Reflecting on the Death of Osama Bin Laden – Part 1 – My First UnEdited Thoughts

Like everyone, I’ve been asked and have been asking others on their thoughts about the Osama Bin Laden’s death. When I first found out, here were my first unedited  thoughts – 1. “Wow, I didn’t think we’d ever go through the trouble of actually finding him”. If I had to articulate my first non-verbal emotional thought, I think I would describe it as “relieved satisfaction”. 2. “Wow, no trial like Saddam, they just killed him.” (non-verbal emotion – the shock meeting instant rationalization) 3. “Wow, he’s dead.” (Reality settling in). In no way am I saying that these are the right thoughts, I’m still working on that, I’m only saying these were my first unedited honest thoughts.

Then I saw the tweets. They expressed a range of many emotions from somber and reflective to jubilation and giddiness. Then I went turned on the tv and saw people celebrating in New York and DC, my immediate thought was surprise. That’s a tricky word, let me unpack that. I’m not sure I felt that it was awful that people were celebrating in the streets but my first thought is that it was odd, especially since the college students were barely 10 years old on 9/11.  More on celebrating an enemy’s demise later this week.

Later that Sunday night, I had a couple other thoughts – “This must be help offer closure to the families who lost someone on 9-11 and the families of our service men and women who have been fighting the war on terror.” It didn’t take long for me to catch a news clip of a 9-11 father expressing that it was bittersweet and that it did offer closure. I had a prayerful moment there. I was also impressed with Obama, his speech and the execution of his plan.

I’m not sure I can high-five the killing of OBL but it would seem appropriate for the Navy Seal Team to do that. And I find a discrepancy there. And after a day’s worth of thought, it would seem to be more “moral” to bring him to trial. The idealistic part of me wonders how humbling that would have been for him. I also wondered if its “government’s” obligation to confront one with their moral trespasses. This thought was a luxury I had while sitting in my safe and comfortable church office. Then there’s what I would call the realistic part of me that thought, “I’m sorry but I’m not going to give sympathy to the killing of a terrorist responsible for the loss and ruining of thousands of lives.” Further, from watching Saddam’s trial, while I will never know what he truly believed in his heart, he came across to me as delusional to the end. Looking back on it, though there was a sense of justice that he was captured and brought to trial, I don’t think it would have bothered me had he been executed in the same manner of Osama. I say this because in some sense, when does a trial really begin? I think I could make the case that Osama’s trial began September 12, 2001 and the final result of the verdict on May 1, 2011.

This is among a few very difficult issues for me. Like many, I hate the idea of war and violence and much more prefer the path of non-violence. I like reading about pacifism but ultimately reject it in its purest form. I even struggle with the idea of whether you can actually be a pacifist and still live in America. If you are in my youth ministry or in my church, you know that I pray for our enemies, you also know I pray and fast for our troops. I can’t wait for our troops to return home, I pray for their re-entry and I cringe every time I think about it because the words of theologian Stanley Hauerwas haunt me, “The worst thing we do to our troops is not that we ask them to kill another man but after they do, we ask them to return to normal” (a paraphrase I heard from a lecture given).

While part of me does not want to give this terrorist the honor of having any more of my time, words or attention, there’s another part of me that finds the great importance of us as Christians to process this in community. In a time of prayer yesterday, it seemed clear that we should talk about this at youth group this week. (It will also be a “God at the Pub” discussion in a few weeks too).  I invite you to pray specifically for teenagers as they try to make sense of all of this as well.  These moments can have profound effect on the soul.

Over the years I’ve learned “everything spills over into everything”. And when we talk about things like patriotism, we are also talking about things like family, morality and faith. When we talk about peace, we are also talking about war, government and justice. And when we talk about all these things, we also talk about forgiveness, love and God. Based on my social media experience, more and more will regulate this conversation out of Twitter and Facebook and I think it’s going to take me a while to reflect. So I invite you to reflect with me here. What were your first unedited thoughts upon hearing that Osama Bin Laden has been killed?

Using Scripture Against Obama Is Not Christian

A few times last week I received an email saying “Pray for Obama by using Psalm 109:8″.

It reads, “Let his days be few and let another take his office.”  If you watch the youtube clip, they’ll tell you the next verse.  I know people sent it as a joke but I’m no longer sure that people are joking anymore.

