David Stokes

It was a picture perfect day—but not for long. Sunshine and light breezes quickly gave way to the harsh winds of war. In a moment the world changed. In a moment we all changed. But now, nine years later, have we learned the lesson of September 11, 2001?

Recent events have reminded us of the potent polarity of the ideology responsible for egregious horror. While some plan for a mosque at Ground Zero, a deranged man of the cloth garners global attention way above his pay grade—or I.Q., for that matter. And both of these unconnected stories speak to the larger issue.

Building a mosque near Ground Zero is a dumb idea. So is burning the Koran. Yes, I know that the guy has now backed off from that. It’s a story with twists and oddities in abundance. But it’s the reaction to both stories that interests me as we mark the ninth anniversary of that day of infamy.

The loudest voices condemning the Reverend Terry Jones were Christians—lay people and clergy. This is because Christianity, in spite of the occasional excesses of the delusional, has a history of setting its own house in order. Yet, whenever the violence perpetrated in the name of Islam is profiled, there is a predictable knee-jerk reaction about the supposed violence and excesses done in the name of Christianity.

Yes, of course, there have been cases in history of some quite un-Christian things being done in the name of the faith, but not as many as some would have us to believe. In fact, the evil done in the name of Islam is exponentially more pronounced than any bad thing ever done in the name of Christianity.

Here’s the salient point—such things were done long ago—as in hundreds of years ago. Christians don’t do that stuff anymore. Not even crazy ones. Sure, there were witch-hunts a few hundred years ago, but Christians have long since rejected such methodology. In effect, we grew out of it. We cleaned up our own house.

While many Muslims believe and act as if we are still living in the seventh century or fighting the Crusades, Christians long ago put away the sword (in fact, the sword really wasn’t a big part of any Christian movement—ever). And when the occasional nut forgets to take his meds and starts acting out fanatically, mainstream Christians representing a cross-section of denominations and doctrinal viewpoints rise up and say: “Knock it off! You don’t speak for us!”

I mean, is some nut with 30 congregants in Florida quantifiably equivalent to several hundred thousand Muslims marching in the streets in places like Pakistan yesterday, burning American flags? Seriously?

We have witnessed Christian people repudiating Rev. Jones, while we see no such repudiation from any so-called “moderate” Muslims when it comes to standing against massive protests abroad. Why is this so? In my opinion, it is because we have not learned the basic lesson of September 11, 2001. That lesson is simply this: The enemy is an ideology—a pernicious and poisonous ideology. That ideology is Islamism. It is what caused the attacks that fateful day and it is why we have been fighting ever since. And all attempts to frame the issues without that simple core truth result in frustration, fear, and potential failure.

We have heard for years about “moderate Muslims.” Well, it’s time for this supposed (and I think non-existent) “silent majority” to rise up and speak out. They should be the ones leading the charge against those who practice hate and violence in the name of their religion. If the “moderate Muslims” don’t do so—it is ipso facto proof that there aren’t as many of them as we have been led (or deceived) to believe.

When Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf warns that relocating the proposed Cordoba House Mosque would create headlines in the Muslim world claiming Islam is under attack (and the unspoken, but clear threat this implies), he is showing himself to be a Machiavellian Muslim. And this speaks to the utter foolishness of the powers that be in New York City to allow this thing to move forward in the first place.

The Cordoba Initiative has always been about the symbolism of conflict and conquest.

Even the governmental pressure put on the loon in Florida who wanted to burn Korans was framed by fear—our soldiers would be in harm’s way, etc. Of course, this is true—but would FDR’s administration have used a heavy hand on someone who wanted to publicly burn Mein Kampf because of potential Nazi reprisals over there?

Of course, even mentioning Hitler’s tortured tome in the same paragraph as the Koran will be seen by some as inherently provocative—and maybe it is. But the simple fact is that books are filled with ideas that fuel ideology. In the final analysis, all such writings rise or fall on the merit of what they espouse—and the best books do not need anyone’s protection. The rest are “as the flower that fades.”

As I reflect this weekend about the events of nine years ago and the period since, I am drawn to another time and place. Nearly 74 years ago, as ominous storm clouds of war formed over Europe, Great Britain was trying to figure it all out. Most leaders were of the mind that the best way to avoid war was to—well—avoid war. And the best way to fight an evil ideology was to apply interchangeable doses of appeasement and flattery.

Then there was Winston.

Mr. Churchill spoke during one of the many debates in the House of Commons about the emerging threat of Nazism—this one in November of 1936. Though a virtual political pariah at the moment, Winston nevertheless felt compelled to take his own party to task for—to use a Margaret Thatcher-ism—“wobbly” leadership at a crucial time. He said:

“So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.” He then added that what this all amounted to was more time “for the locusts to eat.”

That locust reference was from a Biblical passage, “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” (Joel 2:2) In other words, instead of a crop of resolve and tools for the inevitable battle to come, the nation was faced with a wasted period of desolation.

Sadly, I think Churchill’s words apply very well to our current situation in America. Yes, we started out nine years ago with resolve and conviction, but in fact, the past few years have been devoured by the locusts of caution and compromise.


David Stokes

David R. Stokes is a best-selling author, pastor, columnist, and broadcaster. His latest book is a novel: CAPITOL LIMITED: A Story about John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Based on a true story, it's about a unique moment in 1947, when Kennedy and Nixon shared