A response to Rabbi Kushner’s comments on the Sept 11th attacks
Rabbi Kushner wrote this after 9-11. I’d like to analyze it in some detail as I think it lulls many people into a false wimpy view of God.
First here’s Kushner’s original article.
Where was your God on September 11, 2001
by Rabbi Kushner
How many of us have heard that question “Where was your GOD when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was attacked?” Well I know where my GOD was the morning of September 11, 2001, GOD was very busy!
God was trying to discourage anyone from taking these flights. Those four flights together held over 1000 passengers and there were only 266 aboard.
GOD was on 4 commercial flights giving terrified passengers the ability to stay calm. Not one of the family members who were called by a loved one on one of the high-jacked [sic] planes said that passengers were screaming in the background. On one of the flights GOD was giving strength to passengers to try to overtake the highjackers [sic].
GOD was busy trying to create obstacles for employees at the World Trade Center. After all, only around 20,000 were at the towers when the first jet hit. Since the buildings held over 50,000 workers, this was a Miracle in itself. How many of the people who were employed at the World Trade Center told the media that they were late for work or they had traffic delays.
GOD was holding up 2-110 story buildings so that 2/3 of the workers could get out. I was so amazed that the top of the towers didn’t topple when the jets impacted. And when they did fall, they fell inward. GOD didn’t allow them to topple over, as many more lives would have been lost.
And when the buildings went down, my GOD picked up almost 6,000 children and carried them home. Reassuring frightened children that the worst was over and the best was yet to come.
GOD sat down and cried that 19 children could have so much hate in their hearts. That they didn’t choose GOD, but another god that doesn’t exist, and now they are lost forever.
GOD sent his children that are best trained for this disaster and had them save the few that were still alive, but unable to help themselves. And then sent many others to help in anyway they were needed.
GOD still isn’t finished though, GOD held the love ones that were left behind in his/her arms. GOD comforts them daily. GOD’s other children are given the strength to reach out to them and help them in any way they can.
And I believe GOD will continue to help us in what is to come. GOD will give the people in charge of this great nation the strength and the wisdom to do the right thing. GOD would never leave us in our time of need.
So when anyone asks, “Where was your GOD on September 11”, you can say “everywhere”! And yes, although this is without a doubt the worst thing I have seen in my life, I see God’s miracles in every bit of it. I keep praying for those who don’t believe in GOD, every chance I have. I can’t imagine going through such a difficult time and not believing in GOD. Life would be hopeless!
My not so humble response to Rabbi Kushner
Sadly most people read this seemingly sweet, touching and reassuring explanation and seem satisfied and warmed by it. But the minute we think about this using our mind and not our emotions we see the inherent dangers of this Theology. May I show you how this fails and how the correct Theology is so much more powerful and reassuring.
We’ll take a few of his paragraphs and analyze them.
“How many of us have heard that question “Where was your GOD when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was attacked?” Well I know where my GOD was the morning of September 11, 2001, GOD was very busy!
God was trying to discourage anyone from taking these flights. Those four flights together held over 1000 passengers and there were only 266 aboard.”
First we must understand, the hijackers actually chose a Tuesday when the flights would be the least full. They did this because they knew that it would be a lot easier to control 50 passengers with box cutters than 250 passengers with box cutters.
Secondly let’s discuss God “trying” to discourage people. If God was really trying to discourage people as Kushner claims, why didn’t he succeed in discouraging everyone including the pilots, in which case United would have probably had to cancel the flight. In fact while God was at it, couldn’t he have created a simple mechanical failure that would have grounded these 4 flights completely or had a weather pattern that forced the planes to sit on the tarmac and finally return to the gates? Or why didn’t God create four small fuel leaks that would have forced the planes to run out of fuel while they were over farmland?
This means that either God was
a) Unable to discourage enough people including the pilots or
b) Too stupid to think of the mechanical failure idea or the fuel leak idea when plan “A” failed.
Kushner continues: “GOD was on 4 commercial flights giving terrified passengers the ability to stay calm. Not one of the family members who were called by a loved one on one of the high-jacked [sic] planes said that passengers were screaming in the background. On one of the flights GOD was giving strength to passengers to try to overtake the highjackers[sic].”