I saw this video with Franky Schaeffer on Brian McLaren’s site and thought to share it with my readers. Schaeffer’s book  “Addicted to Mediocrity” was very influential for me during my Liberty University years.  I’m sure he’d say he’s changed a lot since that publication and I have too.  Regardless, he says plenty for us believers to consider here:

When I saw the teddy bear, I actually began wondering if this was a joke.  But it’s not.  In fact, Cafe Press actually released this statement stating that this merchandise will no longer be available.  Now I should say that I do not agree totally with Schaeffer.  I do not identify myself as a member of the Religious Right but I do not actually see the Right as the “American version of the Taliban”.  That said, things like this make his case hard to disprove.  Whether you consider yourself on the Right, post-Right, moderate, whatever, if you are a Christian, you can not tolerate this.

Certainly I am in no position to actually determine whether this project  was actually started by a Christian but too many are certainly behind it.  (My theory is a clever businessman started this, offered his services to ultra right wing personalities and enough people thought it was funny so here we are but I could be very wrong). Anyway, this ridiculous campaign reminds me of that scene in the movie Saved! where Mandy Moore’s character throws a Bible at the back of her “sinful” friend Mary while screaming, “I am full of the love of Jesus!”.  Most would agree that was a bit contradictory and not Christian.

To be Christian is to be a praying people.  Very quickly someone will say, “Yes, Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and Paul reminds us too …”.  Certainly this is true but to be Christian, we should be extremely careful in even regarding someone as an enemy.   Frankly, I am not convinced that Obama can even be called an enemy but everyone is entitled to their own conviction.  Jesus told us to love all.  Among the most loving, the most Christian thing to do is to care for those we passionately disagree with, to serve the persecutor and to truly pray in a manner that brings glory to God.   Otherwise, we are not worthy of the blood of the cross, we are nothing but spoiled brats who arrogantly speak of a god who is not just, nor compassionate, nor anything that resembles the triune One of Scripture.  That is an idea created by those  who wish to create a god that loves and hates the same things they do – that’s an idol, not the true and living God.

Reflecting on President Obama's Speech From Cairo University

This blog is not intended to be political but politics have certainly captured my attention lately.  Nor did I think I’d be talking about Obama as much as I am but you cannot ignore what he’s saying and doing. So when President Obama addresses the world from the University of Cairo, people take notice, especially a first-generation Egyptian born in the States whose parents graduated from the university.  I am proud of my Egyptian heritage, extremely grateful that my parents immigrated here, and I love the fact that I’m in NJ (we tell everyone that it sucks here and jack up the housing prices to keep the southerners out ;-) but truth be told, it’s a great part of the country to live in).

America has an image problem.  It’s almost as bad as the Western Church’s.  Some had the idea that by combining the two, we could help the world and whether the world was truly helped or not is another discussion; many throughout the world have a terrible perception of America. As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, my friends’ blogs, through countless great theological works of theology and most importantly, the New Testament, we as Christians are called to serve a different Kingdom first.  That said, I believe the problems in and out of American are of great importance.  

It’s in this light that Obama’s speech is extremely important.  Taking on topics such as Islam, fanaticism, terrorism, Israel, Palestine, and others is a bold task when you are perceived as the representative of a nation of hateful manipulators and greedy instigators of these topics.  While I have profound differences with that perception, I do understand how and why many believe it to be. 

He proclaimed that he was a Christian, spoke of his Muslim father and quoted various holy books.  From the Koran he said, “Whoever kills an innocent person kills all mankind.  Whoever saves a person saves all mankind.”  He spoke against hate and terrorism.  He promoted safety for all, American and those throughout the Middle East.  He spoke about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.  He called for nuclear disarmament, spoke on the greatness and limits of democracy, women’s rights and all basic human rights, including religious freedom. Everyone was called out for we are all part of the problem and responsibility calls us all to resolve and peace. 

To my conservative brother and sisters who are convinced that he played to the Muslim crowd, you must not have heard the speech.  Please listen to it first (you can watch it here or read the full transcript here). Had George W gave it (and he could have), I suspect that it would have been praised by conservatives.  I’m sure W has said similar things, but he said so many other things that I doubt many heard it and frankly he wasn’t eloquent enough to remember.  Still, there’s a probably a posting by National Review or Human Events or somewhere outlining the similarities that W had said with today’s speech. To me, that discussion is a waste of time and I only mention it to head it off. If we as Christians truly believe that we are of a greater Kingdom, one concerned with the other, one that loves, one that preaches Christ, then I’m not sure how we cannot champion the words of today.

