Everybody else will probably be asking “Where were you?” so I’ve decided I’ll do something a little different for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Anybody who knows me knows that I have a passion for language—specifically, its proper use. One of the things that I absolutely cannot stand is when people use the word “tragedy” for something that is not a tragedy. Let me explain.
A 4-year-old dies of leukemia. A young mother is paralyzed in a car accident. A teenager mistakenly runs over his little sister with the family van. These are tragedies.
Murder is not a tragedy. When I see people refer to something like, say, abortion as a “tragedy,” I have an overwhelming urge to say “What a lot of crud.” Abortion is a deliberate act of evil. It is not something terrible that just “happened,” through illness, accident, or what have you.
The same is true of the September 11th attacks. I am sure all of you have seen them described as a “tragedy” many times, in many places. I even saw Peggy Noonan doing this the other day. But were they a tragedy? No. The planes didn’t fly into the buildings because their engines malfunctioned. The pilots didn’t fall asleep at the wheel. They were Muslim terrorists who knew exactly what they were doing and where they were going, and they coldly chose to murder thousands of innocent lives as an act of war against the country they hate so much. The correct word here is “murder.” Not “tragedy.”
I would be willing to bet that there are many Americans who, when they stopped to think it through, would agree with me. But why are so many lapsing into this sloppy, mistaken use of the word “tragedy” in the first place? I think perhaps it’s because with the rise of relativism, our society has developed an instinctive shying away from words like “evil” and “murder.” So replacement words like “tragedy” have become so widespread that people use them unthinkingly, even when they really mean “murder.” (In this specific case, another factor is that people are timid about directly ascribing evil to minority groups like Muslims, and the worse a minority behaves, the more excuses are made for them. Unfortunate, but true.)
My challenge to you, my fellow Christians, is this: Be clear, precise, and unflinching in your condemnation of evil actions, be they aborting a child or flying a plane into the World Trade Center. Let us call them what they are: not “tragic,” but “evil.”
By the way, if you are looking for something profound and inspiring to read today, this piece should fit the bill more than adequately.