A few days ago when it was announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, I, like many others, found myself torn. On one hand, there was great relief that this person, a symbol and perpetrator of destruction and violence had met his demise; and, on the other hand, there was great discomfort with the triumphalist celebrations that were happening all around the country.
Facebook and twitter were blowing up with opinions about Bin Laden’s death and the consequent celebrations . . . and not far behind those were the opinions ABOUT the opinions. Understandably passions were running high and the tone quickly became a little ugly. I am sure that I did not help when at one point I twittered and facebooked
I hope someone soon has the courage to give a nuanced Christian response to Bin Laden’s death that adresses enemies, revenge and hate.
After a tracking the online conversations for a while it became clear to me that I was simply not ready to offer anything meaningful or that it was time to attempt to do so, so I ended the night with this tweet,
While not always my intuitive response, I think I will choose silence and sleep . . . for now.
But then the next morning, as the news was playing in the background – on ESPN mind you – my seven-year-old daughter asked me “Daddy, why are those people cheering that someone was killed?” Doh. It’s times like these that this pastor, who happens to be a father, would really like punt in my direction as so many other parents had done in the past, “That’s a good question, maybe you should go ask our pastor.” Chickens.
Far from that nuanced response that I had hoped for, here is what I basically said, “Well sweetie, do you remember us talking about the World Trade Centers in New York being destroyed by the airplanes and a lot of people were killed? The person who played a big roll in that, and probably planned the whole thing, was killed by the United States. There are many people that are really glad that he is dead and will not be able to hurt anyone else. There are also many people who think he got was he deserved for killing so many people. Some people are REALLY happy and this is how they are showing it.”
The look on her face made it clear that my heart was not in it as I explained the situation. She would be correct. Intellectually, psychologically and socially, I get why the celebrations took place, but it was clear that I did not agree. My wife summed up what I was feeling, when she tweeted,
I cannot celebrate the killing of another human, no matter who that is.
Again, I know that Bin Laden’s death was, in many ways, inevitable and that there is still a great deal of pent up rage and fear about what happened nearly 10 years ago. But, even so, in my gut, no matter the evil, responding to such result in the way that so many did, took away from the gravity of what originally happened. When someone is brought to justice after such a heinous act, I simply do not believe that rejoicing as if we just won the World Series is the way to respond. Relief for the end of one part of a painful story and remembering those lost sure, but not dancing in the streets.
I simply think we must be better than that.
I also know that emotions are high about this and there are assumptions made about anyone who dares to state an opinion. But if we are to get anywhere as a society, we must all keep living what we believe to be true and right, especially during times like these. Taking the higher road in times of conflict and being gracious in the face of evil are important postures that I hope my children embrace and live. I am glad they felt uneasy watching the celebrations over the killing of Osama Bin Laden, because in my opinion we all should have.
Please be sure to check out my Facebook status update for more responses.