On Osama

This is the “Debbie-Downer” of posts.

People are celebrating because Osama bin Laden has been killed.

But while I can’t really claim to have liked the guy, I’m not feeling all of the celebration and enthusiasm for his death.

First off, I’m not quite sure this changes anything. Those who died on September 11, 2001 will not return; the troops from Afghanistan will not be coming home any sooner; we do not get to undo the damage and death that has ravaged Afghanistan since our troops arrived; we do not get to bring back those who have died serving us and our country; finally, terrorism will continue because terrorism is based not on the livelihood of a particular person, but on the survival of a particular idea – namely, that God has a big problem with some people and requires someone to take up arms to defend God and harm or kill those who seem to be offending God.

And this idea is not extinguished when the God-offenders kill the God-defenders.

Secondly, how is a Christian supposed to respond to the murder of a mass-murderer?

I can’t and won’t claim to speak for an entire religious community. I can’t even come to a conclusion myself as the feelings are difficult to discern. But speaking for myself, here are my thoughts so far:

As a Christian, I proclaim that every person is a child of God (regardless of who they are or how they act).

As a Christian, I proclaim that it is the Peacemakers that are blessed.

As a Christian, I believe that we are to pray for and Love our enemies (difficult though it may be).

As a Christian, I believe that we are to forgive those who “trespass against us.”

As a Christian, I believe in the reconciling, restoring, and resurrecting power of God’s Love.

As a Christian, I believe in the infinite grace of God that is made possible by God’s unconditional Love.

As a Christian, I believe that Osama bin Laden gave himself over to fear, hatred, and evil – all things that are far from the character of God – but God’s Love is greater than the worst of humanity.

Is not God’s Love what we place our hope and trust in rather than our own ability to return violence with violence?

Now, the President says that “all who welcome peace should be pleased” and that “justice has been done.” Can Peace be obtained through violence? Has it ever? Is Justice secured through war? Or are we merely talking about “Security,” which is a far cry from the presence of Shalom that Jesus and the prophets cried out for? Are we merely talking about simple retributive justice rather than the greater reciprocal justice that has the capacity to restore what has been lost?

We may have obtained greater security, but we have delayed Peace because we have not sought to bring about a bigger vision of Justice, instead settling for death in return for death.

So America defeats another enemy. Obama gets to top Trump’s pride about a foolish birth certificate with bin Laden’s death certificate. The Democrats get a leg-up on the Republicans for National Security. And America continues to be the nation that proudly claims we are “under God” though we seem to be very selective in choosing what aspects of our national life God will rule over.

As for me – one of many who are trying to follow the path of Christ – I do not believe I can celebrate bin Laden’s death; I do not believe I can wish that he burn in hell (partly because if God’s Grace is as big as it seems to be as we read in the bible, God can handle bin Laden).

Instead, I think we in the Church should be praying that more of God’s Love may breathe into us, that it may cast out the fear of our enemies, that we may Love them rather than praying for or celebrating their demise. We in the Church should be working for God’s vision of reciprocal and distributive Justice where exploitation and oppression are no more and bitterness, anger, and resentment are transformed. We in the Church should be holding up God’s vision of Shalom so that we may no longer mistake political stability and “security” for “peace.”

Perhaps there should be a caveat to Jesus’ command to pray for and Love our enemies. Namely, if we cannot bring ourselves to pray for our and Love our enemies – if we are so consumed by fear and anger and hatred that we wish pain and suffering and death upon them – then perhaps we should take all the time that is necessary to pray for ourselves (that we can become the sort of people that can pray for and Love their enemies).

And as the celebration of Osama bin Laden’s death begins across the country and world, that is what I feel compelled to do – pray that we in the Church become the faithful people that can pray for and Love our enemies (all of them).

Peace.

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17 thoughts on “On Osama

  1. Thank you Chris. I am saddened that we seem to succumb to the “way of the world” in celebrating this death. I too see no joy in something that is so counter to the way of Christ. In my mind, this death changes nothing in our pursuit of peace, if indeed we are pursuing peace. Thanks for sharing your prophetic voice.

  2. This is something I’ve struggled with as well. How can the loss of life – any life – be something to celebrate? Thanks for putting it in perspective.

  3. You have put eloquent words to the thoughts and ramblings in my head these hours since the announcement came. I worry what the reaction will be from the rest of the world. And I pray fervently for peace. Shalom and thanks for your words.