It does occur to me that if all the passengers on all the flights had freaked out and made enough of a fuss, beating and pounding on the cockpit doors, throwing things at the hijackers, doing things like opening exit doors mid-flight, all the four planes may have crashed long before they got to their destinations. The truth of the matter is that the “calmness” of the passengers was actually their and our undoing. It allowed 3 sets of the 4 cowardly murderers to complete their destructive mission without impediment.
Kushner then says: “GOD was busy trying to create obstacles for employees at the World Trade Center. After all, only around 20,000 were at the towers when the first jet hit. Since the buildings held over 50,000 workers, this was a Miracle in itself. How many of the people who were employed at the World Trade Center told the media that they were late for work or they had traffic delays.”
This paragraph is really a continuation of the first few paragraphs and deserves the same answer. Rabbi Kushner’s “God” was “trying” to create obstacles. Why didn’t this God do something simple like create a water leak in both towers in the WTC at 8 am in the morning, such that they evacuated everyone except perhaps the plumbers. What if these plumbers then were on the lower floors when the planes hit the towers, so they were able to make it out safely? Surely God could have thought of that before I did. Or an even simpler solution would have been to have a small fire in the power distribution center of the WTC which would have disabled all the elevators and all the air conditioning so that everybody would have gotten to work in the morning and have been told to go home till it was all sorted out. The planes would then have hit the empty towers reducing the casualties.
But the real question is why was God unable to create enough obstacles to stop everyone from being near or in the towers?
Kushner again: “GOD was holding up 2-110 story buildings so that 2/3 of the workers could get out. I was so amazed that the top of the towers didn’t topple when the jets impacted. And when they did fall, they fell inward. GOD didn’t allow them to topple over, as many more lives would have been lost.”
First we should understand that the towers were specifically designed NOT to topple in case a Jumbo Jet accidentally struck them. Instead what happened was that the towers crumbled from within. Thus making mute the concept of ever toppling. The real question is why did God even allow the Towers to crumble? Couldn’t He have held the towers up long enough for EVERYONE to escape if he had wanted to? Why didn’t God make it so the planes only crashed into the towers and everyone on all the other floors were able to escape. Or even better, why didn’t God inspire the architect of the towers back in the 70’s to foresee the crumbling and to build them such that they wouldn’t have crumbled on themselves at all.
Kushner: “And when the buildings went down, my GOD picked up almost 6,000 children and carried them home. Reassuring frighten children that the worst was over and the best was yet to come.”
We now know that the number is closer to 3300, but at the time we all thought it was over 6000. But the point is that I believe that Rabbi Kushner is saying that 6000 people went to heaven that day. Unfortunately I wish that was true, but unfortunately the Bible tells us that we have to be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven. I’ll tell you the greatest tragedy in all this. It’s not the Christians who died in the attacks. We weep for their families who will miss them. But they are in heaven and will be reunited with their families one day. The great tragedy is in those who died not knowing our Lord and Savior for they will face eternal judgment. This could hardly be surmised as the “best being yet to come”. And we would be doing everybody a terrible disservice if we pretended that everything will be hunky dory when in fact it isn’t. That’s like telling people who have a curable disease, not to worry about it. When we should in fact be giving them the medicine for it. How cruel would that be.
Kushner: GOD sat down and cried that 19 children could have so much hate in their hearts. That they didn’t choose GOD, but another god that doesn’t exist, and now they are lost forever.
Why didn’t God make those 19 hateful children have a terrible accident the day of the attack, such that they were paralyzed and couldn’t move. Why are they lost forever? What constitutes loss? What in Rabbi Kushner’s moral economy justifies a God sending anyone to be “lost” forever? Here’s another tough question, why did the 19 hijackers deserve to be lost forever but none of the “6000 children that were carried home”.
Kushner: “GOD sent his children that are best trained for this disaster and had them save the few that were still alive, but unable to help themselves. And then sent many others to help in anyway they were needed.”
