Osama bin Laden. Dead. Echoes of 9/11. Justice. Maybe.
There seems to be a flurry of celebration now. On Facebook. On Twitter. On television. Certainly, after nearly 10 years, this is a day that many in the U.S. hoped for and yet (if they're like me) thought might never come. Yet, as flurry heightens to frenzy, I can't help but wonder why our initial reactions to his death are as full of hate as his messages once were. Oh, we wanted him dead, good and dead, and now he is, and he can rot in hell—we say.
I certainly wouldn't want to be him in the afterlife. Something tells me there isn't a host of virgins waiting for him. Something tells me he's in for the sort of torment that not even Dante could have been able to imagine, something that will make even bin Laden's earthly atrocities pale in comparison.
Are we really happy about this? I'm not so sure I am.
This passage from C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity reminds me to consider my motivations as I celebrate that Osama bin Laden has been killed. Lewis writes:
We may kill if necessarily, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one's own back, must be simply killed. I do not mean that anyone can decide this moment that he will never feel it any more. That is not how things happen. I mean that every time it bobs its head up, day after day, year after year, all our lives long, we must hit it on the head. It is hard work, but the attempt is not impossible. Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves—to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. [italics mine]It does bring me some measure of satisfaction to know that someone who orchestrated the deaths of so many other people will no longer hurt anyone else. And I applaud the hard work, patience, and success of those in our military who did their jobs and risked their lives to make this happen. But I can't cheer right now. It doesn't seem right to rejoice at someone's death—even someone who committed such heinous crimes as bin Laden.
I am pleased that he was brought to justice. But I am sorry that he was a very lost soul.
And I hope and pray that my reaction to this event may somehow remind me to find a way to love the people who sin, just as I hate their sin, just as we who follow Christ are called to do with all people, no matter who they are or what they do.