Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama and Death Celebration

Many of the Christian blogs and posts on social media sites that I've been reading over the last few days have shared a common theme; either one of struggling with the proper response to the news of Osama's death, or simply renouncing the celebration of his death that many Americans are participating in, while citing scriptural reasons for this (Ezekiel 33:11, Ezekiel 18:23, Prov. 24:17 etc.). I'm not sure that I fall into either of these camps.

In my mind, there's a distinction to be made between enemies of yours, as an individual, and how the Bible says you are to treat them -- turning the other cheek when they wrong you (Matt. 5:39), loving them (Matt. 5:44), clothing and feeding them (Rom 12:20, Prov. 25:21), not wishing death upon them etc. -- and how governments should respond to their enemies. The Bible teaches that the governments of Earth are ordained by God and wield the sword as an instrument of God's authority and judgment on Earth (Rom. 13:1). The commandments to us, as individuals, about how to treat our enemies don't apply to enemies of the government in the same fashion.

I didn't consider Osama bin Laden a personal enemy of mine to begin with. Did you? I never met the man nor had I ever met any of his victims. I always only considered him an enemy of my country and an enemy of civilization at large, and as such I saw that it was important to stop him if we could. Not as a matter of vengeance, which the Bible teaches belongs to God alone (Rom. 12:19), but as a matter of justice and as a matter of protecting the citizens of our nation (and others) from this person's murderous reign of terror.

Is it improper, then, to root for my government to wield the sword wisely and carry out justice? Is it only acceptable to do so before they succeed at it? The instant that they succeed, must I then become sorrowful that they did in fact succeed? If I am holding my attitude for the right reasons, if I'm not delighting in my heart at the demise of a human being, then I see no reason I should not celebrate the success of my nation acting as the duly appointed administer of divine justice that it is.

This, admittedly, is a fine line. At what point does my celebration of the achievements of the brave men and women who defend this nation become a matter of unearned personal pride in my heart? Am I really only celebrating the act of justice, the achievements of the heroes, the relief at a threat to civilization being defeated, or do I harbor a personal satisfaction in another human's death? Certainly it's difficult to keep the matters properly separated in our hearts and minds. Because of this I think it's appropriate for Christians to either make quite clear exactly what it is that they are celebrating -- and that it isn't someone's death, but the bravery of the troops, the relief for families, the increased security of the nation, the lives ultimately that will be saved etc. -- or to simply not celebrate at all.

The only reason I felt compelled to address the issue is in response to those who condemn the act of celebrations as necessarily entailing the celebration or delight in the death of a fellow fallen human, which doesn't follow necessarily. There are many things in this news and its implications worth celebrating, the death of a human being just isn't one of them. The death of Hitler entailed that many fewer human beings in Germany would be mercilessly slaughtered because of their ethnic and religious heritage. I would argue that if you don't celebrate this consequence of the death of this particular human being -- though not the death itself -- that this refusal to celebrate would itself be a quite grave sin.

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