Monday, May 2, 2011


Almost ten years ago, when we watched our own country come under a direct and brutal attack, I watched, horrified. 

Then, as revelers in foreign nations danced in the streets, celebrating our losses, burning our flags, and shooting happy bullets into the sky, I was doubly horrified.  What sort of people could rejoice over death?  Who could so heartlessly cheer to know that souls had been exterminated?

Today, I was horrified again, because those people dancing in the streets were my people -- only without the happy bullets.

I don't love the man who was captured and killed; I have deep animosity (and fear) in my heart towards him and all who support his ideals.  But to dance over his lost soul?  To cheer and gather in feels dirty.  Cheap.  It feels provocative of retaliation, and it feels anti-unity.  Anti-peace. 

If I weren't so conflicted in my emotions, I'd be better able to stake one side and lay claim to one feeling: joy or condemnation.  But I am conflicted.  I didn't want this man to live long enough to plan or execute more devastation, but...did I want him killed in retaliation?  Who says who deserves to be killed?  What terrible power does that give us in the eternal sense?

I'm certainly relieved that I'm not in such a powerful position to make these choices.  Justice is different in every person's eyes, and to call my own opinion unfailingly 'just' seems to invite missteps.  So no, I don't envy our leaders in the decisions they make in the name of justice and protection and war.

But where do we -- as a nation, as a world -- go from here?  When does justice end so peace and love can begin?  When will we see past our hatred and into the heart of unity?

A friend shared this quote with me, and I can't turn it off in my head.  It keeps running on auto-loop, dampening my conflicted relief at the death of Osama bin Laden:
An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. -- Mahatma Ghandi
Am I alone in my confusion?  I really can't even believe I'm writing this -- such a lost, opinionated post -- but I need to talk about it (respectfully) with others.  What do you think?


  1. Me too. While I am glad that he is no longer a threat, I am not glad that people are throwing parties and dancing. That doesn't seem right. You said exactly what I was feeling. Thank you.

  2. I know. I certainly can't comprehend the implications this has for the war going on over there, but life is valuable and death is final. It's hard to be happy about any of this. I'm conflicted, too, at best.

  3. Yes, some people seem almost sadistic in their revenge. We do need to be conscience of our own temptation to evil. My celebratory side looks at it this way: When Jaycee Dugard escaped her captors and returned to her family, I was happy she was free and happy that her abductors were caught and would be brought to justice. I feel the same way when serial killers are caught. After 9/11, other countries rejoiced over the mass murder of over 3500 innocent men, women, and children whose death had been ordered by Osama Bin Laden. These people were not soldiers, they were not on foreign lands trying to harm others. They were working and playing when someone attacked them, crushed them, blew them up, burned them to death, and buried some alive. All in the name of hate and power. Our mission was to apprehend the murderer and bring him to justice. There is a sense of relief when even one kidnapper, murderer, or terrorist is captured; that the person is no longer free to inflict their pain and cruelty on to any more innocent people. I believe, I hope, that is what people are celebrating~that goodness has triumphed over evil. Thank God we got the Garridos, the Boston Strangler, the Son of Sam, Suddam Hussein, and now Osama Bin Laden. I feel as though I am celebrating the end of evil or at least a piece of evil, as though we have defeated a soldier in Satan's army. I think a reference to cruel and unusual punishment might apply here. He was shot in the head, not tortured, humiliated, etc. Do you know what they do to our soldiers if they are captured? Much worse. We too have been guilty of inhumane treatment to prisoners at times. Ron asked, "Why should we care what we do to those terrorists? They'd show no mercy to us." I replied, "When man becomes the monster, we have lost the battle between good and evil." You understand that Sarah, you understand that there is danger in us becoming the evil--like Darth Vader in Star Wars. He chose the Dark Side. We rejoiced when he was gone, but we didn't want Luke to lose his goodness in the process and actually become the Dark Side. Let us be happy this evil force is removed, but let us be careful to remember that we fight to protect, and not to destroy.

  4. I've been feeling the conflict too. Last night as I watched the news, I was -at first- exultant. Being a military family and knowing individuals who have died overseas, it felt like a victory. Vindication.

    My heart sank, though, as I observed the celebration in the streets, on Twitter and Facebook. I heard a caller on the radio proclaim that she was pleased that Osama was "burning in hell now."

    I wondered: Should it ever delight us that someone could be burning in hell, separated eternally from his loving Creator?

    When I worship a God who desires that not a single soul be lost, the parties in the street suddenly embarrass me.

  5. I'm echoing Lenae:
    "I worship a God who desires that not a single soul be lost; the parties in the street suddenly embarrass me."

    Without going into Biblical debates and discussions of the old testament over the eye for an eye thing, I say, emphatically so, that we live in the age of grace, the age of the church. The church is to be a channel through which grace flows. We are to give grace a name, face, hands, feet to weary souls who are in need of restoration.

    So, no, I don't think we, as the body of Jesus, should celebrate over eternal separation of a soul from its maker.

    I am cognicent, though, that when a heart chooses evil, a choice has been made.

    In relation to this specific incident, the man robbed other innocent people of their lives -- should there not be penalty for doing so? My personal opinion is that there should be penalty. Though I don't rejoice over over the penalty inflicted.

  6. I feel the exact same way. I haven't read the news stories, and have looked away at FB and twitter posts that are rejoicing. It doesn't feel right.
    Thank you for being so brave to share your thoughts openly...

