Celebrating the Death of Evil: Is it Acceptable for Christians to Party Over the Death of Osama Bin Laden?

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Celebrating the Death of Evil: Is it Acceptable for Christians to Party Over the Death of Osama Bin Laden?

We decided to interrupt our planned blog schedule to weigh in on the monumental event of Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Please let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments section.

——————————————————————————————————————————— The first murmurs that US military forces had put a bullet into the brain of Osama Bin Laden released an explosion of euphoria—especially on America’s college and university campuses. George Washington University students raced over the couple of blocks between them and the White House and could faintly be heard in the background of President Obama’s announcement chanting “U – S – A.” The day after the announcement saw jubilant celebrations going from Ground Zero across the country. It’s been especially interesting to note how much passion the death of this world wide villain has had on the younger members our society. I’d like to make an observation about that and then try to put the whole phenomenon of Christians celebrating the death of an enemy in a bigger context.

Washington D.C. - Celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death
CC Image courtesy of theqspeaks on Flickr
When I first heard the report that OBL had finally been located and personally introduced to God the Righteous Judge by an elite arm of America’s military, I thought, “Good! That sorry sucker finally got his just desserts.” Although I was grateful that this long hunt was over, I wasn’t inclined to get out the fireworks or run into the streets waving banners. But children, teenagers and young people all across the country were inclined to. Obviously people of all ages felt this event was something to cheer about, but for the younger people, I think, the need to celebrate was more intense. Here’s my theory on why that is. I’d love to hear your take on it. Think of these kids in high school and college. They were between the ages of 4 years old and 10 years old when the Twin Towers were struck. They were too young to understand the totality of what had happened, but old enough to know that something very sinister and serious happened; something that had somehow changed the face of the world in which they were living. Suddenly there was a full blown and internationally declared War on Terror. I was just starting my middle aged years when 9/11 happened. Although I was extremely impacted by it all, it was the newest of several monumental events that I had had to deal with in my life. When I was born, World War II had just ended. During my childhood we had the Korean War, the Vietnam War as well as the national tension (including rioting in the streets) that surrounded the Civil Rights movement. I remember exactly where I was when I heard our president had been killed, later the head of the Civil Rights Movement, and shortly after that a senator also had his life taken from him. Throughout this time we also had the Cold War going on with the Soviet Union and my entire childhood was lived against the backdrop of the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. I remember us doing “nuclear attack drills” in elementary school where an alarm would go off and we’d all have to crawl under our desks and curl in a ball facing the floor. I guess they figured that was the most comfortable position to be in when a person gets vaporized. It scared the junk out of me. The closest thing my generation came to a euphoric celebration was when the Berlin Wall came down. Although I was no longer a kid, that event truly resonated with me because of the shadows that wall had cast over my entire childhood. When I saw the explosion of jubilation Sunday night and throughout the next day by such a large segment of young people, it hit me for the first time how much this War on Terror has loomed over them. Most likely, this generation of young people have processed more fear than many of us, their parents, realized. Who knows how many times they’ve thought about what all of this means (planes hitting buildings, people strapping bombs to themselves and blowing up innocent by-standers, etc.)? Who knows how much these hellish thoughts badgered them in their quiet moments or as they slipped to sleep each night in their beds? And even though everyone realizes that the death of OBL doesn’t mean the War on Terror is behind us, it clearly represents a shift in momentum to the side of freedom. Thus, the partying of the youth.
New York - Celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death
CC Image courtesy of theqspeaks on Flickr
But what about a party that’s purpose is to celebrate the death of someone? Especially a celebration by people who refer to themselves as Christians. Let me add one more layer to the discussion: a celebration by people who refer to themselves as Christians over the death of a man whom they will most likely never run into some day in heaven. There are two scenarios when the death of someone sparks great celebration. It’s not uncommon to celebrate the death of a person who has lived their life to bring joy, kindness and sacrificial love to other people. This is often what the funerals are like of senior statesman (and women) of the faith. Although the attendees are sad that they won’t be able to enjoy the presence of this person anymore here on earth (this is especially so if that person is a member of the attendee’s immediate family,) there’s still great joy for the memory of a life well lived and a purpose well spent. Then there’s the