Monday, May 2, 2011

Should we Celebrate Bin Laden's Death?

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

After hiding from soldiers, spies and drones for nearly a decade, the mastermind of Islamic terror died in a fashionable suburb of Islamabad.

Last night, thousands of Americans gathered at the White House to cheer as President Obama made the announcement. Today, thousands more are cheering in the workplace, on television and on the various social media sites.

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.


Randy said...

Powerful and thought provoking post. Thanks, Dan. I needed to read this. My emotions have been so conflicted!


Anonymous said...

You and I were blogging on the same thing today. I am torn about the whole thing. The man was a terrorist. He has been stopped...but terrorism has NOT been stopped.

We are not to rejoice over the death of another. Yet we can rejoice that Bin Laden's reign is over.

Gina Parris said...

Beautifully said, for sure. As the wife of an officer who is currently serving in the Gulf, we agree with your completely.

Anonymous said...

Awesome word & very well stated. Thank you!

AllForYeshua said...

Last night when I heard the news, I was rejoiced, that an evil man was brought to justice and praised the fact that he was in hell, I can admit that I am a newborn christian and that I dont always do or act like the Lord would have me, But almost 30 min after the rejoicing of hearing the news The Almighty convicted me tremendlously( excuse the spelling ) so bad that I could not sleep. Yes He did unspeakable things, But we must understand that we do not war with the flesh but only with principalities, and powers and rulers of the darkness of the world... And also let me end with saying we all are held acountable for our sins not just him, If any one thinks there inocent there wrong each and every one of us hammered those nails in to His hands and feet and put him up on that cross, (even Me)..... Thank You pastor dan for that message it makes me feel better knowing that I'm not the only one that feels that last night and today was wrong...

robedav said...

Thank you for sharing these words of wisdom and reminding us of our responsibilities as a Christian. Sadly, too many American Christians have allowed patriotism to our country blur our loyalty to our Kingdom.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for this well-informed and well-put message.

a56piano said...

Hi, Dan...
I came to your post by way of a facebook link from a friend. Thank you for writing this. You have captured some of what I am seeing in the wake of this event. Much, actually. Your final paragraph captures something extremely important. The solution we think we are pursuing is not the solution at all.

WordWoman said...

Thank you for your insightful and temporate comments. The lenghty TV coverage of the sight of gleeful revelers hoisting their mugs to the death of BinLaden was distasteful and not in service to our image as Americans to our Muslim friends here or overseas. As Christians we must discipline ourselves and seek by all means to reach some for Christ. thanks Dan for helping us think and hopefully act in concert with our Faith.

stacy beam said...

As always, challenging, true, compelling. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking! Very informative, Thanks Danny Lee!