Monday, May 2, 2011

A man is dead

Osama bin Laden, the man most directly responsible for thousands of deaths on September 11, 2001 and many before and since, is now himself dead.  Killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in an operation that was months in planning, that was so secret that not even our allies who normally would have been informed ahead of time knew about it until the rest of the world knew, his death will be remembered alongside Saddam Hussein's and Adolf Hitler's (whose death, coincidentally, was announced 66 years to the day earlier).  Leaders and citizens of the world have expressed all sorts of reactions, from relief, gratitude, and jubilation to fear of reprisals against the men and women involved in the operation.  We pray, of course, for their safety and that of their families and loved ones in the aftermath.

Should we celebrate, though?  That a murderer and a terrorist can no longer plan the deaths of others, yes, we should celebrate.  But let us be sure that is what we celebrate.  Another man has died; another human being, another living person, another child of God has been killed.  That is not something we should celebrate.  Christians know this; we know that the law of the gospel is love, not hate.  I'm sure every religion in the world has a similar principle.  Even atheists must shake their heads a bit at the thought that any death can bring joy or glee.

I wrote an article on the nine-year anniversary of 9/11.  In it, I expressed my desire that, in the midst of all the fighting we do to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again, we not lose sight of what our true motivation should be:

I had always known that growing up in the church had given me a different perspective on life, and it certainly has in this case. The scriptures remind us, in many different ways, that vengeance is God's prerogative, and that ours is forgiveness. We're told repeatedly that the law of God is love, for our enemies as well as our neighbors. In the case of the nation of Islam, they are sometimes the same thing. I've said before and still believe that the authors of terror and murder deserve whatever punishment they have coming to them; but that doesn't mean we should hate them. When a group or nation declares war on us or our way of life, it is our responsibility to defend ourselves, and even those who cannot defend themselves; but we should never do it with hate in our hearts. We were enemies with Adolf Hitler, with Mussolini, and with Hirohito, but when World War II ended, we helped Germany, Italy, and Japan rebuild, and now we're strong allies with each nation. We were enemies with Saddam Hussein, but now we have what could be a strong ally in Iraq.

Did Islam itself attack us? Even if it did, we should not hate them, anymore than we should hate each other for how we each choose to respond to the attack.
I wrote a piece last year about the Civil War and my governor's decision to issue a proclamation commemorating the sacrifices of the soldiers who fought for the South.  Someone commented, "If you are going to shed a tear for soldiers that fought for something they believe in then please note the next Taliban, Nazi, or other terrorist you would mourn."  I responded, "there's a difference between a Nazi and a member of Germany's armed forces circa 1940. Do you doubt that any of the troops in Hitler's army were press-ganged into service?  As for al Qaeda and the Taliban, the same principle applies. The authors of terror and murder deserve whatever punishment we can give them; but when you take a child and brainwash him from infancy to hate America, who's to blame for when he grows up and wants to destroy us?"
While I don't mourn the death of Osama bin Laden, I don't celebrate it, either.  We're in a world that has too much violence, too much bloodshed, too much death and devastation already.  That it should even be necessary to kill someone to prevent him from killing others is a tragedy, and I will not celebrate tragedy.  The War on Terror is not over, as some would like it to be; there are still terrorists and murderers out there, and we must still be vigilant and protective against them.  I breathe a sigh of relief that the man behind 9/11 is in God's hands now, to punish as He sees fit; but I do not hate him, nor his companions, nor his family.  You should not, either.