Monday, May 02, 2011

Responding To the Death of Osama bin Laden

I really wanted to pull together a well-thought-out & theologically sound response to the death of Osama bin Laden... but frankly, it's too soon (just over 15 hours since I turned on the TV and saw the news) and I'd simply be pretending to wisdom rather than being wise.

I feel like I need to respond, however... the conversation (particularly in evangelical circles) has spun off in a wide variety of directions, including (sadly) a good bit of proof texting. (For those from outside the Bible bubble, "proof texting" is when you lift an isolated verse or verses from their original context in order to prove your point.)

So what follows is simply a dump of verses & quotes with my reactions... and I'll try & close with a couple of semi-original thoughts of my own.

Proverbs 24:17-18 (NIV)
Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.
Proverbs 24:17 is a favorite of those who are appalled by the celebration at the death of bin Laden... though I haven't seen any of those folks reference the full couplet (vv. 17-18) which imply that the wrath of God is an implicit part of the fall of the enemy.

So, while I think people referencing this have a point (the drunken street parties over what amounts to an execution are hard to take), I believe that simply dropping 24:17 into a discussion as a theological bomb may not reflect the whole picture of Scripture.

Proverbs 24:15 (ESV)
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
This is the proverb quoted by the "it's time to party" folks... and it seems a pretty clear support of what we want to hear. However, there are some Bible scholars who believe that the verse refers to right living and the recoil that sinners have from that choice. (I'm not agreeing with them, mind you - just pointing out an alternate opinion.)

Deuteronomy 16:20 (ESV)

Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
I think the middle way in this discussion is to focus on justice, as evidenced by a number of thoughtful Tweets last night:
  • don't celebrate death, celebrate justice (derekwebb)
  • I do not rejoice at the death of an enemy but I do rejoice when justice is done. Justice, and only justice. (russellpage)
  • Friends, it's ok & good 2 celebrte justice. much diff than celebratng death. justice points 2 our hope that evil will NOT have the last word (ScottHodge)
A Few Random Thoughts From Me
  • I wonder what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have to say about this. (Couldn't find adequate material after a quick Internet search this morning - but in case you're unaware, he was a German pastor/theologian who was on the edges of the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944.)
  • I'm glad that we've brought someone to justice who financed & fought for the mass murder of not only Americans but citizens of the world (as evidenced by the embassy bombings in Africa).
  • On a very pragmatic level, the operation that would have been necessary to capture bin Laden alive & then the resources needed to put him on trial would have been monstrous.
  • I fear that we're going to see a lot of political hay-making off this over the next few weeks & months... already, individuals & organizations are rushing to interpret these events as either a validation of ongoing U.S. policy or as a repudiation of our failed policies. While I understand why someone might choose to do that, my base reaction is a hearty "Pipe down already!"
  • In our debates involving Scripture, it's important to remember & reference Romans 13:1-5 & Acts 5:1-11 as well as the more commonly quoted O.T. passages.
Closing Thoughts (from other people)
  • Let's pray together that Bin Laden's death is a blow to religious terrorism, not a fuel source. (JenHatmaker)
  • Lord, may we see peace. May the world be more free so the gospel may be preached w/o restriction. Use this for your agenda." (edstetzer)


jhunterj said...

I posted both Proverbs proof texts to Facebook today. To my semi-theological mindset, they both point toward to virtue of taking the long view (the eternal view, God's view) on martial victories, justice, and righteous living.

I am glad not to have been on either end of the fatal blow, and thankful for those who risk their lives on behalf of mine.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

thanks, jhunterj... really appreciate & agree with your closing words.