bin Laden Dead

On the radio today I heard a family member of a 9/11 victim say the news of bin Laden’s death does not bring rejoicing but, instead, relief. I don’t think I can capture my feelings any better. I have struggled a great deal with how I feel, and how I should feel about this news. On one hand I think it is important for America, for the world, and especially for the families of those killed on 9/11 that we now live in a bin Laden-free world. On the other hand, I am profoundly uncomfortable with the news that pockets of Americans have gathered at the White House, Ground Zero, Times Square, and all over the country to celebrate his death. What is the difference between these two videos?

The difference between these two videos is only who’s dead, and who’s happy about it. That’s the circle of violence for you, my friends. And that explains my discomfort over the celebrations.

I’m not a pacifist. I believe Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek are not taken seriously enough by Christians, but I also believe that we live in a broken, fallen world where even the best things are tainted by evil. I think there are times when we will find ourselves drawn into armed conflict, times when we will have to kill other human beings in the struggle for liberty. And I think those times should be surrounded not by celebration but by solemnness.  Watch the videos above again. Wouldn’t it be fitting, wouldn’t it separate America from other countries if, in response to bin Laden’s death, there had been people standing quietly at gatherings holding signs saying, “Families and victims of 9/11 — we honor you.” “Soldiers — thank you.” Wouldn’t this be a great time to avoid sloganeering and feel-good, “these colors don’t run” sentimentality? Can’t we acknowledge that perhaps we have done a necessary thing (or perhaps not — it is, after all, a matter of opinion), but that we at least take all human life seriously enough to not take joy in a single death?

Can’t we, as a country that is still a leader in the world, lead by deciding to be less blood-thirsty than those who have wounded us, even we when we have decided that the best response is to hunt down and kill those responsible? When I heard that al Qaeda and other terror groups are likely to respond with more attacks, all I could think of was, “And round and round we go.” The terrorists, of course, called 9/11 a “response” to American policy in the middle east. The killing of bin Laden was our “response” to their response. And now they will call their further bloody actions a “response” to our response’s response. It’s insane.

My friend and fellow blogger Jeff Vannest said it well in one of his posts:

As Americans we seem completely baffled by Islamic totalitarianism. But the straight line between their beliefs and actions is no more inscrutable than our own. The Islamic jihadi begins with unwavering conviction in the Koran and ends with the deaths of his enemies through suicide bombs and campaigns of terror. The neoconservative Republican [Dave’s note — use whatever label you’re comfortable with here — in this case it’s obviously not about Republicans and Democrats, but about a certain mentality that is often shared by both] begins with an unwavering conviction in the U.S. Constitution and the Bible and ends with the deaths of his enemies through aerial bombs and campaigns of democratization. Are these parallels still unclear to anyone?    Source: JeffVannest.com

Yes, Jeff, I’m afraid they are. To many all that matters is that bin Laden is dead and so now it’s our turn to celebrate and their turn to suffer. Somehow we’re going to have to get beyond this if we’re ever to have lasting peace in our world. For now, the wheel goes ’round.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • First, Thanks for the shout-out, Dave. 🙂 Personally, I’m glad bin Laden is dead, but you won’t see me partying about it.

    Second, Bryan, you have mistakenly assumed that “neoconservative” is stereotypical or pigeonholing label; this is incorrect.

    “Neoconservative” (whether Republican or Democrat) is a term of self-identification among those with those beliefs. Dave calls himself a “Christian” in much the same way. It is accurate and factual that modern neoconservatives thought similarly to what I wrote.

    From David Horowitz, one of the founders of the New Left movement (although now does not identify with the neo-con label since the Gaza elections) states, “Today ‘neo-conservatism’ identifies those who believe in an aggressive policy against radical Islam and the global terrorists.”

