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Posted on Wed, May 4, 2011 : 9:40 a.m.

A somber, prayerful response to Bin Laden's death more appropriate than jubilation

By Darcy Crain-Polly

The images and video footage of champagne bottles being popped and glasses toasted, flags flown and waved, and chants of "USA!" are fresh in my mind. Had you not known the root of the celebration, you may have assumed the United States finally won in the world cup.

But alas, we are not celebrating an athletic victory or presidential election. Instead, we are celebrating a death. Previously, I could not put my finger on it, but something about it felt a little weird.

Yes, the world is a better place without Osama bin Laden and the gospel of hatred and violence that he promoted. Yes, it is a good thing that the nation so devastated by his plans of violence in 2001 was finally able to experience some sense of justice or closure.

However, there is a distinct difference between somber relief and euphoric celebration, and the latter leaves me uncomfortable. As a pastor, I look to my faith to interpret and guide my response to such events as this.

I am not surprised to discover that within the Bible you can find whatever answer it is that you’re looking for. If you are in the camp of euphoric celebration, you will find passages to support your response; passages where the people of God praise God for trampling their enemies beneath their feet. Their praise is genuine, and though not accompanied by a sense of nationalism or champagne, it is nonetheless praise of great joy for the death of their enemies.

However, you will also find passages from prophets that warn against how it is we celebrate or gloat our enemies demise. I believe the passages of euphoric celebration must be read in light of these other passages.

For example, in Ezekiel (18:23), we read, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?”

Indeed it did not seem probable that Bin Laden had any plans of turning from his ways. Despite his intentions however, the prophet suggests that God does not find pleasure in the death of those who are evil.

As a person of faith I attempt to follow the ways of God. In this simple logic, it would follow that I too should not find pleasure in the death of those who are evil. Now comes the difficult task: discerning what response is equivalent to finding pleasure in the death of one who is evil.

Does somber relief constitute less pleasure in his death than euphoric celebration? As one who responded to the death of bin Laden with somber relief, I can only personally attest that no, I would not describe my feeling as that of pleasure.

No one person can judge if another individual is taking great pleasure from his death, but other nations can certainly judge what is publicized about our nation’s response to the news. If you see people singing and chanting and champagne being poured, it certainly appears that our country is joining together in euphoric celebration, taking great pleasure in the death of someone who was undoubtedly evil.

And yet, I know of churches and synagogues who gathered to pray for peace and healing. I have read and heard from countless others who do not identify with any faith and yet agree that the euphoric celebration just didn’t sit right with them.

There is another response. If you too are trying to live out that alternative response of somber relief and prayer, know you are not alone. Together, may we show the world a different response.

Darcy Crain-Polly is the associate minister at the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor. She can be reached directly via email here.



Sun, May 8, 2011 : 11:44 a.m.

to summarize: on the plus side: -one more evildoer gone to a just reward ( at this point likely the tummy of an arabian sea tiger shark like the one whose jaws decorate my study); - a message sent to the duplicitous Pakistanis that they'd better shape up as allies or lose the funding they need to stalemate India - a message to jihadists that the holy war thing isnt all its cracked up to be and that at some point they are more likely to meet a SEAL than a virgin of paradise. - a welcome cathersis ( of whatever length) from unremittingly bad news - a boost for a president that deserves one and has been unfairly criticized for weakness on terrorism issues On the negative: -Islamic terrorism still exists and has its apologists ( whether evil or merely muddled, as in some cases on this thread and elsewhere in town) in other constituencies. -the tedious sanctimony of some who seem unable to empathize with their fellow citizens who are justly delighted at bin laden's demise and whose jubilation at worst makes more sense than the often more destructive celebrations at meaningless sporting events - my spring pollen allergies are kicking in -


