Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama

I wasn't planning on writing anything for most of this week, but with such a truly historic event as what happened last Friday, and was communicated to the world last night - not to mention the passionate exchanges I've seen on the interwebs about all of it today - I felt a piece about all of this from my own perspective, such as it is, might be in order, and, that a place for others to express their thoughts, without judgment or debate, without heated emotions from one commenter to another, might be in order. {Be sure to read the guidelines at the bottom of this post before commenting}



(ETA: As more has come out about this, it's become clear that Friday was the day the President gave the go ahead, but the actual operation was carried out on Sunday. Just wanted to add that for clarity.)


I don't celebrate death in any form. That said, what happened Friday needed to happen, should've happened, and it's good that it did happen.


9/11 profoundly impacted us all. I want to look at bin Laden's death through the filter of several means of his life's impact. 


From the perspective of our military effort, and because of the brave men and women who have fought, and many that have died in the war against the agents of terror and murder - through that filter, I light a victory cigar over bin Laden's death. While I don't think his death will have any kind of military impact resembling what it would have had he been killed in late 2001 or 2002, the morale boost to our service men and women, and to those making major decisions in Washington, whether intelligence personel or policy makers, is deserved. And, although I'm not generally a political supporter of President Obama, as an American, I say, "Well done, Mr. President" to the resolve and courage he showed in giving the go ahead to last week's operation. Had it failed, and had that failure become public, his presidency would be assured to be only one term. Assured. I admire the actions of ANY politician that put the good of the nation above the good of their own political aspirations and "legacy". I remember coming home late on the evening of 9/11 and watching the news intently with my family, seeing over and over the footage of the towers collapsing, knowing that so much human life was being crushed under their weight, and seeing the panic in the faces of the people on the streets of lower Manhattan, and saying to my family, "Someone has to pay for this." Through that filter, I light a cigar.


I remember the people trapped on the floors above the impact of the planes, with flames shooting out of the building, chaperoning that ugly, black smoke that filled an otherwise beautiful blue fall sky, and I think of what an excruciating position they were in. No one should ever be in such a position that where they are is so torturous, so terrifying, each breath so painful and toxic, each second so filled with dread and panic, that jumping hundreds of feet to a certain death is the best option in their mind. I've been through some terrible things in my life, but I can't imagine what that was like for them, and frankly, I'm not brave enough to. For those people, through the filter of their lives, their morbid experience, Friday was a good, and just, day.


I think of the families of the 3,000 or so who so senselessly and needlessly lost their lives on 9/11, and through the filter of their lives and their loss, justice, or at least as much as they will get this side of eternity, has been served - and that's a good thing. Bin Laden's death doesn't breathe life back into their lost loved ones, but it does maybe breathe life into their own healing and perhaps bring them some measure, even if small, of closure.


Through the filter of my own human experience and personal faith, I can't celebrate the death of anyone God created. At the same time, I don't mourn his death. Not even a bit. I mourn his life. I mourn his life for the lack of life in it. I mourn his life for the mourning he introduced into the lives of so many innocents. I mourn his life for the contagious way in which he promoted his deadly religious passions. I mourn his life for the versions of himself he created in so many others. I mourn his life for the lives that will still be lost, and the other innocents sent into mourning of lost loved ones, because of his legacy, his "martyrdom", and the poisonous seeds his life planted.


A wise, young friend summed it up best..."I don't feel right cheering for a man dying. But this is good, and justified. So I feel proud, but I can't cheer."...And that, as a human being, as an American, and as a child and creation of God very much mirrors my own feelings.


I wouldn't put too much stock into the footage I've seen on the news of crowds cheering and celebrating. In the clips I've seen, it's mostly been young people, college age or so - and more often than not, among college aged kids who join in with riotous crowds, they'll accept anything as a reason to party, drink lots of beer, riot, and just act as general hooligans. Look no further than the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in January of last year when a young, and to that point in his career, extremely mediocre football coach resigned and snuck out of town to take another job. Riots, lots of beer consumption, mattresses being burned in the streets, people getting hurt, numerous arrests - and the truth is, they couldn't have possibly cared less about the coach leaving. I wouldn't read too much into it.


Whatever true and lasting justice is to be carried out on Osama bin Laden is now in God's hands - and with that I'm comfortable through any filter.


Now, as to the comment section, I'm gonna both grant a LOT of leeway in expressing your feelings about all of this AND actually set down some commenting regulations. I want anyone and everyone who might want to comment on Osama's death to do so FREELY, regardless of what those opinions are, but here are some rules...




