Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Death of Osama Bin Laden -- An American Christian's Response

When I heard U. S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden, at first my response was surprise. I was happy that he was finally gone. But, when I reflected upon it soon after, I realized there is something wrong with celebrating a man’s death. Christ called us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I do not think Christ would be happy with us leaving all kinds of celebratory and irreverent remarks on Facebook, Twitter, etc or chanting in celebration about the death of someone. What bin Laden had done in his life, leading others to terrorize people and kill them based on a twisted moral and religious premise, is a terrible thing. No one will dispute that. I would never dispute that. But, Jesus died for him as well.

Rather than celebrate his death, we should mourn that his death was required. He has led many astray with his philosophies and influence. Bin Laden had a life that should be lamented, not a death that should be rejoiced. I am saddened to hear some people talk with joy about his likely condemnation in Hell. God would never take joy in such a thing and nor should we. And we do not know why bin Laden had such hate in his heart where love and joy should have been. I will not say it is equal on scale, rather in content, but who has not harbored hatred or bitterness towards others? There are many around us who would rather trample our neighbor to get to the top rather than help others. Think about the terrorism Americans in the past and in the present have enacted upon other nations before we celebrate our judgment cast. Ask Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos how it has felt that they are oppressed in many ways by a white culture. Look to how we’ve treated others and how we took land and life from others for the sake of our own greed and self-entitlement. Ask the Japanese-Americans how it felt to have their well-being taken away because they were of Japanese descent and placed in internment camps. And do not forget that some of our country’s founders terrorized fellow colonists—pillaging, torturing, killing, tarring, destroying property all because some remained loyal to the King of England rather than put on the cap of revolution.

We should not rejoice in bin Laden’s death. For one thing, it is against the teachings of Christ to rejoice in our enemies’ deaths. And for a second thing, how are we better than the hatred he has perpetuated when we celebrate? How are we better than those who have celebrated the death of Americans? (see below for similar thoughts in WSJ blog article from Abdullah Antepi, Muslim chaplain at Duke University). Rather we should mourn that there is hatred still in the world. That he was a perpetuator of it. We need to mourn the fact that there is “bin Ladenism” in the world and seek its demise (see article in WSJ blog for comments by Rabbi David Wolpe). We should seek God’s love for the world and through love, there can be peace. Because where there is love, hatred cannot exist. And right now, people in this country, and those Christian in this country, hate our enemy through this celebration of his demise. And others that see this will have the mutual feeling whether for or against. And the hate goes on. Let’s stop it by heaping the “burning ashes” of love on our enemies’ heads.

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