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

"Instead, we are celebrating a death." Actually, I don't think this is what most people were celebrating. I believe they were celebrating justice. They were celebrating our servicemen who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Those same servicemen who protect our freedoms, including religion. People were celebrating a victory against the idea Osama bin Laden propagated. People were celebrating their country, its indomitable spirit and the pride we all share as Americans that for the past decade has been muted. People were celebrating the possibility of a brighter future for themselves and their children; one not ruled by fear, terror or wars. They were celebrating American optimism that good triumphs over evil. People were celebrating hope. Yes, we shouldn't take pleasure in a man's death as Christians, but I will not miss Osama bin Laden nor other symbols or harbingers of evil. His judgement is now in God's hands.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

I feel no joy in any death, although there appears to be valid relief felt by Americans across the spectrum and that is OK with me. I especially note that the extrajudicial assassination of an unarmed person in his home under federal indictment in a U.S. Court and premeditated summary disposal of his body without the consent of his next of kin is unprecedented in U.S. history. Several American legal scholars have criticized U.S. actions in these regards and a Dutch pair of citizens have been referred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague by Dutch police to initiate a complaint against the U.S. This was a victory against terrorism, however there are disturbing questions about the legal propriety of American actions, which need to be explored.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

Roadman: Although I appreciate your sentiment, I believe you are minimizing the dangerous nature of the operation. Ideally, of course, we could have trusted the Pakistani military to arrest Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night in the home of the most wanted terrorist in the world, with the potential of booby traps, suicide vests, etc. it is not always possible to know with certainty that your enemy is unarmed. I trust that our servicemen used their best judgement in a difficult situation.

John B.

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

So much for all of the nutty Right's protestations about how Obama is 'weak on issues of National Security,' huh?


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

This attack and the killing could be viewed as an act of retribution. For the crime called murder, death is a just punishment. This attack was planned over several months and after gathering sufficient evidence about the residents of that house. I have looked at the faces of those people of Pakistan who went to the house after the raid. They are not expressing any anger or resentment about this attack. They are not showing any surprise about this attack. They are only surprised by the fact of Bin Laden living in their community. They have not expected that. In essence, most people of Pakistan also believe that murder is an offense against God and death is a just punishment. So, I have not seen any grief on their faces when I watched the video news coverage of this event. The God in whom they believe has commanded them not to kill and they know that they have to stand before God on the Great Day of Judgment.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

Did you ever hear of an eye for an eye?

David Briegel

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 3:27 a.m.

Lot's of vision impaired people.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

Did you ever hear of "The New Testament"? Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 12:13 a.m.

"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?" This quotation highlights a failure of understanding in this essay: Repentance is a possibility only if the perpetrator is convinced that he sinned. Bin Laden quoted the Quran and claimed that it mandated his jihad, and so he gloried in his bloody deeds. It does not matter whether his interpretation is correct or not (Islamic scholars have weighed in on both sides), what matters is that he believed unhesitatingly that he was the instrument of Allah's will. That was not going to change.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

The head of the snake has been cut off, but the snake is still alive and poisonous. This mass-murder machine has killed many thousands and continues to do so. Removing its leader and symbol reduces its capability for further crimes (though it does not end it). Of course, we should rejoice. There is no reason not to. Agonizing over the elation about the elimination of this profoundly evil man is mushy-headed.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 8:07 p.m.

I'm glad Ben Laden is out of the picture but there is not much room for pride if you considered all the people who have died in response to 911.

