The horrific Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, accompanied by the hijackings and subsequent crashing of four domestic passenger jets, were universally condemned by almost all governments, including many that have been traditional foes of the United States.
Amid all the carnage and the confusion that Americans felt, one question frequently asked was: “Why do people hate us so much?” Pictures of people rejoicing in the streets of other nations stood out in stark contrast to news reports of expressions of sympathy and support from around the world. Obviously hatred of the United States has grown intense and deep in some parts of the world. Quite rightly, people want to know why.
The simplistic answer to that question is that the United States backs Israel. Mounting frustration with the situation in the Middle East has increased anger against America. Many in the area feel that if the United States puts pressure on Israel it would make concessions to the Palestinians.
Israel's existence is certainly one contributing factor. Another is the presence of American and British troops on Muslim soil. But these explanations overlook the fact that there is much hatred and resentment directed toward the United States throughout the world, not just in the Middle East.
No doubt many factors contribute to this increased anti-American feeling, not the least of which is jealousy over America's great wealth. But one scripture helps us to understand why the problem has worsened in recent decades: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34 Proverbs 14:34Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
American King James Version×, NIV).
Not so long ago America was looked up to by the rest of the world. After the failure of their kings and emperors to avoid the carnage of World War I, Europeans looked to President Woodrow Wilson to show them a new and better way. But lack of support at home meant that America was not able to stay involved. It was different after World War II. This time, Americans were committed to helping the rest of the world, and the United States took over the responsibility of leading the free nations.
Even in the Middle East, combatants looked to the United States to take the lead. It was President Carter who brought Egypt and Israel together. Successive presidents have been involved in the area and have always been able to talk with both sides. But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans saw Palestinians dancing in the streets and celebrating America's agony.
Clearly, respect and appreciation for America are not as great as they were before. The Bible helps us understand this change in America's fortunes.
The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28, promises blessings for obedience to God's laws and curses—serious negative consequences—for disobedience. It may seem illogical to see this as an explanation of the terrorist attacks on the United States, but the fact is that America is not as respected as it used to be, and many sound reasons exist for this decline in respect.
Islamic fundamentalists, who are behind many such attacks, fear America's cultural influence on their societies. Of course, hatred and terrorism are utterly evil and inexcusable responses, no matter what the basis for such thinking is. Indeed, America is hated for many right principles that should not be altered. Jesus Christ was hated and He was a perfect human being. Nevertheless, we should consider that some negative feelings toward the United States have been engendered by views and behavior that are immoral and nationally degrading.
American television shows and movies constantly undermine the traditional family, both in the United States and around the world. The characters are frequently shown scantily dressed, using foul language, showing no respect to their elders and constantly obsessing about sex. Other shows portray an image of an extremely violent society. Western countries, sadly, have grown so accustomed to such images and behavior that they no longer think anything of it—but more religious countries feel increasingly threatened by these degenerate influences. This has only worsened in the last decade with satellite television and the Internet now widely available.
News of perverse sexual scandals at the very top of American society and government have lessened respect for America's political institutions. Information on these is more widespread as a result of advances in communications during the last few years.
Additionally, the United States accounts for some 80 percent of the world's pornography, freely available in many countries. In others, illegal adult movie theaters show X-rated American videos. Though clearly there's a double standard involved, many people watching them have only contempt for the United States—and even more so those religious people who are appalled at America's perverse yet lucrative exports.
Deuteronomy 28 shows that obedience to God's laws results in a nation being “set on high above all nations of the earth” (verse 1), as the United States was in the years that followed its humble beginnings right up until after World War II. The chapter promises specific blessings for obedience, including God's support against hostile powers (verse 7). America's history certainly shows the nation was blessed when its behavior and laws were based primarily on God's commandments.
Beginning in verse 15 we see the negative consequences of disobedience. Verse 16 says, “Cursed shall you be in the city.” Those living in many U.S. cities no longer find them safe and secure.
Many will read this and feel that the responsibility for diminished security lies elsewhere. Yet the book of Joshua, chapter 7, contains a story of one man, Achan, who committed a sin that affected the whole nation's security. The biblical account clearly shows that Achan himself had committed the sin of taking spoil from recently conquered Jericho, against God's specific instructions to the people of Israel. Yet God's judgment was that “Israel has sinned” (Joshua 7:11 Joshua 7:11Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
American King James Version×). Joshua had to find and punish the transgressor before Israel could expect another victory.
The account shows the importance of everyone conducting himself in a way that is pleasing to God if a nation is to reap God's blessings.