September 2011

9/11 and True Adventism

Without a doubt, the aerial attack on the Twin Towers in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, was one of the most impactful and far-reaching tragedies in modern times.  The ineffable visual of charcoal billows emanating from gaping apertures in the slim steel skyscrapers still haunts millions of psyches a decade later.  The thousands of innocent dead and the residual trauma their deaths visited upon relatives, friends, and the wider nation and world are immeasurable.  Also incalculable are the casualties of the warfare, hostilities, panic, depression, terror and stresses that all congregated to form a nightmarish sequelae to the dark morning of 9/11.

In the United States, Americans’ immediate reactions to the attacks were varied.  Many wept. Many despaired. Many fretted. Many were paralyzed. Some doubted.  Some gawked. Some rejoiced. Some hid.

The reactions among Seventh-day Adventists in the United States undoubtedly mirrored those of their fellow citizens, but with an important twist.  Adventists experienced the pain and distress from loss of human lives and the extensive mayhem that the attacks wrought, but saw more: the spiritual ramifications of such unbridled malevolence.  Specifically, 9/11 was an omen of the end of the world, a day that ushered in almost universal terror, incessant warfare, economic turmoil and fractious hatred.

But a group of young people from a small college in Huntsville, Alabama, truly reflected the spirit of Adventism in their response to 9/11.  No sooner had the commandeered planes connected to the steel and glass of One World Trade Center than Dr. Anthony Paul and a dozen students from a group called the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation (NAPS) at Oakwood University filed into cars and drove 24 hours non-stop to New York City with no other plan than to be there and do whatever they could for those suffering. 

Upon NAPS's arrival, after miraculously being allowed in to the cordoned-off perimeters marking the devastation, the Oakwoodites marched, played music, hugged, and prayed for the disconsolate amid the unspeakable backdrop of smoke and rubble and death.  Quietly, humbly, but with dignity and courage, the youth of NAPS showed a world in unspeakable pain not only what Adventism was really about, but what the heart of Jesus was really about.

As time progresses and calamity and devastation mount--which they inevitably will--Seventh-day Adventists are in a prime position to be frontrunners in alleviating and ministering to the precious people ravaged by nature and humanity's caprice.  Adventists are in such a position simply because of the good news they have been mercifully entrusted with of a Savior who loves and cares, a Savior who is right now laying the careful foundation for a glorious and final termination of suffering, destruction, misery and death.  It is this realization that spurs God’s people to help with hope, to assist with assurance, to minister with a message.    

-Benjamin Baker