misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being
blindsided by it."
It's a line from one of my novels, but it kept ringing in my ears last Thursday night as my wife, Lynn and I watched a sneak preview of UNITED 93 at a theater in Washington, D.C., just down the street from the White House and Capitol building where that flight was headed.
America was blindsided on September 11th, 2001. We did not understand the evil of radical Islam. Nor did we appreciate the determination of its followers to annihilate us. And as a result, nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives. Do we understand evil better now, nearly five years later? Are we, for example, ready to take all action necessary to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons and wiping us off the face of the map? I fear the answer is no.
Lynn and I almost didn't go to the film. Life is busy. Kids. Birthday parties. Groceries to buy. Books to write. You know the drill. Besides, we weren't sure we really wanted to relive all this. But we made ourselves go -- you should, too.
is one of the most important films of our generation. It
viewers to grapple with two essential truths: First, that evil is
real and operating in the shadows and preparing to strike
us when we least
expect it. And second, that life is short -- we never know what day
will be our last -- and we must think not only about national
homeland security but about our eternal security. That is, we must
be able to answer life's
most important question: If, God forbid, I were to die
today, am I absolutely sure beyond the shadow of the doubt that I
eternity in heaven with the God who made me and loves me?
It is almost impossible to describe the physical and emotional experience of watching UNITED 93. There is almost no gore. This is not a horror film in the modern sense of the word. Indeed, it isn't even a particularly bloody movie, especially given the "R" rating. The intensity of the drama comes from the fact that you know what's coming. You know how it's going to end. And there's nothing you can do to stop it. My stomach was in knots almost from the moment the lights went down. My pulse began to quicken. My breathing began to shorten. Simple things like seeing extra fuel get pumped into the plane before takeoff suddenly take on ominous implications. You know that once that airplane door is shut and locked, the fate of those inside are sealed. The dialogue is minimal, and realistic. The cameras are handheld and make you feel like you're on the plane with the passengers and crew as they face the terrifying realization that their only chance to live is to kill the hijackers and retake the plane.
Which made me think most about Todd Beamer, the young husband and father who utters the movie's most memorable line when he and the other men attack their attackers: "Let's roll!" We see him plotting strategy with the others. We see him on the phone with the GTE operator, passing a final message of love on to his wife and children. We hear him praying Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me..." And then we see him and the others make their move.
Lisa Beamer stressed in her book, Let's Roll, that Todd was not "a comic book superhero" but rather "an ordinary guy with an ordinary faith in a great God." The more I've learned about him, the more impressed I've become. His faith was real, and he earned the right for others to consider what it was. He believed that Jesus died on the cross to forgive him of his sins. He believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had thus conquered death for all time. Todd believed Jesus when He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one can come to the Father except through Me." And he believed Jesus when He said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish [die separated from God forever] but have everlasting life." What's more, Todd didn't just believe these things intellectually. He had made an individual decision of the will to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord. This is what gave him courage in the face of death -- because he knew without the shadow of a doubt that he was going to heaven.
When Lisa was on Larry King Live not long after the tragedy, Larry asked her, "How are you holding up?....You said it was your faith that gets you through, right?" Lisa's response, recounted in her book, was inspiring: "That's right," she said. "I know that Todd's death was not in vain. I see evidence of it all over as people come up to me saying what an inspiration his faith and my faith have been to them. I just hope it leads to a revival of faith in this country and the world. It's clear that that's what we need right now. It is time for that in our country." And then she added: "I know that Todd is in heaven right now, and I know that I'm going to see him again, and that his efforts were not in vain. It was part of God's plan. Evil in this world will ultimately be conquered by God....That's something I can hang on to during those moments when I'm not cool, calm, and collected, of which there are many, I can assure you."
Go see UNITED 93. I know you don't want to. But you need to. For many reasons, but the most important is this: to ask yourself if you are ready to face eternity. Todd Beamer was ready. Are you? CRO