scenario that surrounds a person like Osama Bin Laden. This was a man who dedicated his life to destroying innocent men, women and children all in the name of his misguided belief system. He had a twisted and demented ideology that actually made him laugh with joy every time one or a group of his disciples pulled off a surprise attack on unsuspecting innocents. The thought that his influence could provoke one of his understudies to strap on a vest of plastique and nails and then detonate it in a crowded marketplace was, to him, the height of accomplishment. When he forced the United States to look down the barrel of his sick mind, and in the process end up burying over 3000 of our own flesh and blood, he created an enormous need within the heart of our nation’s citizens for justice. Besides the loss of innocent lives, destruction of property and the immediate undermining of our economic welfare, he also forced us into a defensive mode on our own soil. He created a need for us to engage in two wars to try to eliminate the future threat of his organization. OBL was in the “fear” business. He exported death to the innocent. So when, after a decade of having to live looking over our shoulder, we suddenly hear that he is no longer a personal threat, it’s absolutely natural to want to have a party.
Washington D.C. – Young people celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death
CC Image courtesy of theqspeaks on Flickr
The celebration isn’t so much that Osama Bin Laden got killed. It’s more about the fact that he was held responsible for his actions by the people he offended and finally received the judgment (justice) he had coming. A person might dance and say that they’re so glad he’s dead, but most likely what they’re really saying is that he finally got what he deserved. This is a legitimate response—even for a Christian. Part of it is therapeutic (especially if you are one of the people who lost a member of your family in the September 11th attack or its aftermath). But, part of it is what people do who recognize absolute morality. I don’t think even the most grace-based person out there needs to feel any guilt for enjoying the relief of knowing Osama can’t personally hurt us anymore and that he finally met his earned consequence. For a long period of time, the Israelites had been beaten into the dirt under the heel of an oppressive Egyptian regime. Pharaoh did everything within his power to remove any joy, purpose or hope from their lives. God raised up Moses to lead them out of this oppression. For a while, things actually got a lot worse. Finally, after one of the most severe judgments by God on the general population of Egypt (the complicit citizens who saw the oppression of the Israelites but did nothing to either protest or alter it), God led Israel out. If you’ve ever been to Sunday school or church, you know what happened next. God led them straight to the edge of the Red Sea. Meanwhile, Pharaoh reacted in rage, mustered his army of horsemen, charioteers and foot soldiers and pursued the Israelites. God opened the waters of the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to slip through to the other side on dry land. All the while he placed Pharaoh’s army in a fog that forced them to stay put. Then, God lifted the fog. Pharaoh saw the parted waters and the last of the Israelites making their way up and out the other side. He ordered his army into the middle of this divinely created trap. Once they were in the middle of the Red Sea God released the walls of water over them and drowned every last one. What’s interesting is what happened next. The Israelites stood on the opposite side watching in fear as Pharaoh and his army raced towards them in the path through the sea. Then they saw the water collapse over them. Finally, when the water calmed down, they realized that their enemy was completely vanquished. They exploded in song. Apparently Moses had a gift for lyric and melody. He quickly scribbled out the words to a song that included a line like “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and rider He has hurled into the sea” (Exodus 15:1b, 21). Miriam, Moses sister, grabbed her tambourine and a bunch of her girlfriends and they started dancing throughout the throng of people to the music and words of victory. This was about justice; not about death. Death just happened to be how the justice was achieved. This was also about salvation; not about the demise of these individual soldiers. Their demise just happened to be a requirement for Israel’s salvation to be delivered. OBL was a sick, dangerous man who killed a lot of innocent people as well as a lot of his misguided followers. Among other things, he killed for the sheer joy of it. Sunday afternoon, Pakistani local time, he received the justice his actions demanded. People who lost so much can perhaps finally put some closure on their deep hurt. Maybe even start to truly heal. This is all worth celebrating. And I don’t think people of the Way, the Truth or the Life need to apologize for this. However, I do think that people of faith need to continue to do what we should have been doing all along; praying for God’s truth to reach OBL’s family and followers. We need to continue to pray for the military personnel and their families as they sacrifice so much in order to try to bring an end to this evil. And we need to make our lives instrument of God’s grace to the population at large realizing that we never know how God may choose to use us to be a part of the solution to this international nightmare. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What are your thoughts on the recent news?  Comment below.

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