Actually this is an interesting statement and just nitpicking. But I have to say it. First why would anyone who wasn’t trained to help go to help? I’m puzzled about this? I can’t imagine all the hairdressers saying. Hey, let’s go down there and enter the burning building. Of course the best trained went. Who else would go? Secondly this is a double-edged sword, because the best trained who went had the buildings collapse on them. Why didn’t God prevent the “best trained” from making it in the building. Had he delayed them till after the towers fell, all those best trained may still be alive.
Kushner: “GOD still isn’t finished though, GOD held the love ones that were left behind in his/her arms. GOD comforts them daily. GOD’s other children are given the strength to reach out to them and help them in any way they can.
And I believe GOD will continue to help us in what is to come. GOD will give the people in charge of this great nation the strength and the wisdom to do the right thing. GOD would never leave us in our time of need.”
I find this to be very interesting statement from a Jewish person. Does Rabbi Kushner feel that God left his ancestors in their time of need when the kings of Babylon and Persia came and dragged them to their exile in the Old Testament. Does he feel that God left his uncles and aunts when they were being annihilated by Hitler in the 1940’s? Was not that their time of need? Obviously it was. Secondly what is the value of a God who is unable to stop bad things being with us? Is he there merely to hold our hands as we are killed? All the while vainly wishing that his creation would not be so “naughty” and “evil?”
Kushner: “So when anyone asks, “Where was your GOD on September 11”, you can say “everywhere”! And yes, although this is without a doubt the worst thing I have seen in my life, I see God’s miracles in every bit of it. I keep praying for those who don’t believe in GOD, every chance I have. I can’t imagine going through such a difficult time and not believing in GOD. Life would be hopeless!”
The final questions is: Why? Why is Rabbi Kushner praying? If his God is unable to stop planes from hitting the WTC, unable to stop 19 men from choosing evil, unable to stop people from going to work and dying? Then what exactly are we praying to this God for? It is of no use to pray to a God for those who don’t believe in that God, because that same God is unable to do anything about it. So what good is it praying? All we have is a god of feeble ineffective good intentions and platitudes. So why is Rabbi Kushner wasting his time praying at all? That’s what I’d like to know.
In summary I am saying that Rabbi Kushner’s God is not a God, but rather a very weak politician (Lord Chamberlain comes to mind) running around asking feebly for cooperation (from Hitler in the ‘good’ Lord Chamberlain’s case) and never getting it. All the while hoping for the best but sadly wringing his hands wishing all these people would please please please just listen to him. But they don’t. But this feeble God keeps trying.
Imagine if you would, a classroom with a feeble ineffective teacher. Unable to stop her students from killing some of the weaker students, yet unable to punish the killers, and worse yet, unable to get anyone else to help. All she can do is hope that the bad students would maybe somehow listen to her feeble and vain pleadings for them to stop. Imagine this going on for thousands of years. Life would indeed be hopeless if we served such a feeble God. For what could we place our trust on? Not God, certainly because that type of a god can’t get anything done and can’t be ever trusted to ever be able to affect or effect anything.
I have just got to say: That is not the ALMIGHTY GOD that I serve. That is not the God that destroyed the ENTIRE army of the Egyptians in the Bible. The God that destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. That is not the God that put the stars in the sky. That is not the God who delicately and tenderly created you and me. That is not the God who created the infinite boundaries of time and space. That’s not the God who will destroy entire nations at the end of time. That’s not the God whose heavenly armies will “Reap the earth”, nor is he the God who has loosed the fateful lightening of his terrible swift sword. The God I serve created the heavens and the earth and NOTHING can happen without his express permission or his will. And if my God decides to do something then by golly IT WILL HAPPEN. Whether you like it or not! Whether Rabbi Kushner or anyone prays or not
But do not feel that I have taken anything away from you, let me see if I can reassure you in some small part.