Mr. Tibbs

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

I find something about all of this that just doesn't check out with me. First Obama brings to bear the entire government powers that be to stop the burning of a book, the koran for sure but it is after all wood pulp and ink. SO what makes any of us think that he would be OK with the killing of an islamic cleric? Ok he says he is a christian. A practicing christian, who once was an follower of islam. That makes him an apostate. the koran teaches that you should kill apostates. how many countries did he travel into and out of full of uncounted islamic "fundamentalists" without so much as ONE attempt on his life? Think about that for a minute. What a feather in your Hijab...or whatever it may be, if you were to kill an apostate, who was also the president of the country that they call the seat of satan himself? and then, with all the skill that the seals posses, I would imagine that taking him prisoner and to trial on the "world court" that Obama so lovingly pushes, would have been a much better choice. I for one am skeptical of anything including pictures. They can even bring dinosaurs back to life with a computer if they want to and show you that it is fact....some of you will believe it. also as far as the seals are concerned. what bothers me about all this is, if this is indeed true, about my allegations, that this is all a put-on. the seal team and all involved with this sham will more than likely be given cushy jobs with huge paychecks with the military industrial complex and their names will all be forgotten. something about all of this just doesn't add up. the timing is too perfect, the burial at sea is suspect, and the "president" was way to celebratory about it. Heck he was happier about this than he was about easter sunday....maybe that's part of it. to get the rightwing media to shut up about his blasphemous easter celebration. Who knows anymore. mass media breeds ignorance!

John B.

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 1:20 a.m.

What a bizarre comment. There's one in every crowd, I guess. Oh well.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

When we do win the world cup ,we should limit it's celebration to "somber activities". Otherwise, the losers of the match might interpret a euphoric celebration as gloating and hurtful. More seriously, I'd suggest that a narrowed view of the celebration is subtly framed by this article. There are other impetus for celebration besides the fact that an individual's heart from beating as a result of this incident. For example, a great military victory was achieved. Do we need to refrain from celebrating these other facets also?


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:37 p.m.

"All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction." - Clarence Darrow I guess I'm just a little person and HE will just have to forgive me if next time I hit a beach I do a little dance on the water.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:57 p.m.

Good to know that the Superintendent at the United States Military Academy reacted more maturely and with more thoughtfulness than many Americans and some of the &quot;usual suspects&quot; here. His words to his cadets are profound. See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The above link is to the Supe's page; the first link is to a YouTube video of his speech. For the uninitiated, it looks as if the speech was at an impromptu &quot;rally&quot; held in the cadet North Area (had the &quot;rally&quot; been at all planned there would have been a more capable speaker system there than the bullhorn he is holding). This is a fairly typical occurrence during football season but, in this case, clearly it was prompted by OBL's death. The Supe, who appears to be in civilian clothes, lives barely 50 yards from North Area and, almost certainly, simply walked in on the &quot;rally&quot;. And it is worth noting that he clearly intended to take his cadets from a celebratory mood into one of contemplation about what these events mean. His closing words are worthy of consideration for ALL of us: &quot;Go out and enjoy this moment, but do it for the right reason, and that is to remember the sacrifice of our troops, the troops that you will be privileged to command very very soon.&quot; Good Night and Good Luck


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

Thank you, Darcy Crain-Polly, for an excellent article. I agree with you 100%.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

Bin Laden was following his views of religion, just as you are, Darcy. Both of you seek to control others by citing passages from books written long ago by men long forgotten as individuals. The only difference is that Bin Laden was willing to resort to violence to exert his control. You are the last person we should listen to when deciding how we should feel about Bin Laden's death. Religion is very dangerous.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

I'm not a fan of religion. And I really despise the clan mentality that it seems to encourage. This mentality is not the exclusive province of religion, however. Political parties also seem to invoke authoritative appeals to holy texts (i.e., the constitution) and quote revered prophets and saints (founding fathers, anyone?). Danger lurks anywhere someone is willing to claim an authoritative position merely by reference to a 'popular belief', without a persuasive or reasoned argument. There is opportunity for demagoguery within and without religion.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Macabre Sunset

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

Cash, people in organized religion say the same thing about every single person who does something they don't approve of. The point being, Hitler himself thought he was serving his Christian god. Religion is a dangerous weapon. Held in the hands of Hitler, millions died. In the hands of Bin Laden, thousands died. I mourn neither death. Celebration isn't in me, either, but I do feel a sense of relief that Bin Laden is gone.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

As a card carrying agnostic...... Religion isn't necessarily bad....just the bastardization of it.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

