God, Taliban, & 9/11

Where was God on 9/11/01? Eighteen years ago today, Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. and changed the world. The terrorist group trained and hid in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Just as in the Holocaust, Pol pot’s killing fields, or any other horrific event, God was present on 9/11. Human freedom creates the space for people act in terrible ways. In some ways, God abandons us to our freedom. We are bound to it. Freedom gives us the joy and blessing of creation. It also allows sin to manifest in new, unimaginable ways.

What about the Taliban? Since a month after the initial Al-Qaeda attack, the U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan. We have been fighting the Taliban. They harbored Al-Qaeda and committed human rights atrocities.

Does this make the U.S.-Afghan war right? That’s a separate debate. My question is about inviting the Taliban to Camp David, Virginia. Why? Would it lead to lasting peace? Would a summit create safety for the Afghan people? Is it right for the U.S. to meet with the Taliban separate from the Afghan government?

God is still present. God still grants people freedom. We are still bound to act as a free creation. The Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev writes:

The problem of [the question of evil] is not solved by objectivizing thought in an objectivized world order. It is only solved on the existential plane where God reveals Godself as freedom, love, and sacrifice, where God suffers for humanity and strives together with humanity against the falsity and wrong of the world, against the intolerable suffering of the world.

Nicolas Berdyaev Slavery & Freedom p. 89

There is still suffering. There is still suffering in Afghanistan. If meeting with the Taliban on U.S. soil and without the Afghan government leads to peace and justice, then so be it. Proceed. Have the meeting. But, the proof had better be in the pudding. It seems like a departure from history and recognizing the Taliban’s role in oppressing the Afghan people.

On this 9/11, I reflect on where I was eighteen years ago. I had not yet entered ministry. I was a trader in Chicago when the markets didn’t open that sunny day. The world has changed since then. So have I.

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