A Dad’s Response to the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

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.

  • Dearbunt

    Thanks for this, Bruce. I too cannot celebrate the killing of another human being. It makes me think of Bud Welch whose daughter, Julie, was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. Bud’s first response was hope that The person responsible for the bombing get the death penalty. After giving it more thought he realized the Julie would not have wanted Tim McVeigh to get the death penalty. Bud ,ended up sitting with Tim’s father during the execution. And he now speaks against the death penalty. I can only speak for myself, but I am grateful for Bud’s witness.

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  • Keith

    Perhaps many of the people were cheering the triumph of good over evil more so than the death of bin Laden. If satan were killed would you cheer? What would you say to your children? Would it bring you joy?

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  • Kristin Zeller

    Thank you. You summed up exactly how I feel.

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  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    @google-2b4c93fc4551f5ecec031d772588081f:disqus – I very much agree with you, though maybe in the tactics we would find less agreement. I never said that we should do nothing, only expressing my discomfort at the response of his killing. I know that the evil that has touched our family, when justice is achieved, the response will not be jubilance, but relief and another reminder of what was lost.

  • http://aunzblog.wordpress.com Daryl Francis

    Thank you Bruce. Well said.

  • Grunthirn

    I agree with you, but we should not involve our children in war celebration. I’m pretty sure that terrorist’s children are taught in an early age to hate the USA. Since they are so young and naive; they believe that we are the devil, therefore creating new recruits for future terrorism. Do we want to recreate the same cycle for our children? Are we teaching our children to hate the middle east? Do our children have a full understading of words such as hate, revenge, death? Let’s not involve our children in this matters. In the other hand, if you are an adult, please by all means, jump up and down that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Personally, I don’t think that the dead of a man is the solution to terrorism, but I’m glad that this will make other people like Osama think twice about doing despicable acts such as the 911 tragedy. And yes, I know that he was just a piece of the puzzle.

  • Anonymous

    The world unfortunately is not a perfect place, and this may have been the best that could have been achieved under the circumstances. So I acknowledge that some sort of justice was achieved, but that’s different from celebrating the death of another person

  • Cephalopod

    The quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. again reminds us of the deep waters he gave voice to. In that vein, can you imagine the man who spoke the Sermon on the Mount cheering and waving a flag in Times Square over the death of even an Osama bin Laden? If not, perhaps that helps explain why those celebrations were so disturbing. Perhaps too it is not just the celebration of a murder that is so disturbing, but also the reminder of the dear price we have paid and continue to pay as a nation — in lives, in fortune, in sacred honor — for our opportunistic and brutal response to the September 11 attacks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CJ4APNBNITPLISJBMD4RFCK334 shiva

    Thank you for your compassionate attitude. This world cannot be healed with constant negativity. We must come together. There are no other options.

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  • Ramster

    Thank you for your rational and thoughtful response. Also to your wife. I’m disgusted by the people cheering and acting like we are heroes for this act. We trained Bin Laden and gave him and Mujahedin (which became the Taliban) weapons and money. Then we betrayed him and the chickens came home to roost. Sadly, Americans act like we are the biggest kids on the block. We have killed over 100,000 civilians in these wars and we wonder why people hate us? Wake up sheep.

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  • leapkate

    I’m neither a parent nor a Christian, but I still greatly appreciate your viewpoint and thank you for sharing it. I found it disturbing and distasteful to see images of jubilant “partying” about an act of killing, even one that is justified, necessary, and in a time of war.

  • Kris10ude

    ”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • John Stuart

    Evil triumphs when good people do nothing. My generation has had its share of monsters, Bruce – Stalin, Pol Phot, Mao, Pinochet, Saddam, Bin Laden…and their deaths meant that those monsters could not impose their heinous cruelty on the innocents who were sadly under their regimes.

    I celebrate the fact that justice has been served and that others may know that the Free World will persistently and successfully hunt down those who would use terror as a means of killing others. To do otherwise is to put the safety of our children into the wicked hands and inhumane evil of future tyrants. Freedom is fragile, but if each generation does not fight for it, history will repeat itself and liberty will be taken away.

  • Anniekng

    yeah, I am glad the pictures will not be shared. I would like to think we have come farther along than parading heads around the town square on a pole.

  • Anonymous

    Yes it sucks to revel in the death of another, but when was the last time we had reveling in the United States? With the economy as bad as it is and people still out of work I believe it gave a large number of people in the US a hope for change coming.

    We’ve already had a high level member of Al-Qaida turn themselves in and the Taliban is considering breaking their ties with Al-Qaida. Whether Osama bin Laden had anything to do with the terrorist attacks in the US he represented them and even went so far as to claim a connection. With the symbolic figurehead of terrorist destroyed we can all hope for a change for the better. That is something we need in the US right now.

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  • http://twitter.com/NorCalCS Eric Nelson

    Bless you.

  • Anonymous

    Was directed here by a friend’s post on Facebook. Very good read and great perspective on Sunday’s news. Helps to see that others were geniunely bothered. I felt the same uneasiness you felt on Monday morning, which prompted me to write the following post that day:

    Osama bin Laden’s Death: Wrestling With Violence in Defense of Justice http://goo.gl/fb/IZhZV

    Blessings and thanks for sharing your personal story.

  • Barb

    I was also torn and felt uneasy. I was one who posted my uneasiness on my FB. I am amazed with the responses–both positive and negative. The living out of our faith is so difficult at times because our humanness gets in the way–but our living out of our faith is what makes our humanness more bearable and is so easy–what a paradigm–wow–a Gospel message living amongst us! How cool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Kurtz/100000050441267 Steven Kurtz

    I just asked my adult study group how many had heard of the “just war” theory – in a discussion about justified (or not) killing. Only one of 14. And these are the ones interested and engaged enough to have been coming to adult study groups for years and years. What in the world are we (the church) doing? Preparing people for thoughtful engagement as Christians apparently is not what we have been doing.

  • Tn1z9a

    I agree with you. Yes, his actions were atrocious. But, we should never treat the killing of another human as cause for celebration. Instead it is a sad, solemn and regrettable course of action that had to be taken.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    As I watched all of the reaction unfold, I simple could not wrap my heart and emotions around the way people were dancing in the street. Our family has been touched by violence and the loss of life and I cannot imagine that – when justice is felt – there will be any rejoicing at all, but rather a profound reminder of who was lost.

  • tblack

    Bruce,
    Well put. I’ve had similar reactions to this event, and to the events that have followed. There is a big part of me that understands the street dancing celebrations, but a bigger part of me that wants nothing to do with it. The sole comfort in this painful place has been that others share that same place, that same torn, confused state, and a lack of knowing what to do or say. I think Pope Benny got it right–we should reflect and not react. These are confusing times.

  • Patrick Laney

    Well stated. I wish more pastors who share your view had chosen silence. I personally think this was a time to be a pastoral, not prophetic. I am not sure how much grace is present in judging those who are not able to exercies grace as they celebrate.


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