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).