  • Wes Ellis II

    I agree that this country has become blood thirsty, and the celebration of the death of man made me physically ill all day. I actually had a 60 year old women I work with talking about how great it was that he was dead. With a morbid happiness in her voice she described how great it was that they shot him in the head while she was telling me this I couldn’t help but to think to myself that this is probably exactly what someone over there was sitting around feeling after the attacks happened here, and someone was telling them how happy they were that some Americans were dead. I have seen up close, and personal the hatred that people have for no other reason but because they are told that a certain group of people are evil and they are our enemy when I was in the Army. I can’t get some of the stories out of my head that people felt the need to share with me, and that was from a country that didn’t come over here, and attack us. Any way tangent sorry. Dave you are right this is an endless circle of well you abandoned our country, well you blew our buildings up killing thousands, well you invaded us killed our people and now killed one of our leaders, ect… Please don’t celebrate in the streets the death of a man no matter what you think of him. We can celebrate in the streets when everyone in our country has health insurance, when obesity and smoking (preventable killers) are no longer at the top of leading causes of deaths in america, when were no longer fighting wars all over the globe and our military families can rest easy at night knowing there loved ones are safe, or when Christ followers start spreading his love and are being “in the world, but not of it.” I will be first in line to celebrate in the streets then but not now. Now isn’t celebration time. This is a time for action. Elections will be here shortly. Just because they don’t get air time doesn’t mean third party candidates don’t exist. There on the computer with there beliefs, policies, and most importantly without a company paying for them then owning them in office. With all this going on don’t be naive enough to believe that after 10 years of searching they magically, and conveniently found him now. Don’t let the media machine and the wealthy tell you what to think or do. We need to change this cycle and our broken two party system wont get us there.

    PS: I don’t think there is anything wrong with those who are directly connected to 9/11 letting out a vindicated sigh of relief, but that is what you do when a suspect is killed while authorities are attempting to apprehend them not celebrate in the streets.

  • Tim Walsh

    I respect your right to have a different opinion on the goings on of the past 48 hours than I do. My comment is not based in anger, nor is it meant to make you dig in to defend what you wrote. It is meant only to provide the same window for you as you have tried to provide for people that you believe are having a wrong reaction to this news.

    I think that what is important, is to to recognize the difference here. If I understand what you wrote correctly, you are criticizing the the re-action not the action. The action was an absolutely necessary, but that people should be careful of what is in their hearts causing the reaction. Let’s not confuse the issues in the name of political correctness.

    There are many more differences in the 2 videos that you provided other than who is dead and who is happy about it.

    1. Al Qaeda is not a nation, it is a terrorist group.
    2. The cause for celebration is different, the Americans were not celebrating an attack on and death of thousands of innocent people based only upon their nationality.
    3. Before insinuating that these folks have a similar form of blood-thirst (not that some of them don’t I am sure), the cause for the celebration needs to be considered

    could it be that…

    A. they are feeling an overwhelming sense of patriotism and has little to do with death?

    B. that they are displaying relief that the leader of a terrorist organization that not only killed thousands of innocent people but also struck fear in to the heart of every American and changed the way that we live.

    C. It might even be that they are relieved that the person that was the cause for racial profiling more than any other human being on the planet is finally gone.

    I am sure that there are many more reasons other than the three that I provided and the two that you provided to cause people to celebrate the taking down of this terrorist.

    There are two sides to every coin. I have found that often times when people don’t understand other peoples actions or reactions, it is because they don’t understand all of the feelings in other peoples hearts and some of them may make more sense if they did.

    P.S. – I am wearing my “these colors don’t run” shirt to church on Sunday and sitting in the front row! (j/k I don’t nor ever have owned a these colors don’t run t shirt)

    • I would very much like to defend what I wrote!

      Your response is well-worded. But it doesn’t get at what I’m talking about. Your arguments are reasons, to be sure, but they are reasons for celebrating death. Until we reach a place where we can acknowledge that death is never to be celebrated, we are too much like our enemies to bring anything essentially different to the table.

      After 9/11, liberals kept saying, “But what were the motives behind the attack? We should look at what was behind it.” Conservatives kept saying, “It doesn’t matter — what they did was evil.” They were both right. What they did was evil, AND the reasons they did it are important. But the reasons they did it do not excuse what they did. In the same way, I don’t care about the reasons why someone celebrates death in the street. It may be interesting to know, but regardless, it’s shameful. In my opinion.

      Until one side or the other (or both) develop a complete disdain and distaste for the thing that war most essentially IS (which is bloodshed), there will always be war — and that is why I use the word bloodthirsty. Right now many people are “civilized” when it’s their own people dying and bloodthirsty when it’s the enemy. But Jesus made clear that our real humanness (and godliness) are shown in how we react to our enemies more than to those we love. Thus there will never be an end to the spiral of violence until we react with horror not only against WHO is dying, but against death itself as essentially opposed to human life and prosperity.

      • Tim Walsh

        I love the fact that we can have a good intelligent conversation.