He had long since abandoned any organized religion and made himself god. I think most of us know that. He closed churches, religious youth groups etc. Don't rewrite history. gain, I have no allegiance to organized religion. But I refuse to blame organized religion for people doing evil things. We all have a self-will. How we use it is what counts. There are people of all religions and no religions who are good folks. It's not religion that makes them do is their own self-will.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

Since you're invoking Godwin's law, it was fairly clear from Hitler's writings that his Antisemitism was fueled by his Catholic upbringing. &quot;I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord&quot; (from Mein Kampf). &quot;My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.... When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom to-day this poor people is plundered and exploited. &quot; (from a speech Hitler gave in 1922).


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

non-religious can be dangerous too! &quot;A Hitler Youth marching song (Grunberger, A Social History) illustrates it: We follow not Christ, but Horst Wessel, Away with incense and Holy Water, The Church can go hang for all we care, The Swastika brings salvation on Earth. (Horst Wessel was an early Nazi party Sturmabteilung street-fighter murdered by communists and turned into a martyr by propaganda chief Josef Goebbels.) I'm not a supporter of organized religion. But I respect other people's choices. Clearly people can turn any book or phrase into their own purpose if so desired.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

I usually don't like religion except Darcy's column uses it in a respectful, non-dangerous way. I appreciate her statement &quot;within the Bible you can find whatever answer it is that you're looking for&quot;. Even if you do not believe in any religion, the Bible and other religious texts have some wisdom to listen to. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (even if most of it is murky bathwater).


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

Well, color me barbaric, but the only unfortunate thing about this ghoul's death is that he didn't suffer enough.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

To those dancing in the streets, remember that this is not VJ Day--al Qaeda did not surrender and did not say they would give up the fight. We just killed one person, but others will carry on in his place. If the US had handled the &quot;war on terror&quot; correctly, Bin Laden may have found about 9 years ago BEFORE thousands of US troops and civilians were killed, BEFORE America trashed its moral standing by torturing and holding prisoners without charges, and BEFORE the GWB administration started the unnecessary and disastrous war in Iraq under the pretense of fighting terrorism. Then maybe the jubilant celebrations would be a little more justified. Thank you, Darcy Crain-Polly, for a terrific article. I am as happy to see Bin Laden gone as Top Cat and the other posters, but let's remember what we had to go through to get here.

Moscow On The Huron

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

As my gaming friends are known to say, &quot;BOOM head shot!&quot;


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

I can't find joy in any death. It's just not in me. However I did find joy in knowing that a leader of a movement bringing death and destruction to many innocents around the world is now gone. And I do hope that: 1. It will weaken that movement and thus, 2. It will save many lives, including soldiers of all countries. 3. we will be able to leave the Middle East and allow them to handle their own affairs. Personally I would have hoped for repentence for him. That's what I hope for every human...they we see our wrongs and are sorry for them before we die. But, that's between Osama and his maker. Not my business.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

Aside from stating the most obvious thing, Americans could care less about soccer or a world cup, there is another way to read what happened. Americans were celebrating the slight lifting of the cloud that Bin Laden put over the country on Sept 11th. His larger goal was to wound our national pride and cripple our economy. These goals he achieved beyond even his wildest dreams, I suspect. My interpretation was that it was not just the celebration of killing him, it was the removal of some of that dark cloud. Millions of Americans have lost jobs, loved ones, seen families break-up, and gone hungry because of Bin Laden's carefully plotted attack. I'm generally the most liberal, anti-war, anti-military, anti-death penalty person I know. I appreciate your thoughtful work and reasoning, but I completely disagree on the subject of this guy. If his efficient death means a sliver of a boost to the economy, puts a few people back to work, or restores some civic pride, it's worth a celebration.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

The commander in chief got this one right. Must have learned from his mistakes. Glad there was no effort to read him his rights. Kudo's to the Seals for dotting this mass murderers eyes. Good move chucking him into the ocean. I just hope the fish didn't get too sick during dinner. The only advantage to a trial is that they could have humiliated him prior to hanging him. Probably wasn't worth the cost though. Glad they did it the cheap way. Celebrate! Just like on VJ day. (Another unprovoked sneak attack.) Sorry if you don't like it Polly. Actually, come to think of it, I don't really care if you like it or not.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

I find prayer very offensive.

