Opinions Expressed in "Rants," while informed by Catholic doctrine, are merely the opinions of the author.
Is it Christian to be happy that Bin Laden is dead?
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Wow, it’s hard to keep up with all the news these days.
So unless you’re living under a rock (pardon the inference), you’ve heard by now, what maybe the biggest news story of the entire year, Osama Bin Laden is dead – killed in an American raid on his compound in Pakistan – nowhere near where we all thought he was. Apparently Special Forces troops went in, there was a big fire-fight, and Bin Laden was killed.
There should be a TV movie on it within the next few weeks.
These are all normal feelings for a person to have, in light of these recent events. But are they Christian feelings? For that matter, are they healthy, are any they good for us?
Interestingly enough, I just saw on CNN, a couple of 9-11 survivors, and a few family members of 9-11 victims, who are NOT jumping for joy – Bin Laden’s death won’t undo what’s been done, they say. In fact, many of them are experiencing old, painful memories coming back to the surface.
So, what IS the Christian way to feel about this? Well, we could look at the Bible:
The Old Testament has LOTS to saw about God’s people rejoicing at the defeat of their enemies – there are a LOT of examples of this. But these examples aren’t usually about revenge.
The ultimate example is the rejoicing we see Moses’ big sister Miriam doing after God DESTROYS the Egyptians in the Red Sea. Way to go God, they say. You’re greater than any nation; you’ve drowned our enemies in the abyss.
But, this wasn’t an act of revenge – it was God RESCUING his people, who were by the way, the weakest nation in the world, of men women and children, from being destroyed by the chariots and army’s of the strongest nation, EGYPT. The bottom line is, this is not a case of revenge. It’s not even a case of justice. It’s a case of God coming to rescue his people.
And here’s another way of looking at it. Pharoah is there looking at the Red Sea split apart down the middle, so that his former slaves can get away, apparently by the power of their Hebrew God. So at this point, good old Pharoah has a choice. He can turn around and go home (that might be a good idea), or he can follow them into the sea. In what universe is following them in to the sea a good idea? So the question remains, just to ponder – did God kill the Egyptians, or did Pharoah, by receiving the inevitable consequence of his own actions.
I think it would be worth looking at other Old Testament verses, about rejoicing at the defeat of ones enemies, in this same way. 1) In the Bible, the death of one’s enemies isn’t about revenge or even justice; it’s about defending the weak, and 2) to quote Jesus, he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. We all choose our own fate. Those who live violently – have chosen to die violently.
Speaking of Jesus, what would he say about Bin Laden. I don’t see news people talking about that very much. I don’t see “conservative family-value Christian politicians” talking about it either.
Well, what does Jesus say? He says, “Turn the other cheek.” “Pray for your persecutors.” “Love your enemies.”
Love Bin Laden? Sounds like a stretch.
But here’s the thing – and I even feel weird saying this – in addition to dying for you and me, all sinners, Jesus also died – for Bin Laden. Bin Laden may have thrown it back in Jesus’ face, but Jesus loved Bin Laden.
So – we need to understand this whole “war on terrorism” (one of the objectives of which was to find and neutralize Osama Bin Laden), within the framework of what the Church would call a “just war,” which has a very technically definition, but the bottom line is that it’s a war of self-defense. The “war on terrorism” HAS TO BE a war of self-defense, in order for it to be a JUST war.
That means it’s not a war of justice. It’s not a war of revenge. It’s certainly not a war to provide closure to the victims.
So is the war on terror a war of self-defense? Personally, yea, I think it is. Unless the terrorists are neutralized, they’ll kill again. And these particular terrorists aren’t just going after soldiers – they go after civilians: women, and children.
So, I think the case can be made that taking them out, and particularly taking Osama Bin Laden out, is a matter of self-defense.
And they took him out. Bin Laden’s dead. A victory. And Bin Laden certainly would have killed us if he could.
That’s the bottom line here – it HAS TO BE – that this is not an execution – it’s not a case of capital punishment. Capital punishment is not okay – true, some criminals deserve to die, but NO ONE has the right to kill them. Vengeance is MINE says the Lord.
It can’t be capital punishment. Bin Laden’s death MUST BE self-defense. Only that will justify it.
I think it is, and that’s why I think it IS justified.
I’ve heard news people on CNN saying they don’t know if it’s a just a symbolic victory, or an operational victory – a death blow to Al Qaeda – only time will tell if this is the case. Hopefully terrorist reprisals won’t result.
Gloating about it however – probably won’t help. It’ll make our enemies hate us even more.
The truth is, the REAL victory will take place when terrorism itself is ended – and that’s not gonna look like a military victory.
Terrorism typically consists of one wacko leader with 1000 followers, who only follow because they’re so desperate and powerless. Take away the followers, by changing western foreign policy, the wacko leaders have no one to lead, and then they’re EASY to get rid of.
I wrote a whole rant on this called “How to fight terrorism” a few years back.
End the reasons that terrorism happens in the first place, through education, fair treatment, dignity, empowerment – then we’ll win the “War on Terror.”
And back to the original question, should we be happy that Bin Laden is dead? Is that a Christian thing to feel?
The Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi issued a statement on this. It said, “In the face of a man's death, a Christian never rejoices.”
We can be RELIEVED that he’s gone. We can even be happy that others won’t die because Bin Laden is gone. But I don’t think shouting for joy that he’s dead is what we need right now. Now’s not the time for that.
It’s time to reflect on the fact that Osama Bin Laden has now DIED by the sword by which he lived.
It’s time to end the cycle of hatred with him, in a way that hopefully, will lead us somehow to peace.