  • It's perfectly fine to say you agree with "so and so's comment", but otherwise...
  • NO COMMENTING ABOUT OTHER COMMENTS.
  • NO DEBATING, whether personal, spiritual, or political.
  • NO DEBATING ABOUT ETERNAL TORMENT.
  • NO TAKING ISSUE (in the comment thread) WITH THE COMMENTS OF OTHERS.
  • Any comments that are at odds with these guidelines will be very hastily deleted. Zero tolerance. It's nothing personal.


This is, in many ways, a deeply personal issue on many levels, and I want ALL of you to feel safe in expressing your opinions concerning it. Please feel free to use the "anonymous" feature as you comment if you wish.

19 comments:

  1. Wow, totally can't go there with ya, Lewis. That's a first. ;) I don't believe that the blood of any man can bring about justice and healing to the people who lost love ones. I am completely saddened by the reaction in the Christian community. Even God does not rejoice over the death of the wicked. What right do we have?

    American leaders have shed more blood than OBL ever did. Do they deserve to die too, for justice's sake, so that more innocent blood will not be shed by their hands? Where does the violence end? I believe it ended at the cross. I've hated people and wished them dead. According to Jesus, I'm a murderer. Do I deserve justice/death, too?

    Who decides when someone is beyond redemption? I don't want that responsibility. Do you?

    Whether his murder was right or wrong though, rejoicing over it is so against the heart of Jesus. Jesus died for his enemies and told us to follow Him.

    I just can't go here with you. This whole thing sickens me. Osama, his life, his death, and the christians dancing on his grave. It all sickens me. I have no answer, no solution. It's all wrong. But I do know this: the minute I rejoice over the demise of an evil person, is the minute that I am no better than my enemies.

    "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 & 18"

    "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. " Eze. 33:11

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  2. I found the announcement of OBL's death sobering... is it the end of something or the beginning? Only the Father really knows.

    That said, I certainly don't mourn his passing. Not rejoicing either. If the name were changed to Hitler, would I feel differently? Maybe, if I'd spent years in Aushwitz. If I'd lost my daddy or husband on D-Day? Maybe so. Maybe I would rejoice.

    I dunno-- I'm leaving this one in the hands of God.

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  3. I am glad that Bin Laden is dead. There is no other way to say it. The man was despicable. I do feel sad that his death cannot correct all of the suffering he caused. Whatever anyone else says, I refuse to deny my feelings on the matter. He's gone and I'm happy about that.

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  4. i applaud you for complimenting the president on a job well done. i am deeply saddened by comments I've seen elsewhere where supposed Christians refuse to acknowledge the he deserves any credit at all.

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  5. Adolph Hitler was to be captured on May 1,1945, but committed suicide to avoid capture. 66 years later, OBL held a woman in front of him as a shield on May 1, 2011 to avoid capture and was shot. The man deserved punishment and received it. I do not rejoice in his death but I celebrate the persistence of the US Government to mete out justice.

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  6. The problem is that Americans cannot see themselves as the world's biggest bullies. Until we realize we are an imperialist power, we will not understand why others hate us. They don't hate us because of our "freedom" and "democracy," but because we are arrogant and we feel like we can tell the world what to do. Until our imperialism ends, resentment will continue. Uprisings like those in Egypt and Tunisia are encouraging, because they remind us that Americans do not have dibs on democracy or freedom. These things are not American, they are universal. In this context, cheering Obama's death makes no sense, unless we are, in fact, just like them.

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  7. Oddly enough, on Sunday at my church there was a guest speaker who runs a ministry targeting Muslims and has also written books on the subject as an ex-Muslim himself. He was addressing the prejudice against Muslims that many Christians have, and he said that they should not be seen as enemies, but as people who need Christ. He said that it was his dream that somehow someone would pass the book into the hands of Osama bin Laden and help draw him to Christ.
    So when I heard that evening that Osama was dead, I felt a bit of sadness knowing that Osama would die apart from God.

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  8. His hiding behind his wife, using her as a human shield, is the most disturbing part of all of it to me. I think if people will think about what that act said about bin Laden, it'll speak volumes...and I don't mean the fact that he was, at his core, a coward in death. That's the most obvious conclusion, but to me, the least significant statement that this made about him and all he represented.

    What that act tells me about him is this...When his life was in the balance, he relied on what he, in his heart, knew about us as a people - that we, as a people, value life far more than he did. To me, that's a pretty significant moral statement he was making without trying to make a moral statement at all. I only wish his ardent followers had a mind willing to examine that and a conscience willing to be moved by it.

