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Monday, May 2, 2011

Healing, Not Harming Rhetoric

I awoke to the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed at some point whilst I slept.  A myriad of emotions swept my heart and mind all at the same time: relief, fear, and sadness were among them, but I can honestly say not joy.  Is it good that justice has been served?  Yes.  I'm sure for those directly affected by the events of 9/11 this feels good and right.  Finally, the one responsible for all that loss has been stopped.  Is our world a better place with Bin Laden dead?  Yes, although there is likely an up and comer more than willing to take his place.  Even so, the fight against terrorism is important and this represents a big victory over a very elusive enemy.  But having said that, I am now going to risk sounding very self-righteous and comment that the shouts of jubilation and even joy at Bin Laden's "burning in hell" have deeply troubled me.  As I perused Facebook this morning, I found some of the comments deeply disturbing.  It felt quite vengeful and blood-thirsty.  Is our quest for revenge what drives our joy? 
 And in the midst of it all a couple of breaths of fresh air...two comments and one scripture quote really hit me:
"As some Americans celebrate Osama's death, as others around the world re-process the grief and continued suffering from terrorism, or maybe violence, or poverty, I wonder tonight, what is/should this conversation be centered around for Christ-followers?"  
"Woke up to The News. I understand the secular responses, but Christians using words like "rejoice" to express their reaction? Seriously? A word the Psalms give us for praising God, and we're going to use it to celebrate the death of an enemy? God help us." (A friend in London who also was sleeping whilst said news broke) and finally a powerful scripture passage:  "As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live." (Ezekiel 33:11)
It's awkward to write this post because I risk sounding so self-righteous.  That is honestly not the case for me.  I am just so deeply concerned with how our world uses violence and revenge to solve problems.  And there is a very real and present danger that a retaliation for America's action will emerge.  We should at least be humble about what's happened, recognizing that our jubilation is exactly the kind of reaction that incites the terrorist world.  I'm not saying that we shouldn't be relieved and even glad that a prominent terrorist has been caught and killed, but honestly, I don't get the rejoicing or the jubilation.  I know that some will think I'm not patriotic enough or that I'm somehow pro-terrorist or anti-American.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But beyond those labels I am a Christian who believes in redemption and to that end, I believe our reaction should be tempered by the love of God, which knows no limit.  I'm glad they caught Bin Laden.  I feel mixed about the fact that they shot him to death.  I'm not questioning the reasoning, I just struggle with avenging wrong with more violence and killing.  Perhaps they had no choice.  So be it.  It still feels a bit uncomfortable for me.
Finally, since this is likely an unpopular post anyway, I'm going to go out on the Obama limb a bit.  It's amazing to me how many conservatives are already finding ways to criticize the President even when he's accomplished something that they have wanted for years.  Did Obama act alone?  Of course not.  Did things that past presidents do help him?  Likely.  But the truth of the matter is this: Osama Bin Laden was brought down under President Barack Obama's watch.  He should get credit for this.  He followed the intelligence, he tracked the process, he had the courage to act and he gave the order.  If this goes wrong, he gets blamed for invading Pakistan and there is no end to the criticism that comes his way.  But it didn't go wrong.  It went right and something that Americans have been longing for for a very long time came to fruition while he was president.  I just wish people who don't like the President would at least acknowledge that he's maybe a tad smarter than they thought, just a little more on the ball than they would like to think.  Look, Reagan thinks he brought down the Berlin Wall and stopped the cold war all by his lonesome.  That too is a misrepresentation of history.  He deserves credit because that happened on his watch.  I think we all know that no one President or administration acts alone.  What drives this inability to acknowledge that Obama has done a great thing?  What I really wish is that the partisan cynicism could just stop for one brief moment while we all take in the accomplishment of a goal that most Americans have longed for...no matter who is responsible.  
Finally, I close with my own scripture reference: Romans 12: 17-19:  'Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.'  I do not read this as a call to not pursue justice but rather to pursue justice in a Godly, non-vengeful manner.  We have to figure out how to bring justice to situations where great harm has been done without perpetuating the very violence and terror that struck us in the first place. 
OK...Time to get down from my soap box.  My prayers are for peace and for healing of relationships between religions and for political opponents to come together to accomplish what is good and right for all people.  May God show us the way as we seek peace and grace and redemption.