Is This Really Victory?

I’ve been trying to write unapologetically lately but this post may make it very, very hard to do that.

I don’t doubt that, by now, you’ve heard about the death of Osama bin Laden.

I found out via Twitter.

Then I started to see all the tweets and Facebook statuses come through.  Most of it were jokes.  Some were pretty funny.  I saw one about Chuck Norris coming back from Pakistan.  Another one about Donald Trump requiring a death certificate.  I turned on the TV immediately and tuned into ABC.  George Stephanopoulos almost said “Oba..” and then corrected himself to say “Osama”.  I thought that was pretty bad. And funny.  There were a lot of “wows” and celebratory sentiments.  I heard people were doing victory chants outside the White House and President Obama came on the air to deliver a heartening message about how Bin Laden was killed.

About 10 minutes passed and then something happened.  I noticed my heart racing a bit faster and then my eyes getting teary.  Then the tears started to stream down my face.  And before I knew it I had both hands to my face and I was weeping.

What in the world is going on with me right now?  I’ve learned to be much more attentive to my emotions so I asked myself that question.  Something about celebrating this moment and joking around about this moment just didn’t feel right.  Then I started to formulate some concrete thoughts about why I was having what seemed to be an odd reaction to this monumental point in American history.

Basically, I was incredibly sad about the death of Osama bin Laden.  I was sad that we were celebrating the death of a person.  I was sad that he had been the cause of so many deaths.  I was sad that killing a man was the source of our victory and celebration.  I was sad that his death doesn’t mean the end of terrorism.  That quite possibly, he had died without receiving the grace of God.  Because if God’s grace extends to me, a sinner, then why does it not extend to him?  Or does it, and are we not willing to see that because of the occasion?  Does the fact that he killed tens of thousands of people around the world, Americans and others alike, make him a greater sinner than me?  Somehow, I’m convinced in my mind that it does not.

At this point, I suppose we can get into a discussion about sin, heaven, hell… and justice and revenge… that there is a time for war and time for peace… but I wonder, is this a time for war or is this a time for peace?  Is it our responsibility to take revenge on our enemies?  Is it our job to take the matter into our own hands to serve the purpose of justice in this particular case?  All I know is that I need to be honest about this overwhelming grief that I feel about this whole thing.  About the state of the world and of the human condition.  I don’t have answers and I don’t need to know the answers.  I just know it makes me sad.

I’m in no way discounting the efforts of the American government and the heroes of the U.S. military that have tirelessly worked to protect and preserve our country.  Nor am I dismissing the insurmountable grief of those who have lost loved ones on and because of 9/11.

I’m just really sad and wonder if there is more to this story than just a victory for the United States.


13 thoughts on “Is This Really Victory?

  1. This is so crazy, Cate, but I felt the exact same thing. I thought i was alone in this. In the midst of all the drama, I felt really sad about his death. His death certain won’t mean a simple end to the Afghan war, and it won’t bring back any loved ones.

    I also felt another unexpected emotion – fear. Fear that the death of this one man has not only lifted the spirits of those seeking revenge, but perhaps will galvanize an undesirable kind of spirit in others who will want to follow in his footsteps…. This has happened in the past with the deaths of dictators and who’s to say history won’t repeat itself?…

    • I tend to agree with you – I think fear will definitely drive many people to do lots of terrible things. I think it’s more important than ever for the Christian community to combat fear with love.

  2. After watching watching hundreds of people celebrating in the street for Osama’s death, I could not understand why human beings would react this way. What has this man’s death really accomplish? Except boosting the financial markets around the world. Something else I dont understand.

    I personally did not know anyone killed or harmed during 9/11 but I just cant see how the death of this man could bring comfort to so many people. Is it because my friends and family have not been harmed by a killer that I dont cheer on with these people or is it a lack of patriotism? I guess I’m just numb to the whole thing.

    • I definitely think that not having a direct connection to 9/11 or knowing someone off at war can keep us at a distance. But the events surrounding those tragedies definitely affect so much of life now that it’s hard to avoid it. I’m not sure if it’s comfort that OBL’s death brings, but rather, relief. But he’s just one man and there are many more out there like him.

  3. After about 30 minutes of watching the news coverage, I also felt a bit ghoulish about celebrating the death of a man. But I then began to reflect on how his death will mean that less people will die in the name of terror and to promote a demonic religion.

