In 20 years, a child should grow from infancy to adulthood. From helplessness to competence. But in the two decades since that grievous Tuesday in September, an America that should be wise to the ways of evil seems in many respects to have taken a leap backward. The abject failure of leadership in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 makes for a tragic bookend to the war thrust upon us in 2001.
While the Biden administration's focus this past week was upon sweeping vaccine mandates, it can't distract from the lessons these past 20 years -- and those of even more recent days -- have taught us about the nature of evil and how we as a people should respond to it. The clash of worldviews that separate us from the terrorist-harboring Taliban is little different today than it was on September 11, 2001. But as Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin told Tony Perkins on "Washington Watch," the past 20 years have seen significant change for the Taliban:
"So what has changed? [The Taliban has] been emboldened. They've had 20 years to develop new technology. They've had 20 years to develop new techniques. And they've held school on us during the 20 years that we were fighting there to determine what our attitudes are, not just our physical vulnerabilities, our military vulnerabilities, but our mental and emotional vulnerabilities. And they've pretty well figured us out. So they're stronger today, not only because we just gave them [billions'] worth of equipment. But because they have watched us, they've been around us. They understand us much better and that gives them a distinct advantage now."
For Boykin, the top three things that need to be corrected if we're to retain or regain credibility among our allies and our enemies lost in our failed exit of Afghanistan are, "Leadership, leadership, leadership." It all boils down to a crisis of leadership that's not happening now in the places that require it. "...We've got to have leadership at every level, and that certainly includes the commander in chief. And now today we look at our secretary of defense as well as our chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And we ask ourselves -- at least we should ask ourselves -- are these two men up for the job? My answer to that is no."
Not only is better leadership needed to mature us as a nation, but for us to flourish, our trust cannot be in the false gods of this world. Pastor Carter Conlon of Times Square Church was in New York on 9/11, and warns that just like in 2001, this is no time for Christians to be unprepared:
"There's something on the horizon that is very, very dark, and we're going to have to in our hearts, get ready to face it. First of all, we need to get back to the focus that the purpose of the Christian life is not to live for ourselves, which has been, in my estimation, a grave miscalculation of the church in America for the last two decades. We're not here to live for ourselves -- we're here to live for the benefit of others. And if we can get away from self-focus and get back to the actual work of God on the Earth, then suddenly we will find a strength that only the Holy Spirit can give us. And we will not be living any longer just to preserve ourselves, but living for the sake of those who, without a witness of Christ and without the hand of God coming to them through his church don't have any hope for the future."
As we've seen in recent weeks, true, lasting hope for the future won't be found in presidential power or political posturing. For those of us who follow Christ, it's a posture of humility before God, and a willingness to see the truth and speak it boldly in love that will shine light upon our only great hope. As the apostle Paul said, "He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again." (2 Corinthians 1:10, ESV) If we are to have that hope, the missing shadow of the Twin Towers can only be replaced by the shadow of the cross.