Osama bin Laden
No, I do not celebrate today. Call me unpatriotic, undignified, insensitive, whatever you want. Call me a “treehugging bleeding heart liberal” if you so desire. I have been called much worse. Through thick and thin, I can tell you that I do not celebrate today.
Now, do not say that I do not care about the more than 3,000 people who died and more than 6,000 who were injured on 9/11. Don’t you dare say that I don’t care about the hundreds of firefights, dozens of police officers, and the thousands of soldiers who died in the wake of this despicable tragedy. Don’t you dare try to construe for a moment my words to say that I am indifferent toward these actions. They deserve nothing but strong words and strict, utter condemnation. They were evil. There is no other word for them.
I don’t celebrate because I cannot reconcile that with the beliefs I hold about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I do not rejoice in the face of death and destruction, no matter whose death it is. I cannot make an exception because of emotion and nationalist fervor. I trust in the hand of God to bring about his new creation, his new world in which there is no longer war, killing, revenge, death, or violence. I long for a world when that is no longer necessary. What was announced yesterday did not bring us closer to that world, so I have no cause to celebrate.
It is easy to pass judgment on Osama bin Laden, isn’t it? (Good-bye, those of you who think you know what I’m going to say next and just quit reading,) It is more difficult to reflect on ourselves. Clearly, what he has done was evil, wrong, and unjust. As I walked back to my dorm room last night, pro-American slogans (some quite vulgar, actually) had already been chalked over all of the sidewalks. Facebook was covered with celebratory remarks and chants of “USA! USA! USA!”
Forgive me if I thought I lived on a Christian campus where we don’t strip people of the image of God which is their birthright. Forgive me if I thought I lived among Christians who understood that we owe our allegiance to a “commonwealth of heaven,” as St. Paul writes. Forgive me if I hesitate in the face of the same American, nationalist fever that led the people of this nation to acquiesce to the demands of the last administration in the name of “safety and security.”
On the one hand, Americans need to be careful that they do not create a climate for another PATRIOT Act or War in Iraq. They must guard themselves against the corporate emotional high that many mistakenly perceive as “unity.” If it is unity, how sad is it that this country can only unify over the death of another human being and not around the disasters that killed over 300 of its citizens last week.
On the other hand, we need to be careful as Christians, too. We need to be careful if we are to call ourselves Americans to not dedicate ourselves to American gods and willingly and joyfully sacrifice ourselves on the altar of nationalism. We cannot forget to lament in the face of a war that goes ever onward and has no end in sight. We cannot cease to weep that the United States, other nations, and coalitions of this world will still send young men and women to die today and tomorrow for a peace they cannot attain. We cannot sit down and say that the work of justice is finished this day.
I bring to mind the words of Dr. James Strange that I posted yesterday in an oddly timely manner. The passage he was preaching on says a lot to us in this hour. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
As Christians, we have to take passages like this seriously. We do not get to pick which ones we would like to follow and which we would like to ignore in the face of national victory. We are not a people of retaliation, bloodlust, and revenge. We are called to be children of God, to be made in his likeness. And what does Scripture say about God’s reaction? I also recall the prophet Ezekiel:
As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live.
So I do not celebrate today. I believe that I mourn with God the death of one of his sons who became so distorted and disfigured that he purported and enacted deeds of great violence and profound evil. I mourn the reality of the war to come and the thousands more who will die in just the next few years. It is not fair, it is not just —
— and it won’t always be this way.
I believe that a day is coming when everything will be put to rights. I believe in the Incarnation, the beginning of this grand, sweeping movement of God coming to redeem the world. I believe in the Atonement for the forgiveness of sins and the Resurrection that shows that we will have life again. I believe in the new heavens and new earth when
the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.
But today is not that day. That day, when all is complete, is still coming.
So, I do not celebrate the death of one man, but I hope for the redemption of all mankind. I yearn for the day when every man, woman, and child will be made new and we all gather around the Tree of Life again. I yearn for the day when the New Jerusalem is not a sight of conflict, dissonance, and violence. I yearn for the day when killing is no longer the definition of justice. I yearn for the day when heaven crashes into earth.
Posted on 2 May 2011, in Current Events and tagged Death, Ezekiel, Injustice, Jesus, Justice, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan, Peace, Sermon on the Mount, Terror, United States, Violence, War. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.