Bishops, clergy and lay leaders reflect on the death of Osama bin Laden:
I woke this morning to read that the Portland mosque had been vandalized with graffiti equating bin Laden with Islam – and my harder to define feelings sprang into sharp focus.
As a pacifist, I believe that violence never produces a final solution. Each act of violence provides at best a temporary solution while planting the seeds for retaliatory violence. Indeed the history of the last 100 years is a history of spiraling violence that has led the members of many tribes and nations to be in a state of constant warfare. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
As a Christian, I believe that violence is always an affront to God and a failure to find the way of peace. Even in self-defense, the taking of a life is an act for which we are accountable to God. And it is never appropriate for Christians to celebrate the death of another. Every person, however sinful, is a child of God for whom Christ died. I trust that God is attending to bin Laden in a manner that surpasses my understanding.
Last Friday the largest congregation in history heard a reading from the New Testament. Three billion people listened as James Middleton read with careful enunciation and emphasis a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. In part he read, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”
Osama bin Laden qualified himself as our enemy, and indeed as a world enemy. I believe our President is right when he say that bin Laden received justice. Now then comes our moment, when the many of us, myself included, who say “Lord, Lord” are judged not by our words, but by our deeds (the reference is the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, a chapter that begins with “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”)
The Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, Newark (NJ):
Justice is one thing. We need to exact justice. We need to hold people accountable — which has been the driving concern in the operation that concluded on Sunday. Vengeance is something else. Justice may sometimes involve violence; vengeance is always directed by violence — of one sort or another. And the desire for vengeance lies close to the surface in everyone.
Jesus understood vengeance. He saw it. He was the recipient of it. And he refused to engage in it — because he knew that the desire for vengeance can eclipse the challenge of justice. Over and over again Jesus stood up to violence nonviolently. He repeatedly called for justice; and while he may have felt the need for vengeance, he never acted on it.
Katie Sherrod and other religious leaders in Texas answer William McKenzie, Editorial Columnist for the Dallas News: Would you have sanctioned the death of Osama bin Laden?:
There is no question that going after Bin Laden was the right thing to do. Bin Laden was a criminal, a man who directly ordered the murders of countless innocent people, inspired murderers of many more and made clear his intention to continue doing so. The key for a moral people was to go after Bin Laden without becoming like Bin Laden. I think the president successfully threaded the eye of that needle…. But as I listened to the president, the overwhelming emotion I felt was grief. It called up that long-standing deep grief over the losses of September 11, 2001, coupled with the pain of the terrible changes our leaders’ reaction to 9/11 has wrought in my country. It sent us into two wars, caused my own government to sanction the torture of prisoners, and started an inexorable eroding of our liberty at the hands of our own government. We have become a less free people.
So, yes, while I agree with the decision the president made in authorizing that raid, I can find no peace or joy in the fact of Bin Laden’s death.
I was one of those with somber relief. Violent death should never be a source of our fascination and awe. But it is worth cheering when a war is over, no matter who started or ended it; I hope this event signals the end of something. And it is certainly worth saluting the brave operation that found the person responsible for decades of terror and fear. I give thanks for such courage.
Unfortunately, violence is a part of this fallen world; and, unfortunately, violence fascinates us. We have a choice to remain fascinated with it or to focus on the mystery of healing and hope. The mystery of healing and hope is harder, but it is much more gratifying. It turns our fascination into the energy of grace and blessing. May grace and blessing be with us during these weeks to come.
We must remember that Osama Bin Laden is only a symbol of evil as terrorism and ideological extremism. This is not a Muslim-Christian religious war. Rather this is an ideological war by powerful extremists who seek to manipulate the religious and cultural fears of both Muslims and Christians at home and abroad
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