    Regarding whether the grace of God extended to Osama Bin Laden, there can be no doubt that it did. But assuming that OBL didn’t accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he is now eternally separated from the love God, what is otherwise known as hell. Grace extends no further (Matthew 7:23).

    • I think it’s presumptuous to call any religion “demonic” – that can be a kind of talk that fuels violence.

      You do bring up a point about OBL’s response to the grace of God. Call me crazy, but I hope that he had a glimpse of the glory of God and had a change of heart.

  4. I always prefer live capture to death. Before Paul became an apostle, he was anti-Christian. Who is it for us to say as to whether a person’s heart may be changed, no matter what they have done.

    Some people never change, but we as human beings can never know for sure. All we do know is that when somebody dies, that opportunity dies as well.

    I understand the impact of his death, but I just can’t celebrate in it.

    • I was wondering why they went ahead and killed him when he was unarmed. I know people think he deserves death, and perhaps that’s true (but if we’re going to talk that way, then I must confess I deserve it, too).

  5. I have to agree with what Donald said here.
    “But assuming that OBL didn’t accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he is now eternally separated from the love God, what is otherwise known as hell. Grace extends no further (Matthew 7:23).”

    When you said, ” Because if God’s grace extends to me, a sinner, then why does it not extend to him?” I am wondering if you think that because he was an evil person God did not extend Grace to him? Because I think that God extends grace to ALL it is up to us whether we accept that grace or not.

    However, our acceptance or rejection has consequences. Accept and we’re accepted as God’s own. Reject and he will reject us.

    Personally I have no feelings towards him. The death of a person who has killed so many innocent men, women and children does not have my sympathy. But I will not be on the streets celebrating because any life lost in sin is not a celebration.

    There is relief, there is satisfaction that the job is done, however, I’m not naive to think that there will be no more war.

    I agree with you on the sadness that the war is not over and that people had to lose their lives for us to get to this point. However, I do not grieve over OBL’s choice to NOT accept God’s grace. It was his decision and he made it his mind up. Also, he decided to not accept God’s grace – as far as we know – but that does not mean that God did not give him grace.

    That’s the thing about Grace. Take it or leave it, but either way we face the consequences.

    • I might be in the minority here with this thought, but I don’t think OBL is any more evil/sinful than any other person. The same evil that led him to cause so much damage is also in me and I must daily live in the humility and belief that Christ has redeemed me from it. As little as we know about what exactly happened in the events leading to his death, we actually can’t make any definitive conclusions/judgments about whether or not he received or rejected the grace of God. I don’t believe that’s our call. It’s humanly unthinkable that God would allow someone like him to be with him in eternity, but there are just way too many startling examples to refute that notion, right?

  6. Cate, thanks for sharing such honest reflections, and I think your grief speaks volumes about how there’s something amiss about war, violence, and death in the world. Your grief, at the very least, tells us that something about this whole situation signals that this is not how the world is supposed to be.

    In other words, every single one of us, whether we celebrate OBL’s death or not, WANTS to have a world where there is no more war, violence, or death.

    Most people involved in war justifies it somehow, usually by talking about how the world can be a better place as a result (this is true for the West and East, I believe – I must also add that there is a small minority it seems that is violent without cause, which is definitely a reason for concern). While this very well may be true (someone has to intervene in atrocities like the Holocaust at some point), it’s certainly jarring to reflect on how our most recent history has shown that war has led to more war, and not the other way around.

    I remember this quote by a fellow named Burtchaell (I think) who studied the history of war. His reflection was that “no one claims to have fired the first shot…”

    I think grief is the most appropriate Christian response, because grief tells me that I’m deeply moved at war, violence, and death, and that I don’t want the world to look this way any longer.

    The question is where does grief lead? Does it lead to anger or compassion… or sometimes both? And then, where do those emotions lead in terms of actions?

    Hopefully, my emotions lead to a world in which it looks a lot more like Revelation 21 where every tear will be away, and violence will be no more.

    • I believe grief in its most elemental form would always lead to compassion. But I understand why it leads to anger and subsequent violence more frequently. It’s much too vulnerable and humbling to act out in compassion after being stricken with grief. But I pray that it does, especially for the church embodying the spirit of Christ and all that he did on the cross!

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