  7. I am with Hyacynth and Lenae - as a Christian, I feel ashamed that so many are celebrating the demise of another human. I, too, felt some elation and pride when the President held his press conference, only later to say "are we really celebrating the loss of another life?" when footage of crowds celebrating outside the white house were shown on television. I often struggle with concepts like the death penalty because I feel we are too mortal, too human to say who should get what punishment. I worry that we are stepping in to God's territory at times.

    I liked your Ghandi quote. I hope you don't mind if I borrow it.

  8. This is beautifully written, and so very right. The problem with retaliatory justice is that it leaves little room for peace, true peace, to grow.

    I hope that we can find ways to foster love and understanding, especially with those we see as enemies.

  9. Struggling here, too. I couldn't find these words, so my post today is a bit obtuse . . . but your words fit my feelings almost exactly. Thank you.

  10. Another conflicted Christian here. Thanks for putting your thoughts out there.

  11. Although I don't think someone like him deserves to live and I hope that the families that have lost someone can find some closure, happiness is NOT the feeling I held today. I feel sad, very sad. Sad that this is the state of our world. That some thrive in such chaos and violence.
    I'm afraid things will just get worse as his followers retaliate, and then of course we will retaliate back, and so it goes on and on.
    I wish we would find another way. Yes, I'm glad he can no longer hurt others, but I will not cheer.

    I wondered earlier today why I wasn't feeling this joy that I saw in others on TV, but as the day as gone by I've heard and read about many that feel similarly, I'm glad I'm not crazy

  12. It's complicated. I don't want him to still be alive. I do think he was an ongoing threat, and had the kind of influence that just capturing him doesn't seem like enough. But neither do I rejoice in the death or what I see as the necessity of his death. Nor do I believe that terrorist activity is over just because he's dead.

  13. "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that"
    — Martin Luther King Jr.
    that was my favorite quote I heard yesterday....and something in me resonates with your response.

  14. I am not a Christian, nor an American but I was glad to read this post today as it sums up how I feel so well. I know that he did terrible things, but I do not believe that it is anyone's right to choose to take another life. Thank you for showing me that I'm not alone in my opinion.

  15. Ohh, I feel this way too, and...

    (long rambling sentences where I try to express myself and fail utterly, bah)

    Agree! And I'm glad you posted this! And I don't know what to feel, either!

  16. I totally understand. Thank you for posting this, because it speaks what I tried to put into words all day yesterday. I just don't see how we can rejoice over a death, even the death of someone who caused so much harm. Death is never a good thing.

  17. Sarah- I read this post yesterday and I could not comment. I felt as conflicted as you do. I needed time to reflect upon my feelings. Which were not celebratory in any way. In my heart I support my country and our military. My soul speaks something different.

    I have been searching for something in my bible.I've been researching the exact place in the bible where Jesus descends into hell (I've been trying to find it for two whole weeks)

    I found two things that finally put my feelings about Osama to peace. "Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8-9 and the other being the verse I was searching for in Matthew. The latter doesn't pertain to Osama in particular, but how He suffered for us and how I would not wish that upon anyone.

    Anyway with that being said, it is ok to feel this conflict. I'm sorry this rambled on a bit, but I've been feeling the same way as you. I was most worried that these feelings took away a piece of my patriotism, but they do not. They go hand in hand.


  18. The reactions of Teresa and Hyacynth and Lenae are very similar to my own. While I am relieved that this evil man is gone, I am sad that his soul is eternally lost. But I do believe that his death was justified. There are penalties for our actions and he certainly "earned" his punishment. However, we are all sinners and were it not for the blood of Christ, my soul would also be eternally damned. Unfortunately, Osama didn't choose the path of Christ, he chose evil instead and needed to be stopped.

    Yes, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind," but if the "eyes" like Osama are not plucked out than I'm afraid that blindness will not be our greatest problem.

  19. Agreed.

    "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."

  20. A few things that help put this event in perspective for me:

    *Our goal was to capture not kill. Unfortunately, in war, death happens.

    *I thought of those who lost a husband, a daddy, a loved one on 9/11 and the torment they've felt with a mastermind killer at large. This could provide closer and peace for them.

    *Our soldiers are risking their lives to keep peace on our soil. Capturing an enemy is a victory that might give them a boost to keep going to keep us safe here!

    So, no I won't go dancing on anyone's grave, but I also feel that it's great to have a sense of accomplishment for our country.

    Proverbs says that we can take refuge in the death of our enemies.

  21. With 21 comments I know you know you are not alone. I was feeling very confused and conflicted by all of it. But since then I've read many things that have helped me form my thoughts. The Vatican's statement on it really helped me.

  22. I understand the conflicted feelings. This man was evil and I'm glad he's gone but as a christian the idea of celebrating the death of another human being really bothers me.

  23. There is something most definitely wrong with rejoicing over a death--any death. Because, like it or not, Jesus died for this man and he would have been a saved soul if he had turned from his sin. The fact that he is now dead is a time for somberness over another lost soul, not rejoicing. I find it very disturbing that people are dancing and celebrating. It rings of hatred.

    "...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. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!..." Ezekiel 33:11

  24. SArah, I think you'd really appreciate this article:

    Strangely enough, I think it's appropriate to feel both a measure of joy (that evil had not triumphed) and sorrow (that a man perished without receiving Christ) along with humility (that we deserve the wrath of God and are only spared by accepting His sacrifice)

    Here.s another great post:

    Lots to process...

  25. You have expressed what I think a lot of us are feeling very well. I agree with you completely and I think the Vatican made the best comment yesterday.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?