My humble response to the WTC attacks
September 12, 2001
Yesterday while watching TV, I started to cry. Just watching the unspeakable horror of what was happening to our people, our nation, our flesh and blood, broke something in me. But this wasn’t an act of violence against America, it wasn’t an act of violence against a nation, this despicable act of violence was an act of violence against the world. For in one fell swoop, these terrorists managed to kill people from probably every single nation on our earth. By picking the World Trade Center in New York, they killed, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Egyptians, Palestinians, Ethiopians, Pakistanis, you name it. From the stockbrokers at their desks to the small Muslim halaal restaurant owners around the foot of the towers, from the CEOs in the corner offices to the taxi cab drivers; as anyone who has ever been to New York City knows, there are more immigrants there than even the Bay Area in California. Every nation should recoil in audacity of the killing of their people. Every nation should now realize that if the mighty US is vulnerable, how much more are they. Every nation should now set out to find and bring justice to the killers of their people and to make an example of them to others.
What really scared us
But I think what scared most of us was that terrorism had finally come to our shores, across the impenetrable waters of the twin oceans. Being an Indian who had grown up in the Middle East and Africa, I had finally gotten to immigrate here, and for years I thought I was safe from the violence that I had seen growing up. But what kept Hitler and Japan at bay has succumbed, not to technology but to tourism and free trade. The ability to travel freely anywhere anytime, allowed this despicable act of violence against the world. For it allows those who hate our freedom and way of life to mingle freely with us and take advantage of the very freedom that they hate.
And yet in all this, as Christians there are many of us who tremble at what is to come. Many of us feel that God is grieving in the heavens about this sorry state of events. We feel that God is wringing his hands about the evil that men do and the evil that affects our lives. I have heard of people who tell us that God is not responsible for the evil that men do. They say this terrible event could not have been God’s responsibility, because, they say God is only a God of love. They also say that God is bound by our freewill and thus he is unable to do anything and thus he sits mourning the pain that mankind brings upon each other. Wishing desperately but unable to stop it. This is mainly because they feel that a God, who does not stop evil, is an evil God. Thus they feel that God must be unable or bound by some principle and thus unable to stop evil. Others say that God was doing His level best to prevent the tragedy from being worse. That He was doing his best to prevent people from getting to work, trying to make them miss flights so that they would not die.
That is not the God of the Bible
But that is not the kind of God we serve. That is not the kind of God described in the Bible. We serve a Mighty God. We serve an ALL POWERFUL God. There is nothing in this world that can happen without God’s express permission. Call it preordained or call it allowed. God is in Control. Total absolute control. And today when we feel that the world is spinning out of control, falling apart, and evil is triumphing over good. This is the exact time when the concept of an ALL POWERFUL God is very comforting.
Yes terrible things happened. But do not for one instance in time even allow the thought to cross your mind that our God could NOT have stopped each and every one of those terrible things had he so sovereignly willed.
Sure we may ask why? Why would God allow such horrible things to happen? The only Biblical answer we can give is that whether it be this year or the next millennium- God is bringing about the eventual plan for his final consummation and the calling of his people this way. God is changing hearts and minds in this way. God is calling the nation to Him, this way. God is going to glorify Himself in this way. God is going to show his love and mercy to his people in this way. God is going to bring people to the realization of his love and mercy by allowing these things to happen. Just watch and see.
And remember the reality is that a God who CAN stop evil and doesn’t, is not really different from a God who expressly permits or allows evil. Both types of God seem abhorrent to us… if we only look at it from our viewpoint. But the minute we look at it from God’s viewpoint we see why that is not the case. God is in the business of glorifying himself. And death is only a minor transition from a temporary state to a permanent state. In God’s eyes, death is not as big a deal. In our eyes it’s a terribly big deal. That’s why we are not allowed to murder people, but God is allowed to kill people. Note also that there is no “murder” for God. Just like there is no stealing for God, as He owns it all.
For all those thousands who died, they were ushered into the Presence of the Almighty God. The real tragedy is that there are hundreds of them who never came to know of the saving Grace of Jesus Christ before they died. But for the saved, we only mourn for those whom they left behind. For they who died are in glory, a far better place than we have ever been before.
Dan. 4:35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
Let me repeat that portion: He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand…Not Osama Bin Laden, not Saddam Hussien, not Yassir Arafat.