David Briegel

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

I really don't care that Osama got nailed. He was unarmed. They brought his body back. It seems he might have been a little more valuable alive. I know there might have been one or two questions we could have asked. And there is no &quot;mushy sentiment&quot; involved! And wouldn't a trial and a public execution have shown a little more about Truth, Justice and the American Way?


Sun, May 8, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

Of course you don't care, since it's a glitch in your usual anti- U.s. riff


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 6:51 p.m.

&quot;he was shot twice in the head in a so-called "double tap", which is typically used to kill suicide bombers as it ensures instant death, with no risk of them being able to detonate their device. &quot; -UK Telegraph

Macabre Sunset

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

When you're admittedly guilty and have nothing to lose and seemingly infinite resources, you put the system on trial in defense. We saw that with O.J. Simpson. A Bin Laden trial in America would have been a circus. And accomplished nothing other than to serve extremist fantasies about putting America itself on trial. A public execution would be met with disgust around the world. Keeping him in jail forever would turn him into a martyr. His computers and file cabinets are more valuable than having him around.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

A public trial is all about spin. ....that would have been an utter disaster.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

I for one AM euphoric. Mr. Bin Laden was quite familiar before with one great American aerospace company's product (Boeing 757), now he is familiar with another, namely the Sikorsky Blackhawk.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

Hmmmm.... on one level, I see the writers point, but my feelings are mixed. The bottom line is that we are supposed to be a country that values......values. Even when the chips are way down. It's great that this scum has been eradicated - not doubt about that. But a fanatical display of celebration seems to equate to a number of uncomfortable things: 1. It elevates the guy's stature and importance. He doesn't deserve it. 2. It reminds me of some of the displays of celebratory extremism we see in other countries 3. It had the flavor of &quot;our team beat your team&quot; .... this isn't a game. 4. Bin Laden once said, &quot;the US loves life, while we love death&quot; (sic) - .....a little uncomfortable to be jumping in the streets over a dead guy That said. I have to say Top Cat makes the more compelling argument: Whenever I review the events of that day, the act rises to such an incredible level stupifying incredulity that this is more like VJ -day than anything else. I think we are celebrating a stated goal pursued for more than 10 years. That's a lot of pent up energy.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4 p.m.

well stated


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

While some were jubilant at the death of UBL others were jubilant at the fact that we accomplished what we said we would, hunt him down, dead or alive. To a lot of people they see it as a (military) victory. Just as people had different reactions to 9/11 they will have different reactions to this. While celebrating and chants of USA may make YOU (and some others) uncomfortable that is YOUR reaction, it does not make it right or wrong.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Waving flags and banging on pots doesn't make the news--it also doesn't make change.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

Way to go, me, leaving a comment that makes no sense at all! Sorry about that--not enough caffeine this morning, apparently. What I MEANT to say is that waving flags and banging on pots makes the news--but it doesn't make change.

G. Orwell

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

I am sorry to inform you that Osama bin Laden died in 2001-2002 from a disease. There are numerous reports of him being on a kidney dialysis machine. If you look at photos and videos of him in late 2001, he was very thin and his hair was turning white. He was very weak and sickly in appearance.


Sun, May 8, 2011 : 11:28 a.m.

isn't the aluminum foil hat getting a bit warm now that the weather has turned???


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

Can we get some kind of source, or are we to take your word for it?

Top Cat

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

3,000 Americans were killed on 9/11. We just killed the mastermind of 9/11. The world should know exactly how we feel about this event and what we will do should anything like it occur in the future. Fortunately, our President does not share the mushy sentiments of the author of this article.