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