It is impossible to describe how our nation has changed after 9/11. Though America survived and freedom still reigns, it is fair to say that our innocence was destroyed as surely as were the two towers. It is fitting today on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 to ask, “How, then, do we live — with constant reminders that evil still lurks?”
There is a relevant passage from the Old Testament Book of Haggai. Haggai 1:2-6 describes God telling the people that it is time to rebuild the Lord’s House. I believe that Haggai has a contemporary message for us on this day: it is time to build an impermeable boundary around our Judeo-Christian values and priorities. Otherwise, forces of destruction will penetrate through our walls of protection and destroy everything that we hold dear.
I did not know until I visited Ground Zero that deep in the pit, there is a “Slurry Wall” — a gigantic bathtub-like structure that is more than 3 thousand feet around. This bathtub, though, wasn’t designed to hold water in; this structure was designed to keep water out. Specifically, it was designed to keep the Hudson River out.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center were constructed on the lower end of Manhattan Island where the Hudson River forms the border on the West side. That location poses some almost insurmountable problems. The mean rate of tidal flow (incoming from the ocean twice a day) at Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan is 425,000 cubic feet per second. That much water weights over 25.5 million pounds! The incoming tide raises the water level around 5 feet. Imagine trying to build a foundation to shore up two 110-story towers in that geographical spot with those kinds of pressures exerting that much force!
Yet, even though the World Trade Center towers above it collapsed, the 30-year-old slurry wall held firm against all that pressure! The attacks of 9/11, stretched the wall some places; some places leaked, some places leaned ominously, some places cracked, but the wall still stands.
George Tamaro, an engineer who specializes in underground structures, built the slurry wall structure in the late 1960s. Tamaro’s creation is built with steel rods reinforcing the concrete wall, seven stories deep, and three-feet-thick. The wall is anchored solidly to bedrock at literally hundreds of places and each anchor is able to withstand 300 tons of pressure.
Tamaro is called the “voice of engineering reality,” an important distinction because engineering must be based on reality. Transient styles or fads don’t make a solid foundation.
What is the lesson for us today? We don’t have the freedom to build our lives any way we want. If our lives are to be strong enough to withstand the pressures that will inevitably come, we can’t follow every current fad and contemporary trend. We must understand the pressures that we will face and grasp the realities of what it will take to endure them without being destroyed.
God the “Rock of our salvation” provides our bedrock foundation and the Bible provides the anchors that we can embed in that solid rock. It is up to us to put those Judeo-Christian anchors solidly in place and build the slurry walls – including strong steel reinforcements — around those things that are most precious.
The slurry wall at Ground Zero was solid concrete (70 feet deep and 3 feet wide). But the slurry wall had the additional reinforcement of steel rods. Picture our logical processes as the steel rods that reinforce our concrete walls of solid information and data. In order to be productive citizens and strong Christian opinion leaders, we need a solid foundation of knowledge and information that will withstand lots of pressure. Information alone, though, won’t be enough for what we will face in the years ahead. We also need the reinforcement of figurative steel rods – logic and understanding; we must rigorously train our minds so that we can think our way clearly through controversial intellectual issues. We need to learn to think, to discern and to develop wisdom. We do not have the option of floating through the debates without thinking through our stances on issues; the outcomes of these historic controversies will affect us personally and affect the world that we live in and raise our children in.
The intellectual controversies that we face are equaled only by the religious revisionism that is swirling in our churches and in our public squares. I was at a religious feminist conference several years ago when a student asked a seminar leader how to reconcile some inconsistencies between various beliefs that had been discussed. The seminar leader, an eminent theology professor at a prestigious university, seriously advised the student “to make it fit what you believe.” And, that is, too often, the approach people take — don’t seek Truth; shape reality to make it fit what you believe. Often today, we are told that it doesn’t matter “what” you believe. There are no boundaries, no authorities, and no demands. Pick what feels good to you and go with it
Such attitudes are a far cry from the basic Biblical beliefs that are the anchors that hold us to the bedrock foundation of our Christian faith. When we say to Almighty God that we are going to call the shots and decide for ourselves what is true, we loose all the anchors that hold us to the solid rock. I have observed one very important fact. There is remarkable variety in the way people succeed. But, there is a distressing sameness in the ways they fail. Inevitably, people fail because they are unwilling to “bend the knee” to acknowledge God’s authority and omnipotence. Sadly too, our nation will fail if it is unwilling to acknowledge and rely upon the authority and omnipotence of God.