On this day we remember the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan 71 years ago when over 2,400 Americans died. The only comparable attack in U.S. history was 9/11 in 2001 when nearly 3,000 Americans died.
Who protects America from its enemies?
The layers of protection are impressive. Federally, the Department of Defense – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines – has a combined force of 1.4 million service members. Add the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration Enforcement, Coast Guard, Emergency Management, Secret Service and Transportation Security. Then overlay the National Security Agency, CIA and FBI.
Add National Guards, State Patrols and state emergency agencies and our local county sheriff, police and fire first responders.
Finally, emergency managers say “all disasters are local” and advise citizens, “If you see something, say something.” So we all have a role.
But the damage from foreign attack or domestic terrorism in the U.S. has been relatively small compared with the massive destruction and loss of life from natural disasters, or “acts of God.”
During the last 30 years natural disasters have cost over 30,000 American lives and billions of dollars in property losses.
So who protects America from acts of God?
A few brave souls have attempted to answer this politically incorrect question by shifting through historical evidence.
One of them is a historian with local roots. Dr. Steven Keillor, brother of the more famous Garrison Keillor, both Anoka graduates, looked at American history through a Christian lens in his 1996 book “This Rebellious House: American History & the Truth of Christianity.”
He made the point that Christianity is a religion based in history which makes claims on history and therefore offers tools for interpreting history.
In his 2007 book, “God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith,” Keillor proposed a Christian framework for correlating known historical causes of events with known categories of divine holiness and judgment from Scripture.
Specifically, he evaluated the historical and theological implications of the 1814 burning of Washington, D.C., the Civil War and 9/11.
Another researcher goes further. In his 2004 book (updated in 2007) “Eye To Eye, Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel,” White House correspondent William Koenig correlated occurrences of foreign attacks and natural disasters in the U.S. with American pressure on Israel to compromise its security through land concessions.
He documented the close timing of these events. For example, President George W. Bush became the first American president to promote a two state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in a United Nations speech in September 2001. Less than 24 hours later America suffered the 9/11 attacks.
Again, on Aug. 22, 2005, Bush restated his two-state vision concurrent with the final Israeli pull out of Gaza. Just hours later Hurricane Katrina formed and within days devastated the Gulf Coast killing more than 1,800 people.
Coincidences? Koenig documented 55 other such cases since 1991.
His analytical model is Genesis 12:3 where God promises to “bless those who bless you (Israel) and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.”
When it comes to seeking God’s blessing, American presidents are first in line ending their speeches with “and may God bless (the United States of) America.”
Is this a meaningless political cliché or something more? In theological terms, it is a prayer, an invocation, to God for His blessing with an expected response.
Are they listening for the response and ready to obey?
According to the Bible, God offers a protection contract in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Many American Christians believe these contracts are still in force and account for the ebb and flow of American fortunes, even disasters. So they pray for their country and the peace of Jerusalem. And they seek to amend their own ways.
Bob Kirchner is a local historian, seminary student and city of Anoka’s part-time community development director.