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N. T. Wright on OBL

N. T. Wright on OBL

The former bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, has sent Times religious correspondent, Ruth Gledhill a statement on the killing of Osama bin Laden. [Update – Wright’s essay has appeared as an op-ed at Church Times. [Update Update – and now the very same essay appears at The Guardian.]] An excerpt:

Consider the following scenario. A group of IRA terrorists carry out a bombing raid in London. People are killed and wounded. The group escapes, first to Ireland, then to the United States, where they disappear into the sympathetic hinterland of a country where IRA leaders have in the past been welcomed at the White House. Britain cannot extradite them, because of the gross imbalance of the relevant treaty. So far, this is not far from the truth.

But now imagine that the British government, seeing the murderers escape justice, sends an aircraft carrier (always supposing we’ve still got any) to the Nova Scotia coast. From there, unannounced, two helicopters fly in under the radar to the Boston suburb where the terrorists are holed up. They carry out a daring raid, killing the (unarmed) leaders and making their escape. Westminster celebrates; Washington is furious.

What’s the difference between this and the recent events in Pakistan? Answer: American exceptionalism. America is allowed to do it, but the rest of us are not. By what right? Who says?

It’s all here.

Wright’s view of The Episcopal Church in the communion run parallel to his view of America in the world.

CNN – Experts: Bin Laden kill ‘clearly legal’


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Michel Alexandre Salim, AOJN

Chomsky just outdid the Bishop of Durham — he made a bizarre analogy between the targeting of Osama with Iraqi commandos targeting George W. Bush.


There are many laymen in our Church in the United States who are stuggling with this issue. Laymen and women who are not influenced by comic books or the like, or even by their views on the subject of “American exceptionalism”.

We struggle instead with our responsibilities as Christians in the ambiguous world in which we live. It is seldom easy to follow Jesus and seldom easy knowing what he teaches us on these complex matters.

Bishop Wright would be more helpful providing us with more guidance on what it is that our Lord would have us do in these situations (if he even knows), in situations over which we have little or no real influence.

Herb Gray


After meeting and hearing N. T. Wright several years ago, I found him to be a sub-par New Testament scholar and an inadequate theologian. What is pertinent to his present comments is that he seems to me to play to whatever crowd he thinks is in ascendancy, always with his proverbial finger to the wind. His recent views on the Episcopal Church has probably reduced much of his lecture circuit in the US, so no need to deal with the serious and, indeed, tragic theological and moral complexities of the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Oversimplify for personal posturing always seems Wright’s order of the day. That Americans do often suffer from a bad dose of “exceptionalism” is hard to deny. But, at least as the president has presented it, this is not one of those times.

Joe Monti

Atlanta, GA

Bill Nichols

One assumes that +Wright’s critical faculties are equally directed at the “exceptionalism” & moral arrogance being propagated in the environs of names such as Orombi, Akinola, & Duncan.

I’m sorry, what? Oh. I see. They aren’t. Hmmm. I must just have misread his comments. I thought he was criticizing *all* prejudicial violence, my bad.

Richard E. Helmer

Murdoch, I agree, but this is not confined to American exceptionalism, and Wright’s aspersions are a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. I do wish he would stop the anti-American bent and really start openly addressing the moral challenges we all share. It would be much more helpful and far more conducive to relating across the Anglican divides.

Any New Testament scholar surely will agree that Jesus’ teaching here is most apt, and one that reminds us to get our own house in order before pointing to the mess in others’. Something as I recall about specks and logs.

@George, I agree that looking at the suffering of 9/11 can skew our moral judgment, but not always for the worse. We must remember what happens when terrorists are left to their machinations. Had the 9/11 and other Al Qaeda attacks failed, the dilemma Bin Laden posed us would clearly be much diminished.

I keep thinking of Bonhöffer and his Christian moral struggles, and have no desire to become a cowboy in the comic book sense. We can’t wash our hands in moral rectitude, but I defy Wright to account for all of the facts of this particular matter before he claims to know how things would have been better handled.

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