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  9. I don't rejoice at bin Laden's death, but I do feel a sense of relief and satisfaction. Relief, because this person who harmed so many, this engineer and architect of terror, will never be able to harm anyone again. Satisfaction, because there is justice and closure in this. He caused the death of many, and now he is dead.

    I am afraid that the small minority who danced in the streets will be what the world will think the rest of us feel. I did not want to dance. But I was glad that this chapter of the war on terror is over.

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  10. As someone who is from New Zealand I am grateful to the soldiers who dealt with this man, and to the country they are part of.

    Part of me is happy about his death. Part of me is saddened because he is such a clear picture of how evil corrupts a human. However, I would say the overwhelming feeling would be one of relief.

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  11. I don't rejoice over any man's death. But I don't agree that this one was wrongful.

    Peter wrote that we should submit ourselves unto our governors, and he frames out the chief purpose of government: "for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of them that do well." Our state ordered the man's execution, and I think of what God said to Cain about the blood of the innocent crying out from the ground.

    The man declared himself as an enemy of our nation and declared his will to destroy us, promising terrorist attacks, time and time again. His death was not tit for tat, but it did work justice on behalf of those he murdered. Nothing about how he behaved warranted any type of mercy but called for a posture of self-protection. Chiefly, our governors took his life to provide for the safety of our nation's sons and daughters, so much as a free society can provide this for its citizens. It wasn't an act of revenge. It was a measure for protection.

    I have heard during the last 24 hours that it was not only a sin to take the life of bin Laden, but that we should have shown him mercy. Others talked of forgiveness. I don't think that based on the Word that mercy or forgiveness were warranted in any way. Mercy triumphs over justice, but it should not be offered, unqualified, apart from justice. Mercy is offered in response to contrition. Forgiveness is offered in response to repentance. We can forgive others in our hearts when they don't repent, but we do so by looking to God to pay the debt owed to us by those who have hurt us. We need not erase the record of the debt, and of all things, blood should not be erased easily. We can and should still call to God to work justice.

    We all have the potential to be evil. Hannah Arent wrote that "We are all Eichmanns." Perhaps a more modern version of that might be that we all have the potential in us to be little Osama bin Ladens. There but for God's grace, go I, and it is God's grace that pulled me up out of the mire. Paul called himself the chief of sinners, and the difference between us and bin Laden is that we repented of our sins and received Jesus. Nothing I do impresses God, and it is by His unmerited favor that I stand in a place of righteousness. That same status was available to bin Laden. Instead of justice, through Jesus, I get mercy, and I do not merit it. So I do no rejoicing in the demise of anyone, and justice is a painful thing.

    May justice create a safe place for the healing of some to be completed. We are all different and handle things in different ways. Our healing comes from the goodness of God, and true healing only comes from the Blood of the One who shed it for us. It is the comfort that we show one another in love that heals us from hurt, but justice creates the safe place where the still waters can wash over us and restore our souls as we are comforted by the Spirit and through those who have walked through pains like our own.

    May the God of all comfort continue to heal all of His people.

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  12. I had to come back to post this...

    This past year, I'd heard a PTSD lecture that commented about the war, noting the dissociation that is a feature of all trauma. The example of Rod Serling was given. He survived a terrible tour in the South Pacific in WWII, and he lived with terrible PTSD the rest of his life. He suffered terrible nightmares and slept with a loaded gun in his bed. Much about The Twilight Zone was all about dissociation and the varied levels of it, a natural response and a protective one when faced with terror. It also showed how difficult it was to cope with the fact that life is unfair and often, there are no sensible and reasonable outcomes in this life.

    I've been replaying the episodes as I go about my day, considering how Serling, a Jew who professed atheism after the War, tried to work out his PTSD, often conveying the universality of the experience of dissociation. (Note that dissociation is the most common and striking feature of those who exit cultic systems.)

    There is an episode called "Deaths Head Revisited" when a Nazi returns to Dachau to face his past, and a ghost of a Jew appears to pronounce a sentence on him. It played just now and seemed terribly relevant.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths-Head_Revisited

    The martyr pronounces a sentence of madness on the Nazi who falls to the ground. The martyred ghost stands over him and says, if the man can still process any thoughts and if there is still a bit of reason, he states:
    "This is not hatred, it is retribution. This is not revenge, it is justice." But he also reminds this Nazi that it is just the beginning, for he must also answer to God.

