by Lincoln Institute | September 13, 2023

The past week brought us the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001. We were reminded to “Remember 9/11” and “Never Forget.” But just what is it that we should ”remember” and  “never forget?” Was it the evil of the perpetrators and those behind them, or was it the heroism of so many who rose up that day, like Todd Beamer on Flight 93 or the firemen who rushed into the inferno of the World Trade Center in the hope of saving lives while freely offering their own? Or both?

Were the attacks of 9/11 acts of war? War is inherently binary: one side versus another. Many of the most eloquent comments made just after that fateful day were binary in nature. If the attackers were evil, then the victims were good. But modern political progressivism rejects the notion of evil, and if evil is rejected, then so must be the notion of good. For theists, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or nearly every other form of theism, the eternal and universal struggle of life itself is between good and evil. Good is typically represented by a being or force, variously named God, Jahweh, Allah, Buddha, Eshwara, Krishna, Jesus, Great Spirit or Tao, among over 100 such names.

If any or all of these represent pure good, then it stands to reason that there must a similar but opposite being or force that is pure evil. Many of the commentators on 9/11 instantly described the attackers and those behind them as pure evil, yet modern progressives, many of whom are also atheists, have great difficulty even admitting that such a thing as evil exists. The great writer, intellectual and professor C.S. Lewis was an atheist before he became a Christian, and he said that it was the problem of evil that kept him from accepting the teachings of Christianity and the authority of the Bible. Jesus had no trouble speaking of the devil as the personification of evil, but Lewis and today’s progressives do. And when Lewis concluded that the existence of evil was inescapable, he found it only natural to accept the existence of good by believing in God.

There’s a great dodge that progressives use to avoid speaking directly about good and evil. It’s intellectually deceitful, but they use it so freely and we hear it so often that we don’t even notice their deceit. That’s the word “hate.” They criticize the 9/11 attackers for being driven by hate. And they just as easily label as wrong the strong negative reaction of many American patriots to the attacks as simply responding to hate with hate.

So on this anniversary of 9/11, let’s consider the question of evil, not the question of hate. Hate is not always wrong, despite the smug moral superiority of those on the left who try to substitute the problem of hate for the very real problem of evil. God, whom the Bible tells us is love, clearly hates certain things. Psalm 11 says, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked.”  How should we look on Osama bin Laden and Kalid Sheikh Mohammed? Merely as bad, because they were motivated by hate for America and our Western values, largely derived from the Old and New Testaments. Or as evil? Hate can be converted or diminished, but evil is pure by definition and thus incapable of reduction through persuasion or acts of kindness. If the 9/11 perpetrators were truly evil, then we cannot minimize the absolute wrongness of their attacks.

So I’ll give you a choice: do you resonate with Vice President Kamala Harris, who claimed a kind of equivalence between the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the riots of January 6, 2021, or do you resonate with these words of former President George Bush, when he said on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, “There was shock at the audacity … of evil – and gratitude for the heroism and decency that opposed it.”

If you agree that the “audacity of evil” is an apt expression for the motives behind those attacks, then you and I stand with President Bush, not Vice President Harris. There is indeed evil in this world. When we remember 9/11, let us also remember the evil behind it.

(Colin Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring, USA.)