In his book The Younger Evangelicals, worship theologian and professor Robert Webber writes:
The younger evangelicals are marked in a very special way by the events of September 11, 2001. They know that the world will never be the same, that the ideals of prosperity and the hopes of a pre-September 11 world of peace will never happen. The rise of terror by militant fundamentalists is marking their world and creating an ideological battle of religions. Life will be marked by issues of peace and war, a new form of American patriotism, a wave of conservative political philosophy, and a more disciplined life. This cultural setting is radically different than the cultural setting of the post-World War II generation, which was resolved to rebuild their world, and of the post-sixties generation, which was bent on breaking from the past and asserting their freedom to reinvent ethics, religion, and the church.
The postmodern September 11, 2001 world has led to the recovery of the biblical understanding of human nature. The language of sin, evil, evildoers, and a reaffirmation of the deceit and wickedness of the human heart has once again emerged in our common vocabulary…
The younger evangelical approaches humanity with a more realistic and biblical assessment of our estrangement from God.
Though Webber wrote these words just several months after the attacks, his voice has a tinge of the prophetic to it. 9/11 happened, yes, and it just so happened to be a critical turning point for what he calls the Younger Evangelicals. According to his taxonomy, I fit into this category as a rare GenX/GenY line straddler. We are the ones who were fresh to the launch pad of career (the final years of high school/college and the first full time jobs) when this happened. It is a touchpoint of specific meaning for people who are now in their 30’s. We had hoped it will be the last drastic terror attack. It wasn’t. It’s still going on globally. But what about how this generation identifies in the church? Webber continues:
The younger evangelicals freely acknowledge that they differ with the pragmatist’s approach to ministry. [They are] not attracted to “showy worship and things that please my felt needs.”
Fascinating. My “felt needs” seems pretty shallow given the injustice and evil of the world. The needs are, sadly, more obvious than ever! I don’t think Webber is saying 9/11 caused this transition, but he certainly pinpoints the event that forced (or perhaps enabled) a paradigm shift that has considerable reach into our spiritual lives. The terror attacks became a tangible and universal expression of the kind of devastation sin brings to the world. Thanks be to God for His coming Kingdom, btw.
Today we observe the 16th September 11th since the first one of major significance. We can count on two things. First, the world is broken and sin has twisted everyone and everything. Second, Jesus is the King of a Kingdom that reaches and renews the broken world. Implication: this is the time to be the church, especially in a Post-9/11 world that knows evil incarnate in every memory of the planes, the jumping, the collapsing towers. This breaks the heart of the Father. He will not leave us in this situation forever. There is hope that affects us now: the Kingdom of God is here.