Osama, “Pro-Lifers,” and the “Christian” Response

As the world takes in the news of the death of Osama bin Laden the reactions have been numerous and extremely varied. My initial reaction was that his death likely doesn’t change much in the way of making our country safer from terrorists. I then began to see video of people celebrating in the streets and my Twitter stream and Facebook News Feed began to fill up with jokes about his death, praise to God for his murder, and words of caution to those who were celebrating.

Many Christians responded with joy while many others responded solemnly. The intra-Christian debates began to rage with many arguing why there point was more “christian” than someone else’s. I have no problem admitting that I think it is extremely distasteful and inappropriate to celebrate anyone’s death and that this view is largely influenced by my view of humanity and my relationship with and understanding of God.

So, now, as I’ve had some 48 hours to process my thoughts and the thoughts of others about this situation I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.

  1. “Pro-life” doesn’t really mean pro-life. I have long taken issue with people who claim to be “pro-life” and yet do not support social programs that help keep people alive and also fully support capital punishment, for I see a great disconnect between these two positions. This sad truth has been borne out over the past few days as many who I know see themselves as “pro-life” are cheering for death. It is confusing and seems to me to be rather disingenuous as well. (For the record, I consider myself to be pro-life though my definition is quite different than that given by many others)
  2. ROT IN HELL! That was the cover of more than a handful of newspapers on Monday morning and it was a sentiment echoed by many Christians within my social circle. Again, I am confused by those who claim to believe so fervently in hell being so ready, willing, and excited about consigning someone there. Additionally, in true Rob Bell fashion, I have to ask if these same Christians give any second thought to their claims that Osama bin Laden is in the same place as Gandhi and Mother Theresa.
  3. Allah vs. God. As many of you probably know my soteriology is rather inclusivistic, meaning that I think God is bigger than an Americanized for of Christianity and that God can and indeed does work outside of Christianity. I fully believe that many Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. have an understanding of God that is not entirely different from out own (and especially that of the ancient Israelites) and that I am in absolutely no place to say whose understanding is “right” and whose is “wrong.” Further, as I thought more about this it hit me that while I may personally think that Osama bin Laden’s understanding of God was perverted I also feel the same way about the ancient Israelites’ view of God as it is presented to us in the Hebrew Bible. Moreover, their respective views of God were actually quite similar. They both believed that they were gaining God’s favor by killing their enemies (who were, of course, also the enemies of God). In their understandings of God, God not only accepted mass killings, but encouraged it. Yet, at the end of the day, while I do not accept these views of God as my own I also am not willing to say that the ancient Israelites did not know God and thus, I should not be willing to say that Osama bin Laden did not, in some way, know God. Logically, those who fully accept that God did actually issue the commands in Exodus, Joshua, etc. that the Israelites kill entire towns of innocent people should not really have a problem with someone else whose understanding of God commands the same thing.

These are a few of the places I have landed after taking time to process the murder of Osama bin Laden and the varied reactions. I also want to hear your take, so please share.


4 thoughts on “Osama, “Pro-Lifers,” and the “Christian” Response

  1. One other comparison may be appropriate, if you will allow my hijacking (that’s not a tasteless joke, it’s just the best word I could find for what I’m doing to your blog).

    You aptly compared Ancient Hebrew social religion to that of Osama Binladen and other Wahabi Muslims. But most R’s and D’s and “patriots” in America have done the exact same thing as them with the modern manifest destiny that proclaims American Christianity should rule the world. Thus, it was God’s will that we kill this guy. Therefore, while it was wrong for Palestinians to dance in the street ten years ago, it’s mandatory that we do so now. In short, my spelling sucks and religious nationalism is what idiots do to feel good about themselves.

    From the desk of the truly pro life (all human life) Court Greene

    1. You make a good point about modern manifest destiny and the double (or is it triple, or quadruple) standard that many Americans and American Christians have when it comes to issue like this.

  2. This issue has forced some much needed discussion on morality and justice. You both know where I stand on the issue of military actions such as this. I would like to consider a few aspects of what you have presented.

    I would not consider the events of Sunday as dancing in the streets occasion as we did not get the chance to let him stand trial for his actions. I was disappointed to hear that we did not get to take him away in zip ties as that would have been the way I wanted to see it go down. The question of justice arises and I dont know if I can affirm if it was. That is something that I concede to higher powers as it is not my jurisdiction, life and death. As far as the action of the ST6 I would have to applaud their military precision and willingness to do the dirty work of combat on behalf of our nation. The decision to use deadly force was not theirs and they hold no responsibility for that force as long as they were used as POTUS intended.

    Pro-life is such a meaningless statement and category that I hate to use it. I am Con-life. That means about the same thing.

    It is illogical to suggest that UBL gets any special eternal treatment as a result of the way that we value his actions in this life. If God grants mercy and lets him rest in peace then it is a victory for God’s mercy and I could celebrate the depths of God’s grace.

    Your final point about Allah and G_d brings up some interesting positions that I do not hold but I respect. Who is perverting God? I don’t know who is the worse offender however I am in a position of personal judgement as I am seeking the non-perverse perspective. I like to think that my view is “right” but in reality I know that I am missing the mark as the mark is unknown fully to me. As we all shoot blindly into the light I hope and pray that he does not hold our perversion against us.

    May he rest in peace.

    1. Than you, Jameson, for your thoughtful response.

      I agree completely with you about the applause that ST6 deserves and my issue is not with them or even with those who gave the kill order, but rather with the responses I have seen and heard.

      I, like you, defer to my lack of knowledge about who will and who won’t receive God’s mercy, but I unashamedly hope everyone does.

      Beyond that, I think it is often necessary to highlight the double standards that we bring to the table: mass killings in the name of God is acceptable, but mass killings in the name of Allah is not.

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