I admit that when I read the first Facebook status saying Osama bin Laden had been killed, I was relieved. But my relief faded after reading six or seven of these.
As I saw my friends’ joy over bin Laden’s death, I became frightened. I turned on the news and began to watch coverage of this “momentous event.”
NBC pundits commented on the ending of an era of terrorism and how Americans no longer need to live in fear.
If this page of history is turning, we must take the opportunity to reflect ethically and more specifically as Christians on the death of Osama bin Laden. If the gun had been in your hands, would you have killed bin Laden? Would Christ?
I am not writing merely to put forth a Christian pacifist’s response to the death of one of the most heinous terrorists this world has ever seen. I rather want readers to ask themselves whether this moment should be one of joy or sorrow.
The book of Genesis plainly states that God created man and woman in God’s image. When we saw images of bin Laden, did we see God in this man? Were we not looking hard enough? Could the blame fall on us?
In his speech, President Obama said regarding attacks on our citizens: “We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.”
What values make us who we are? Does the word “relentless” have a place within our moral framework? Does forgiveness and reconciliation?
Christian just-war tradition includes a principle of military necessity, which attempts to limit excessive, unnecessary death and destruction. As Obama described the military operation to capture and kill bin Laden, the military should be commended for a successful and limited endeavor.
If we expand the scope of this decade-long narrative, and we accept bin Laden’s death as a culmination of our military actions, have we limited our actions to the bare necessity? Was the death of one man worth close to 10 years of military engagement?
Of course, after 9/11 military action should have been taken for the safety of American citizens, but how about the safety of Christians? Do Christians require safety in this world?
Psalms 4:8 reads, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.” How should we seek safety in this world, when Scripture says God is our safety?
I commend the president for qualifying this event as the beginning of the end – not the end – of the war on terror. We must remember that reconciliation and rebuilding in Afghanistan and Iraq are still to come.
Surely the death of Osama bin Laden can cause joy and happiness in some, but should it?
I hope that as the news further covers the death of bin Laden, Christians will take the opportunity to reflect on their moral values.
Andrew Gardner is an undergraduate student in religious studies and history at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
Andrew Gardner holds a PhD in American Religious History and is the author of “Reimagining Zion: A History of the Alliance of Baptists” (Nurturing Faith Publishing).