On the Death of a Terrorist

News reports are coming in that Osama bin Laden is dead. As I look at the updates of my friends on facebook, several are rejoicing, some are hoping for an end to war and others are questioning if anything will change.

I know that in World War II many devout people, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrestled with determining if the world would be better off without Hitler or if it was morally wrong to kill someone even as evil as Hitler. Osama was responsible for the deaths of thousands on US soil alone. This is evil. Was Osama created by God? Yes. Did deserve to die? I don't know. Did thousands of soldiers and civilians deserve to die in order to kill bin Laden? I have a hard time accepting that.

I'm not going to get into politics or war right now. I suspect that his death won't change much--at least right away.

I do know that Jesus tells us on more than one occasion to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I do know that His example was not to retaliate against the Romans or the Jewish religious leaders who flogged Him and sent Him to His death. I do know that He talked about being peacemakers and turning the other cheek, but I can't seem to come up with a single verse where Jesus said to hurt someone or cheer for someone's death.

I do believe that as a nation we need to be able to defend ourselves and stand up for the oppressed. That is political and national necessity. But as a people of faith, I believe we always need to strive for peace and pray for those who may hate us and wish us dead. Not pray against them, but pray for them. I do wish that the billions that have been spent on war could go towards preventing the deaths of the hundreds of children who die each day from hunger.

I thank those who have served to keep our nation free. I mourn for those who have died. And I pray that one day we may be better and bringing peace to the world than violence.


Angie said...

Dave, I think this is a difficult subject where many Christians are torn. I have been reading a lot about the relationship between religion and government and these are a few of the concepts that I have come across. They have been helpful to me so I thought I would share them.

I agree that we shouldn't rejoice in anyone's death. Death is a curse. But I think it's important to separate the responsibilities of an individual and the duties of a government. As an individual, we do not have the right to take revenge on others either under God's law or our earthly law (which in America was founded on "the laws of nature and of nature's God"). But as a society, it is the responsibility of our leaders to carry out justice. If we want peace, there must be justice. As long as we are under our sinful nature, there will be evil that must be reckoned with.

God is a God of mercy AND justice. Noah Webster said, "Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of a man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet." Government officials and the military carry out justice not as individuals, but as civil servants.

In this instance, it would be wrong for a family member of a victim of 911 to seek out revenge on bin Laden, but the military MUST seek it to carry out justice and pursue peace. I believe this is the basic difference between revenge and justice. Bin Laden wasn't just a mass murderer, he was evil, and he CHOSE his path. Should we have prayed for him, yes. Should we support justice, yes. I think we can do both. I think most people are rejoicing not about death, but about justice.

"Where there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal (laws of nature and nature's God) in its operation upon all the members of the community." -Benjamin Rush

Rev. Dave said...

Good thoughts, Angie. I appreciate that you've been studying this. And I do recognize that civil government has a different mission than the church (which I think is why it is dangerous to call ourselves a "Christian nation"). Sill, as Christians I believe we must strive to see our mandates lived out.

And justice is God's mandate. Yet, I never see Him telling us to retaliate or seek revenge. He said in Romans 3 that the cross took care of justice. And when Jesus talks about justice as far as I can tell He's talking about taking care of the poor, the orphaned and the widows.

Revenge seldom solves things for governments. Today we're on a heightened alert because we're afraid Al Queda is going to retaliate for our retaliation. It just becomes a vicious circle.

I think we've neglected to ask if Jesus' forgiveness could be extended to a man like bin Laden. That will make many uneasy.