Psalms 115:3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
Psalms 33:10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
There is a saying on Vulcan. Mensh Placht, Gott Laught. Sounds like Klingon, doesn’t it? Mensh Placht, Gott Laught.
OK it’s not Vulcan or Klingon. Actually it is Yiddish; it means “Man plans, God laughs.”
Do the Russians love their children too?
Back in about 1986 or so, during the height of the cold war years between the USSR and the United States; during the time when President Reagan was talking about the feasibility of a limited nuclear war. It was the time they were discussing the Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly known as the Star Wars Defense. The talking heads on TV had been discussing how we could survive a nuclear war and how Russia could attack us. It was around this time that the singer Sting came out with a song. It starts with a ticking of a time bomb. And asks the question
“Do the Russians love their children too? How do I save my little boy, from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?”
In case you forgot, Oppenheimer was the genius behind the Atomic Bomb that ended World War II. And that song by Sting would depress me, because I was worried about what would happen to us in the future, I was worried about what the implications of a limited nuclear war was, I was worried that things were getting out of control.
That was, until I listened to this great song by the group Petra.
He’s got the whole world by Petra.
Back to the Street Album.
Hearts failing left and right,
Children fear this planet’s plight.
Fatalistic fears abound
and take their toll without a sound
But through the vague uncertainty
Comes a bold assurity
This world is under sovereignty
Divinely ordered Destiny
He holds the world together
with the Word of His power
safe within his hands
until HIS own appointed hour
And He’s still got the whole world in his hands, tonight.
And only he knows where the sparrow lands tonight
And nothing in this world can change his plans tonight
because he’s still got the whole world in his hands…tonight.
Humanistic lies lament
the Holocaust is imminent
Doomsday prophets in the news
predicting who will light the fuse
[But] the fate of his creation isn’t subject to a man
the final consummation is according to HIS plan
‘Cause he’s still got the whole world in his hands…tonight.
He’s got you and me, in his hands tonight
And nothing in this world can change his plans tonight
because he’s still got the whole world in his hands…tonight.
Isaiah. 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 45:5-7 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God… 6 from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.
Psalms 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
What am I saying: I am saying, take comfort in an Almighty God who is in control. Take comfort in a God who knows what his plans are for you. Yes, we may be bewildered in what is happening, but remember, “the fate of his creation isn’t subject to a man, the final consummation is according to His plan.” Our job is to obey Him and do His Will and love Him with all our heart. He intends refine us.
I Pet 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have suffered grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
God lets us go through trials to refine us. Our job is to be refined, to reach out to the lost and dying with compassion, help and the Good News of Salvation. And most of all, our job is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever in a multidimensional eternity, and all the time to rest in His love, in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
September 12, 2001
Neil’s web page: http://www.NoBlindFaith.com
Some fellow Christian Apologetics Alliance Blogs on the same topic
(Various theological views are represented)
- Faithful Thinkers: Atheism, Evil and Ultimate Justice
- Hope’s Reason: Where was God on 9/11? (link may not yet be active)
- The Point: Christianity and 9/11: Guilt by Association?
- J.W. Wartick: On September 11th, 2001, harmless things became fearful
- Sarcastic Xtian: Do all roads (and flights) lead to God?
- Reasons for God: The Two Ground Zeroes
- Hieropraxis: Suffering and the Cross of Christ
- Take Two: Remembering 9/11: A Young Californian’s Perspective
- Apologetics Guy: America After 9/11: Is Religion Evil?
- Apologetics 315: Resources on the Problem of Evil
- The Real Issue: The Three Faces of Evil and a Christian Response
- Neil Mammen: Where was God on 9-11?
- Thinking Christian: 9/11: “Full Cognitive Meltdown” and Its Fallout
- Cold and Lonely Truth: 9/11: Where is God during a catastropy?
- Possible Worlds: The Need for Moral Choices and Consequences
- In Defense of the Christian Faith: If God, Why Evil?
- Wintery Knight: Ground Zero: Why truth matters for preventing another 9/11 style attack
- Clay Jones: Are We All Moral Monsters?