        I find the dancing in streets to be distasteful as well, but I cannot agree that the only difference between the two videos is 1. Who was dead and 2. Who is happy about it. I don’t believe that everyone that is celebrating, is celebrating death. I also don’t believe that I was defending the “celebration of death” I was defending the celebration that is unknown to any of us.

        I am sure that some people were celebrating the death and they are wrong, but I know many people are experiencing a swell of patriotism and pride in our country. Just like the bully in the Christmas story when he finally got taken down.

        To lump everyone’s reason for celebrating together as a “celebration of death” is just like in the 80’s ultra conservative Christians didn’t want you to go to a movie theater because other people that see you there might think you are going to a movie that you ought not. That is an utterly ridiculous notion.

        I would also agree that murder is wrong, but there are times when death can be celebrated. I was just at a funeral last week of a 91 year old man that finally is out of his suffering and went home to be with the Lord. It was a celebration, although hard for the people left behind, nonetheless still a celebration.

        I respect you Dave and truly hope that you don’t take my responses as disrespectful, it is not my intention.

        • You keep going to motive, and I’m focused on action. Some people, granted, are doing something very distasteful with motives that are not entirely evil. Still, the action is in poor taste and inappropriate. It is a celebratory ACTION provoked by a death. If you can stay focused on the action itself, Tim, I don’t think we’re that far apart. I don’t disagree with you about motives, but no matter how good our motives may be, we are responsible for appropriate choices.

          Whatever the motive may be, those who are celebrating in the streets are doing so as a direct result of the death of another human being. You can’t get away from that with any argument.

          If you agree with me that these public celebrations are in poor taste, then we are in 90% agreement. I don’t need to force the other 10%. 🙂

          Don’t worry about the respect thing, dude. You’re in line! Well within the bounds of my comments policy!

    • Tim Walsh

      I can live with that 🙂

      • Scott

        I’m with Tim on this one pastor! Motives matter!
        Indulge me…
        A man walks into a grocery store, shoots 2 innocent people and aims his weapon and a third. Before he can commit another atrocity, an off duty officer draws his weapon and kills the offender. Both have executed the same essential actions. They’ve both aimed weapons at another human being and pulled the trigger. They have both sent another to their grave. The mothers of each of the dead may curse the actions of the respective trigger fingers. Some may even argue the relative “innocence” of the victims. But, those who celebrate the actions of the criminal ARE different from those who would celebrate and praise the actions of the officer!! Perspectives may blur, but they cannot erase the line between right and wrong. Celebrating heroic actions that further the safety of our families Is different from a celebration of pure violence and hatred. Motives matter!

        • But you left out the most important thing. If the people standing around watching got out flags and boom boxes and start dancing and shouting “You got killed, you got killed, we are the best, we are the best, you are the deadest, you are the deadest!!” that would be horrendously inappropriate. Sure it would make sense for them to feel relieved, to wipe sweat off their brow, to hug one another, to be so glad to be out of danger — all kinds of things. But the kind of celebration we’re seeing now is simply disgusting. Sorry. There’s just no way to rationalize it. You and Tim and I all agree that it’s fine to feel relief, but you guys want to defend those who are acting unconscionably. There’s no excuse for it.

          In fact, I believe a decent human being, after having those moments of relief, would grieve for the tragedy of the lost life of the dead man.

  • Bryan C from Sherwood

    I am pleased beyond words, but not once have I cracked a smile about Bin Laden’s death. I think that the removal of an evil man is to be celebrated, but certainly not in the manner displayed above.

    As far as the quote you included, when I read the term “neoconservative Republican” I lost interest and skipped the rest of it.

    • Thanks for reading, Bryan. Obviously Obama is neither a neoconservative nor a Republican, and thus that part doesn’t apply anyway, but of course that’s not why I used the quote. The point is the way the “wheel goes ’round.” Use any labels or names you want to. Many of us are more like our enemies than we’d like to believe.

      • Bryan C from Sherwood

        My issue wasn’t the context of using the term, it was sort of the broad brushing of labels of this nature!

        I get your point: at the base level, we are all humans. All of Islam wasn’t out cheering the 9/11 attacks nor was all of American cheering OBL’s death. The fringes get captured in the videos above, and its assumed to be the opinions of the masses.

  • Amazingly well said. Full of grace and great thinking. I join you in your commitment to break the circle of violence and appreciate your clarity!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Beth! It’s strange to see the American people dancing around campfires in loincloths with knives in their mouths. We call ourselves civilized, but perhaps not so much.