    • I have not lost a loved one to terrorism and I have not lost a loved one in military service since 9/11, so I cannot step in their shoes. I understand a desire for justice, but I also feel as Chris does.

  4. Beautiful sentiments and very well put. I applaud you.
    One minor criticism: I don’t believe that the main idea behind terrorism is that “God has a big problem with some people and requires someone to take up arms to defend God and harm or kill those who seem to be offending God.” This may be one aspect of terrorism, but I believe that the greater part of the idea behind terrorism is political rather than religious. And, though I may be mistaken about that, it is most assuredly an important component of that idea.
    That aside, I think that this is a beatiful piece that cuts to the heart of the issue at hand.

    • Hey Daniel,
      Thank you for your thoughts too. I agree. My description is for religiously-fueled terrorism (that is most often political, just enhanced by religious piety and righteousness). Thanks.
      Peace.

  5. My thanks too, Chris. I can’t separate my citizenship in the kindom of Christ from my citizenship in the United States of America because they are tangled in the life I’ve lived and am living. But I’ll try to speak just as a citizen of the latter for a moment and say that I’m thinking that revenge isn’t statecraft. What are the reasons of statecraft that these risks were run and consequences accepted? It seems to me that, especially after the popular democratic movements that have arisen in the Middle East in the last four months, Osama Bin Laden was an ill old man whose teeth had been drawn and whose would-be constituency had rejected his way. It’s claimed that he still had a great deal of dangerous power; I say, show me. It’s claimed that this is nevertheless an important symbolic victory over a still-potent symbol. Maybe. Or maybe his career as a symbol has just started.

  6. God sentenced people to death, eventhough sometimes it was at the hands of humans. I believe it was time for him to be judged so God sent those soldiers in there that day to send Osama up to meet his maker and be judged and punished as God sees fit. If nothing else, I would think all could celebrate God’s justice.

    • Thanks for your post Nicole. I will respectfully disagree as you have with me over the idea that God would judge or punish someone by killing them. I wonder if the stories that we read about in the bible where God has applauded or encouraged people to kill others is less about what God said and more about what people said that God said – a possible revelation of our human desires and bias even as they were writing what would become sacred literature?
      Thank you for reading and thank you for joining in the conversation.
      Peace.

      • I think you may have misunderstood my meaning on it, it’s not that his death is the punishment or judgement … it’s that by his death he will now be before God to be judged and receive his punishmnet. My purpose in posting is not to deny or dispute your opinion but simply as a possible alternative to the reason you think others are celebrating. It has nothing to do with Osama death. It is only about God choosing that it is time for him to go before him and be judged (the only way that happens is by death which is why God allowed the soldiers to find him). I believe he was found and shot not because that was his punishment but because that would provide some form of justice to those whose loved ones will never come back. Not everyone may need it, but some will. This is the same as with those whose family members died by the hand of a serial killer. Some family members will need to have the person sentenced to death to feel like their loved one has received justice, others will be against it. It’s all the same.
        Respectfully Yours,
        Nicole

  7. From a friend’s Facebook post:
    “From the daughter of one who died on September 11,2001 ‘It is not a day for celebration or rejoicing, but rather a day to remember all of those who have died, like our mother, at the hands of Osama bin Laden.'”

    For those of you who have been saying “I’m not one effected,” I thought I would provide a source to draw from.

    • Thank you for sharing your friend’s experience of this event. It is an important and weighty perspective that needs to be heard. It is likely much easier to forgive someone for inflicting such damage when we are less directly affected. This reminds me of the luxury of the position that I stand in to offer my own perspective.

  8. It is Biblically right and good to celebrate this as a victory over evil. No, evil itself is not dead. That will be taken care of when Jesus returns. But in the meantime, when there is such an unmistakable victory over an agent of evil, good people will celebrate as they should.

    “The LORD loves righteousness and justice.” (Psalm 33:5a) Our government and our troops carried out an act of justice. We should be thankful for our President’s decision to give this order. We should be thankful to our troops for their courage to carry out the order. We should be thankful that an evil man who posed a danger to so many is gone.

    That indeed is something to celebrate.

  9. AMEN! Great post. Last night after I heard of Osama bin Laden’s death, I wept. I wept because the evidence points to a soul that will have eternal separation from God. I wept because I’m fairly certain that Jesus wasn’t celebrating…He weeps when any of his children choose hell over Him.

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