Like many, we have experienced mixed emotions as the details of Osama bin Laden’s death emerge.
We are relieved that the person who masterminded 9/11 and other mass murders is no longer available to direct acts of terror. Yet when we see Americans cheering on the streets outside the White House, and when we hear interviewees gushing, “I hope to God he rots in hell!” we are disturbed that so many Americans are allowing bin Laden’s hatred to justify their own hate.
All major world faiths place singular value on the dignity of human life, even when that dignity becomes distorted by evil. Our Christian faith tells us clearly that every human being is created in the image of God, no matter how grave their sins.
While we believe that all vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12), we do not think that it was unethical for our government, not bound by the theological ethics of Christianity, to decide that the safety of humanity required the death of this human being.
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The lesser evil of bin Laden’s assassination was justified when compared with the greater evil of his continuance as a living symbol for terrorism.
Our grave concern is that we, the American people, cease gloating in his death. Be relieved, yes. Be glad for justice, yes. But do not celebrate the tragedy of a necessary assassination.
To do so is not only wrong, according to the beliefs of all major faith groups, but profoundly unwise.
If we truly want terrorism to decline, then we need to concern ourselves with the humanity of all people, even our enemies. We need to rise above the demonizing behavior of playground children, who behave according to a simplistic view of good and evil – “us” and “them.”
We need to exercise self-control (Galatians 5) and work tirelessly on developing the spirit of mercy and peacemaking, especially with those whose distorted image of God seeks to solve injustice with acts of hatred.
Yes, it is the tragedy of the human condition that protecting the world from modern terrorism will sometimes mean shooting an unarmed human being in front of his teen daughter.
But let us remember the humanity of that girl and let us weep over the horrifically diminished humanity of her father.
We close with the reflection of a Presbyterian friend, not too far from Abbottabad, Pakistan, who recalls the words of Martin Luther King Jr:
“ ‘I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.’
“It is not the funeral of Osama bin Laden that will solve the world’s troubles or bring ultimate peace. It is the funeral that we remembered on Good Friday of Jesus Christ that gives us hope for the world. He willingly died for each of us because of His great love for us!”
The Rev. Elizabeth M. Deibert, is pastor of Peace Presbyterian Church, 10902 Technology Terrace, Lakewood Ranch. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 753-7778.