    The episode ends with Serling's statement that the Dachaus must remain standing as a monument to remind us that they are graveyards where men buried their humanity and their consciences. When we forget that they exist we become the gravediggers.

    bin Laden was killed to preserve humanity which was threatened by his ideology and, in some way, to teach us that we should never bury our consciences. In the perspective of many and our governors who work to defend our lives (Presumably), calling for his death ensures that we are not acting as gravediggers. At least for today. (And though our own American versions of bin Laden, and there are some if not many, are not brought to justice in this act, the action against him establishes a standard, just as what remains of Dachau stands as a monument that we might remember evil.)

    I wish we lived in a world where evil did not exist. All of history's martyrs do. I believe strongly that Serling did, too. But we live in a world with real evil, and it is up to us as human beings to choose not to be the gravediggers by letting evil prevail. Sadly, sometimes men get so wrapped up in evil that governments seek their deaths as the best alternative, imperfect as it is.

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  13. (but when are you going to finish your story if you don't write for most of the week?)

    :(

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  14. I am going to point out a few things:
    1. The articles that I have read all simply stated that his wife was in front of him. Based on the fact that this site specifically addresses women who believe very destructive things about their godly duties towards men, it shouldn't be that hard to realize that she just might have chosen to put herself there. We just don't know, and may never will know. If she truly belived that she would be dying a martyr and that had positive implications in heaven, she might have been willing to do anything. I'm not absolving him, I just think our natural inclination is to envision her being held hostage in front of him. We want his wives to hate him and be rejoicing their escape. Even Hitler had a woman and children who loved him.
    2. I do not know, but I suspect, that our President probably gave a dead or alive order. I also suspect, that order was ideally alive. The US will take alot of flak for this and President Obama is going to need a very good reason why they didn't capture him alive. Just as it won't sit well with certain people that he didn't ask Pakistan first. The international response/fallout will be very interesting.
    3. As a UT Knoxville alumni, I would have to agree that group takes anything as an excuse to party. If you know UTK football culture, it makes perfect sense that they would behave badly concerning any coach. Football took precedence over everything else. I would also say that there are alot of students there who would totally disapprove of the US even going after bin Laden at all. So for every college student getting excited about it, there is most likely another one that is very upset by this move.
    4. There is a time and a place for everything, and there are consequences and rewards. My biggest concern is that Americans will think he embodied the threat. He was the leader, but we have yet to see if he will be replaced by a new leader. His death could easily be used to fuel the fire and only time will tell.

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  15. As a muslim and a westerner i can say while i do not celebrate death - i am glad that osama is dead. he had already caused death and destruction prior to sept 11 and not just to the west but other muslims who simply didn't agree with his view of islam - i have friends who lost family in afghanistan to him and the taliban because of this. i pray there are no reprisal attacks but there are so many more radical terrorists who have twisted islam to say their actions are jihad - which is a load of s**t. jihad is a personal journey to practice properly - pray on time, make up missed prayers and fasts,behave with respect for yourself and ALL others. I live by Prophet Mohammed's quote the best jihad is peaceful - i will happily explain islam if asked but we cannot make someone else believe - what they choose to believe is their spiritual journey.

    i am from a family of several faiths - christian muslim and new age and even an atheist - we all get along just fine

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  16. In the interim since writing this piece yesterday, many new details have emerged and many new facts have been made public about the actual operation and what transpired. Rather than continually editing the piece to reflect the facts as I know them at a given time, I'm just gonna leave it as is and ask your understanding of as much as you read and comment. Thanks to you all.

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  17. I am happy to hear of the love in your family Anonymous. =) Peace and good will, SS

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  18. Thank you for posting, Annonymous.

    I hope it won't come to pass that the rest of the world will believe that the cheering and vindictiveness they saw were universal in our nation. :(

    On the other hand, I cannot agree with those I have read elsewhere who find even relief and satisfaction to be somehow inappropriate. There's a fine line between mercy and enabling. Osama bin Laden was still responsible and accountable for all the harm he caused, and we should not try to sweep any of that under the carpet or pretend it doesn't matter. That would be unloving to the victims.

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  19. I'm gonna have to agree with what Anonymous said earlier- I'm glad you gave props the the President. I almost always vote Republican (abortion is by far the biggest issue for me, so I always vote for a Pro-Life candidate); having said that though, it kills me that conservatives hate and criticize his every move/breath. As far as I can tell, he's a sincere as a politician can be (not the best compliment in the world lol), and although I don't always agree with his policies, he has, in my

    The decision to send in Dev Gru without notifying Pakistan (read: letting the Pakistani gov. tip Osama off) proves to me that he's got the brain and the stones for the job.

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