Monday, May 2, 2011

Mixed Emotions

Osama bin Laden was a very, very bad man. He was responsible for more evil than virtually anybody else we have seen in decades. Certainly he was in the same league with Milosovic and Pol Pot in character if not in sheer numbers. He had blood on his hands.

Still, it is hard for me to be totally joyful about a sniper's bullet to the brain killing a human being.

I understand just war. I understand self-defense and defense-of-nation and defense of all that is good. The man had to be eliminated from the world stage, and it needed to have been done years ago.

Still, I was much happier with the capture and trial of Saddam Hussein. There is just something about that intentional sniper's bullet to the brain.

As the news comes in, it is becoming clear that capture was an option given to bin Laden, who instead chose to grab a weapon and apparently use one of his wives as a shield.

My politics tell me this was a great thing. My national pride tells me this was a great thing. My cold examination of the world stage now vs. eighteen hours ago tells me this was a great thing.

What I am finding interesting is the spectrum of reactions within the Christian world. On one hand are many of my friends who join in the national celebration. I have read the words of those who have confidently pronounced last night's killing to have been God's judgment. On the other hand, I read the words of a young friend - a college student at the top of her inquisitive game - as she asks if God can ever be pleased by a murder. I resonate with the words of Father James Martin, who says, in the midst of his joy that bin Laden has left the world, "[a]s a Christian, though, I can never rejoice at the death of a human being, no matter how monstrous he was." For many, intentional and directed killing of an individual is more than a little troublesome.

I tossed and turned last night. Not so much at the act of killing bin Laden, for I know that war has its own rules, and when we find a cruel and evil person of this magnitude - who has lived to destroy... who revels in beheadings... who is trying to shoot back - we have little alternative. War is not murder, no matter how well-meaning my young university friend and her honest questioning may be.

No, I did not lose sleep over the demise of bin Laden. I tossed and turned at the reactions of so many who were celebrating. Reading the Facebook posts of Christian friends who were positively giddy at the thought of the death of another human being is a sobering experience.

I am not saying that they were wrong. I am not suggesting that they are bad Christians. I am simply trying to process the thought of such exuberance over any human being's taking a bullet to the brain.

I know the reactions this blog will draw from many. Please understand that I understand the necessity of eliminating this kind of enemy. If it could not have been done the same way we got Saddam, then so be it. War is hell. And this war is different from any we have fought before; instead of a nation-state enemy whose corporate defeat can be easily celebrated in an impersonal way, we now fight a collection of individuals. We choose to treat them not as criminals with basic rights to be observed but instead as military targets. I don't know another way to protect ourselves. This war becomes Hell-plus. If you comment on this page and say that ridding the world of Osama bin Laden was worth any moral price, I am unlikely to disagree.

That is not my point. My point is only that such revelry in the death of another person - another creation, no matter how flawed and how guilty, of the Father - ought to give us pause.


Barbara said...

This is right on target for what I have felt personally.

"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." MLK Jr.

'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!
Ezekiel 33:11

Sean said...

I saw a tweet from Rick Warren tonight quoting EZekiel 33:11. The gist was that God does not take pleasure in killing the wicked, but hopes that they will turn from the wicked so they may live. Thought of your blog post almost immediately. I think it is inherent in our Christian DNA (as it were) to feel a sense of mixed emotion at times like these. Totally agree with you that the killing was just and must have been done given the opportunity. Yet still feel that it is oddly inappropriate for college students to be chanting USA USA uSA outside the White House upon the announcement.