A Christian Response to the Killing of Osama bin Laden. Or, How Long Is It Appropriate to Chant “USA! USA!”

You wanna quote scripture? I can quote scripture:

Let those who love the LORD hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 97:10

Christians have an obligation to view human life as God does (a much more complicated proposition than some would have you believe; more on that later), and I’m thankful that my Christian brothers and sisters take that responsibility seriously. Indeed, I’m thankful to live in a society where Christian and non-Christian alike give so much weight to human rights and human dignity–unless you’re still in your mother’s womb in which case we got nothing for ya and here endeth the obligatory abortion reference.

But the speed with which so many raced to tsk-tsk people for cheering the death of Osama bin Laden makes me wonder if their butts get chafed from sitting on that high horse all the freaking time. Facebook and Twitter lit up with people sad—so very, very sad—that all this had happened and that Americans were demeaning themselves for celebrating it. The tone is captured perfectly in a post from Salon.com that Jonah Goldberg calls “the dumbest reaction to Bin Laden’s death so far”:

But it is to say that our reaction to the news last night should be the kind often exhibited by victims’ families at a perpetrator’s lethal injection — a reaction typically marked by both muted relief but also by sadness over the fact that the perpetrators’ innocent victims are gone forever, the fact that the perpetrator’s death cannot change the past, and the fact that our world continues to produce such monstrous perpetrators in the first place. 

When we lose the sadness part — when all we do is happily scream “USA! USA! USA!” at news of yet more killing in a now unending back-and-forth war — it’s a sign we may be inadvertently letting the monsters win.

So, if defeating terrorists makes you happy, that means the terrorists have won. Got it? Goldberg then throws in his two cents:

If anything, what’s different today is that we live in a country which produces more and more people like [the post’s author] Sirota who see the killing — in battle! — of an implacable foe and murderer as a time for quiet reflection and sadness. If Sirota cannot see the difference between the myriad Islamic death cults we are at war with and our own society, it is not because there isn’t one. It is because he suffers from a nihilism all his own.

Indeedly-do. Love and brotherhood, tolerance and forgiveness are wonderful things, but we have swung so far in favor of them that we have forgotten about justice. Some people flinch a little at the mention of justice, because the concept of justice requires the existence of an innocent party and a guilty party, where the innocent party is protected and the guilty party is punished. That idea gets some hackles up because, gosh darn it, who are we to say who is guilty, really? AND/OR aren’t we all guilty, really?

God, however, does not flinch from justice. He makes no bones about distinguishing between the innocent and the guilty.  And God loves justice. He looooves it. And He wants us to love justice too. When justice is done, I don’t see why we shouldn’t rejoice in that.

A counter-argument to that point is that man’s justice is shallow and imperfect, so we shouldn’t see ourselves as justice-dealers. Only God’s justice can be celebrated because only God’s justice is perfect.

But man’s love is shallow and imperfect too, yet we all agree that we’re supposed to be the earthly instruments of God’s love. Why does that logic not extend to justice?

John Piper has one of the most thoughtful takes that I’ve seen so far (via Justin Taylor, who has a great rundown of Christian reactions):

God’s emotions are complex—like yours, only a million times more. Right now, your emotions about bin Laden are not simple, i.e. not single. There are several, and they intermingle. That is a good thing. You are God-like.

In response to Osama bin Laden’s death, quite a few tweets and blogs have cited the biblical truth that “God does not delight in the death of the wicked.” That is true. 

It is also true that God does delight in the death of the wicked. There are things about every death that God approves in themselves and things about every death that God disapproves in themselves.

Read the whole thing. It is complex, but so is the universe that God created. Let’s not cede moral authority to people who think “Coexist” bumper stickers are the last word in religious philosophy.

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