Monday, May 2, 2011
Should we Celebrate Bin Laden's Death?
But what are we cheering about?
Perhaps we believe his death brings some sort of closure to a decade that has been extraordinarily bloody and disruptive. Perhaps we think that justice has been done, since the architect of the 9/11 infamy has now paid the ultimate price. Perhaps we feel that a national shame has been erased.
I feel all those things.
As a Christian however, I cannot rejoice in any one’s death, however wicked. Even if I believe, as I do, that some offenses are so unspeakably evil that it becomes the responsibility of human government to end the life of the one who perpetrates them; the scripture forbids me to rejoice or gloat that such an action was necessary.
History teaches us to temper our glee when the enemy suffers. It teaches us that we tend to become like that which we most hate.
After eight hundred years of fighting Islam, Spanish Catholics went to South American and converted the Inca Empire with a sword. Christians had never used brute force before to convert people. So where had Spanish Catholics learned such a thing if not from their enemies? After hundreds of years fighting Islam, the Spaniards had become Islamic in the way they practiced their own faith. Even the Spanish nun’s clothing was a manifestation of that Islamic influence.
It is not popular to say but must be said nonetheless: Islam is not utterly alien to Christianity, as for example Hinduism is. Unlike most of the world’s religions, Islam shares with Christianity and Judaism a common ideological and cultural foundation. In a real sense, Islam is no more theologically distinct from orthodox Christianity than is Mormonism.
If we don’t realize this, we may fail to recognize how easily Christianity can morph into the same kinds of behavior that we abhor in Islam.
Christ came to show us was that only a relationship with God can transform a person. In his life and death, Jesus showed that any attempt to mold Holy Scripture into a code of rigid rules and regulations will make our own religion into something demonic and oppressive. The Spanish launched the “Holy Inquisition” as a way to rid their Christian society of all Islamic and Jewish influences. The Serbs devised “ethnic cleansing” as a way to separate their Orthodox Christian culture of all Islamic elements. But the way of Christ is not always compatible with all of our cultural, ethnic, or nationalistic passions. A Christian may be a loyal Spaniard, Serb or American. He may be moved by all the things that moves his fellow citizens. However, he will always be moved in the same way, or at the same level, because his passion is tempered by his other (and higher) loyalty to Christ.
Like most Americans, I believe justice has been done in this killing of Bin Laden. I believe the president who gave the order and the soldiers, who accomplished the mission, did what had to be done. They were not the only ones responsible – indeed they cannot be personally responsible because no human being has the right to take the life of another. Only legitimate government, acting by due process of law, and only because of extremely reprehensible actions, is allowed by God to take a human life. So the president and the soldiers were acting on our behalf, and not merely from their own sense of morality and justice. That means we were all responsible for Bin Laden’s death.
I accept that responsibility.
Nonetheless, this was not the highest or most noble outcome possible. The highest and most noble outcome would have been Osama’s repentance for having done wrong, followed by our forgiveness of him for having done wrong. Of course, he did not ask for our forgiveness. He followed a savage, bloodthirsty religion that will only be satisfied by the utter defeat and humiliation, and, if possible, the elimination, of our culture and our way of life. He lived by the sword and now he has died by the sword.
His death was hardly the end of the matter though. There are millions of human beings believe what he believed and practice what he practiced. We can hardly kill them all. And, if we did, In what way would we be different than them?
My greatest fear is we will repeat the mistake the Spanish made in their reconquista. After fighting Muslims for centuries, after finally driving them completely out of the Iberian Peninsula, the Spaniards had become so bloodthirsty and fanatic that they had come to believe they needed to slaughter Jews, Muslims, Protestants and Incas to appease their god. That the Spaniards called that god “Jesus” is no comfort to me.
Speaking of the slippery nature of words, the word “ALLAH” is the Arabic word for God. Linguistically, it is closer to the Hebrew word for God than our own. And yet, the god that the Islamic terrorists worship is not our God. Unless, in hating them too fiercely, we gradually convert to worshiping the same bloodthirsty deity as they. In that case, God becomes a god and not the Biblical Lord God of all the earth. Christians can do that as effectively as Muslims.
Here is how our God feels when justice is done:
“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die; saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” (Ezekiel 18:33)
This bloodshed will end, not when we kill more Islamic terrorists than they can kill of us, but when the ways of freedom and truth become more compelling than the ways of revenge, pillage and control. We have a right to protect ourselves, and to require justice from those who commit atrocities. We don’t have a reason to rejoice that this is still necessary, even if we are relieved that there is finally some sort of closure.