An “Ah Ha” Moment after 9/11
Author: Barry Steinman
A discussion about the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, led to an “Ah Ha” moment for a brother in our fellowship. An “Ah Ha” moment is when suddenly; in an instant you see something. It is usually a concept that you have heard others talk about on several occasions. An idea you thought you understood quite well. Then, out of nowhere, all at once, a light goes off, and for the first time you really SEE it. This brother, who had fellowshipped with us on and off for a long time, suddenly looked up, in the midst of our discussion and said, “Woo, I see it. I finally get it – now I understand what you have been talking about regarding this House Church, Relational Christianity stuff” The discussion we were having was about some of the changes that have occurred in our culture after 9/11. I started to share about some friends who must fly across the country quite often. They have told me how the atmosphere amongst the passengers has radically changed. Prior to 9/11 the passengers on airline flights had the “elevator” mentality. I’m sure we have all experienced the “elevator” syndrome. You walk into the elevator without talking. Everyone turns around and faces the front. No one talks to each other. No one looks each other in the eye. We all stand silently and stare at the numbers lighting up telling us what floor we are passing by. It is almost as if there is a sign up there by the lighted numbers that says: “Thank you for not talking or looking at anyone else”. I grew up in Chicago and traveled often on the subway, also know as the el, or elevated train. That experience was quite similar. You sat in a seat, or stood and grabbed onto one of the hand holds for stability. As the train moved and rounded corners, you were jostled back and forth. The sheer force of the movement of the train rocking forced you to bump into the person next to you over and over. Yet, you never spoke to the person next to you, never made eye contact with anyone. All the time you pretended that you were in that train car all alone. There is something about our society that is totally isolating to the individual. It is so ironic, that where there is the largest concentration of people, in major cities – people are the most isolated. We’ve all heard stories of elderly people who die in their apartments – and aren’t found for days. And this is in an apartment complex with thousands of people. How scary…. Surrounded by thousands of people – yet still totally alone. Yet, as a culture we hanker for something better. We all long for that old fashion, small town atmosphere where everyone knows each other. This desire for community is evidenced in some of the TV shows that have been popular over the years: “Cheers” – a place where everyone knows your name. “Friends” – a small group of friends who hang out with each other on a constant basis. “Northern Exposure” – a small town in Alaska filled with quirky characters “Ed” – a NY lawyer leaves his practice and returns to the small town he grew up in. Even though our culture isolates us in loneliness, we long for relationship and community. Then…. 9/11 happened, and our culture changed. One prime example of the change is airline travel. Since it was attacks with hijacked airliners that was the 9/11 attack, it is interesting to note, how those hijackings have affected the atmosphere on airplanes. The hijackers took advantage of the “elevator” syndrome among airline passengers. Each passenger was isolated and alone. But now, in the aftermath, getting on an airplane is no longer like the elevator or subway ride. Once the passengers arrive and the airline doors are closed, passengers have realized that they are now part of a community. What happens on that flight is now up to them. Passengers now look each other in the face and talk to each other. Yes they are looking to see if anyone looks suspicious, or is a possible hijacker. They get to know each other, with the realization that they may all have to act as a team. If a hijacker is in their midst, they will have to act in concert with each other, and tackle him or them to the floor. It takes community to do that. A group of isolated individuals cannot act decisively enough to stop a hijacking. 9/11 has also broken down some of the isolation in our cities. On that night at 7PM when everyone went out with candles, out neighbors came out, and we talked more than we had in months. Our neighborhood is becoming a neighborhood again. The Church in America is an outgrowth of our culture. How we do things in church is a reflection of the isolation and loneliness of our culture. How can anyone read the new testament and come up with a form of church that: has people sitting in rows, not talking to each other, staring at the back of someone’s head for 90 minutes, and sitting in silence? To think that this is the type of fellowship talked about in the New Testament could only occur by being totally blinded by the isolation of our culture. New Testament Church life is not supposed to be like the elevator experience. Church life is to be a place of face-to-face relationship, friendship and fellowship. It is supposed to be the small town community that everyone longs for. And as we were having this discussion in fellowship one night, our brother looked up and said: Woo, I see it. I finally get it – now I understand what you have been talking about regarding this house church, relational Christianity stuff” Isaiah 25:7 (NKJ) And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.