:14 and repent. I was calling upon the church to heed Proverbs 14:34, which says in paraphrase, "Living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness; violating those principles brings a nation to shame."
I was blaming no one but the terrorists for the terror, but I was chastising us, the Church, for a generation of departure from God. I was doing what I have done for nearly 50 years in the pulpit--confronting the culture and calling for national revival.
My mistake on the "700 Club" was doing this at the time I did it, on television, where a secular media and audience were also listening. And as I enumerated the sins of an unbelieving culture, because of very limited time on the "700 Club," I failed to point the finger at a sleeping, prayerless and carnal church. We believers must also acknowledge our sins, repent, and fast and pray for national revival.
We are all involved in a very sensitive period of national mourning. We are closing ranks and coming together in a time of great loss, as we are also facing the likelihood of imminent war.
And if, in that crucial context, my statements seemed harsh and ill- timed, I truly regret this and apologize.
But, I repeat, I blame no one but the hijackers and terrorists for the horrific happenings of September 11. But I do believe God's protection of us as individuals and as a nation is dependent upon our obedience to His laws.
We must pray for our President
I was eight years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked, December 7, 1941. I was 30 on the day JFK was assassinated, November 22, 1963. I will never forget either day. And most Americans alive today will never forget September 11, 2001, when Osama bin La-den's barbarians brought war to America, something that had not occurred since 1812.
The suicide attacks brought an end to 189 years of peace on American soil. President Bush calls our present national dilemma "the first war of the 21st Century." I agree with him. We are clearly at war with Islamic zealots who are committed to the extinction of Israel, and hate America because we love and protect Israel. This new war is not unlike our involvement in World War II when we devoted four years of unbelievable human and military resources into the effort of wiping Nazism from the face of the earth.
Osama bin Laden and his ilk hate the Jews just as Adolph Hitler hated the Jews. The Abrahamic Covenant makes it abundantly apparent that we must never retreat from our unswerving devotion to Israel. So, our present national mandate is clear. We must wipe this new ungodly and brutal terrorism from the earth. And we must not stop until the bin Ladens, like Hitler, are extinct.
Now, we must immerse him with our prayers. Paul said in I Timothy 2:1-4, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
Three days after the attacks, president Bush declared a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance on September 14. The president, much of his administration, most of the Congress, the nation's military leadership, former presidents, and hundreds of other national leaders filled the National Cathedral on that special day. I was honored to be present and to hear President Bush open his heart to the nation. He asked for our prayers. Dr. Billy Graham and other clergymen challenged Americans to come together and support our beloved and godly leader.
"Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us the symbols of the Cross," Dr. Graham said. "For the Christian--I'm speaking for the Christian now--the Cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for He took them upon Himself in the person of Jesus Christ our sins and our suffering. And from the Cross, God declares, 'I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pains that you feel. But I love you.'
"The story does not end with the Cross," Dr. Graham continued, "for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the Cross to the empty tomb that tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil and death, and hell."
Yes, there is hope. I know I share the thoughts of many when I say that Dr. Graham's finest moment for God may have been that moment when he boldly proclaimed the Gospel as a distraught nation of soul searchers intently listened to his message.
May God use Dr. Graham's words--as well as the words, prayers and deeds of His followers--to bring untold numbers to Him during the weeks to come.
God's children must not fail our Lord, our nation or our president. Let us build a protective hedge about President Bush and ceaselessly ask God to grant him the wisdom he will need for the awesome task ahead.