I shudder at images of Americans celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden. If you approve of this behavior, you aren’t likely to curtail your rejoicing on my account. So instead I’ll present several views of how we bring about change and ask you to decide which vision gives us the best future:
- America the Justice Seeking Nation
- America the Peace Loving Nation
- America the Christian Nation
America the justice seeking nation
Announcing the death of Bin Laden, Obama said that Justice had been served. As leader of a nation, Obama has every right to claim an eye for an eye – Hammurabi’s Law. Bin Laden murdered thousands of people, so our soldiers killed him.
But is tit-for-tat actual Justice? Bill Quigley wrote a famous letter to a law student about social justice, which takes a different view:
“Never Confuse Justice and Law…. Social justice calls you to … look at the unjust distribution of economic wealth and social and political power in our world. You must examine the root causes and look at the legal system that is propping up these injustices….
Our laws, by and large, are what those with power think should apply to those without power.”
Killing bad men, Osama Bin Laden in particular, is what a Justice Seeking Nation does. But it will not affect the root problems that continue to foment terrorism. There are not enough bullets in the universe to blow away an idea.
The idea that threatens our Peace and Security is that violence is an effective and just means to redress unjustice in the world. Only another idea can destroy this idea.
Do you know who said:
“War is an obligation wherever brothers are being oppressed.”
Osama Bin Laden.
And who said:
“We went to war against Al-Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.”
Whether you strike first or second, both sides will continue to fight in perpetuity. This will not end the war on terror.
America the Peace Loving Nation
Reasonable people can see the world and find injustice staring back at them. A few of these people choose violence as a means to fight what they see as injustice. We must demonstrate non-violent ways of correcting injustice if we aim to be a Peace Loving Nation.
The Peace Loving Nation leads us – by example – to a more equitable world. A Peace Loving Nation sacrifices so that others can enjoy a little more of the prosperity that we have for so long taken for granted. Is it radical to call on America to Empower poor farmers in Africa? Yes! When you realize that “Empowerment” is the transfer of power from one group to another. American farmers would need to sacrifice some of their financial wealth and security by allowing African farmers to earn more by selling their crops on a fair world market. This is Empowerment, and Powerful Nations would rather give away wealth than level the playing field. America – as the most powerful nation – is no different.
To be a Peace Loving Nation is not to hate war; but rather it means we begin with actions that address the root causes of injustice, thereby reducing the number of angry, hungry people. A Justice Seeking and Peace Loving nation sacrifices first, and goes to war as a last resort.
America the Christian Nation
So many claim this label for USA, yet so few are willing to sacrifice emotionally and economically to make this a reality. It is easier for a camel to pass through US customs than for a rich and powerful to lead a Christian Nation.
Nowhere in the New Testament will you find words to condone revenge or celebrate in the misfortune of others. Even bad people get judged by God alone in Jesus’ parables. If injustice around the world doesn’t spark anger in America, why should justice spark celebration? The Christian Nation approaches injustice through engagement. Every citizen should spend time abroad listening to the people of other nations. Until we are connected to the plight of others, we will never solve our own problems. Have you complained about falling wages in America? What have you done to prop up the wages and livelihoods of those who are taking our jobs – because they will accept far less? Complaining about the flood of drugs from Mexico into America? What have you done to fight government corruption there?
In my view, Quakers and Mennonites are the only ones worthy of calling America a Christian Nation. They serve around the world – living as an example of their beliefs. None of them would celebrate the death of this bad man. His life and his death are a sad story – such a waste of God’s potential. His death is not a triumph because none of the conditions have changed that led someone like Osama Bin Laden down the path of evil. Poverty, and not religious fervor, turns ordinary men into terrorists – and until we accept the connection between global poverty and global terrorism, the struggle will never be resolved. (Osama was rich himself, but many of terror’s foot soldiers are poor and powerless. Poverty is a necessary precondition for terrorist recruiting today.)
As a Christian I can understand that this is still an eye-for-an-eye world, but I don’t celebrate it. I can understand the desire for revenge, but I can never condone it. Why are we celebrating the weakest form of justice when we are capable of so much more? As as a citizen, I have grave concerns that this nation will never embrace what it takes to bring about a more Just, Equitable, and Moral world.
Maybe a photo journey through our two worlds will illuminate the reality…
Sensationalistic? Perhaps some statistics will sober you up…
To make this statistic very clear: For every six (6) militants we killed in Pakistan in 2011, we killed one (1) civilian. In Yemen the ratio is the same 6:1 (16% innocent casualties). This form of “justice” is not a surgical strike.
The message: No where in the “Godless” developed world do a majority of the public approve of drone strikes, except for USA.
And even when the question is reframed in a religious context, Americans overwhelmingly do not approve of celebrating Bin Laden’s death.
Well that statistic is a surprise. From our news coverage, you’d never know we were a nation of Christians. Maybe I’m disgusted because I don’t stop being a Christian when I’m watching the news, or when it is convenient, or when a president I support does something that might be necessary, and certainly helped him get re-elected. Our reaction to Bin Laden’s killing disgusts me; yet the act of the killing itself I understood.
Let your angry comments flow below…
UPDATE (1 year later): Nobody read this post. Nobody cared. Nobody got angry about it. I can only conclude that we Americans are not conflicted by our two incongruent identities.