But as we all know, you can say all the right things but the key is in the follow up.  My hope is that Obama can put these noble words into action in the capacity afforded to him.  My hope is also that the Muslim world will do the same.  And this goes the same for the Christian world, the non-Christian, you and me. I say it again -everyone has been called out.  We are all part of the problem, may we also be a part of the solution – for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

For more reading, here are some worthy links:

Arab Students Respond to Obama 

Commentary: Amen, Mr. President – Editor’s Note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of, and contributing editor for Islamica magazine in Washington.

Obama Calls for Fresh Start With Muslims 

Video reaction – Muslims Wants Deeds, Not Just Words from Obama

Drawing on Islam, Speech in Cairo Electrifies Many In Arab Mideast 

Muslims Seem Won Over by President; U.S. Adversaries Unmoved

Full Video Here 

Full Text Here 


Liberty Alum Regrets Decision to Ban College Democrat Group

Every one has skeletons in their closet.  Among mine is that I am a graduate of a very conservative private Christian school that has just banned the College Democrat Club from being officially recognized by the school.  Yes, I graduated from Liberty University. 

For the sake of context, there is a lot I like about Liberty.  There is a lot I respected about Dr. Falwell but among other things, there’s a mentality that I wish my Liberty family would abandon.  Similar to that hideous sweater that a dad wears every winter, I wish Liberty would let go of this dogmatic idea of “This is what a Christian looks like, how one behaves, and how one thinks.”  The order of that statement is intentional. 

I’m not a Democrat, nor have I been a card-carrying Republican.  I am not a member of any other party and I find a lot of socialist ideas to be problematic in our current setting.  I’m not in love with Obama, but I’m rooting for the guy because I love this country and think that he can do a lot of good.  More relevant, I love the Kingdom even more and firmly believe that politics is one of many tools that can serve it.  Generally, I receive my news online and sample the major networks.  I think Bill O’Reilly makes a good point has often as the Red Sox win a world series.  I prefer Larry King over Jon Stewart and I tune in to BBC though I’m glad I don’t live in England.  Lou Dobbs gets on my nerves and I’d much rather watch Sportscenter than Anderson Cooper.

It has been my experience at Liberty that has shaped a lot of this and for that, I was never ashamed of being a graduate of LU.  I fell in love there, enjoyed amazing friendships, learned a bit about God, life and myself there and praise the Lord, I was even able to unlearn a few things too.  It’s in this spirit that I also learned about politics and dealing with figures like Falwell. Indeed, I also learned a lot about living in paradox and thinking in the gray.

So now in light of Notre Dame having President Obama give their commencement, my alam-mater bans the College Democrat group and I react my hanging my post-conservative head.  I can only imagine their outrage should another school ban the College Republican club because one of their positions conflicts with their trustee’s policies, or the convictions of a particular faculty department or the collective opinions of their alumni.

I believe very much in the importance of leadership, influence, and modeling.  I pray and care for the younger and the weaker brother but this line of thought has the tendency of going too far.  I can hear it now at some board meeting, “If we allow Democrats to meet on our campus, they may like it for the ‘wrong reasons’ and we forever will lose them to this evil party and inadvertently create more baby-killers.”  Mind you, there is such a thing has a pro-life democrat.

As most of us know, there is a particular foolishness in being only a one-issue voter.  There are some noble ideals and pursuits in the Democrat party and it seems conservative institutions like Liberty ought to teach their students how to work for the good in all things as opposed to the demand of  strictly aligning themselves to one side exclusively. 

The same mentality persists in topics like alcohol.  I remember hearing, one drink can turn you into an alcoholic.   Indeed a fair warning.  But one drink can also create a healthy mentality that enjoys a glass of wine or a summer ale.  I’ve been raising my glass with Christians (and non-Christians) for the last 10 years and have enjoyed many brilliant moments of conversation and friendship that leave me praising God that I ignored the legalism and the ridiculous mentality that was preached to me. Yes, I graduated from Liberty University but it’s cool, I drink Guinness.

This is not what taking a stand looks like.  Let us not delude ourselves in enjoying the bad press as a form of persecution.  This is not counter-cultural, this is a lack of culture and frankly for those so concerned for their testimony, this is a bad one.  

I’ve been in the habit of saying that Liberty University is not for everyone. Now they say it’s not for Democrats but what everyone hears is that it’s not for independent thinking people.  Today, I regret being an alumni of Liberty University.  Praying for our repentance of such a mentality.

Navigating Through National Politics from our pews

Though I thought twice about posting this but it is a blog, not a church newsletter so here it is.   Great article last month from Brian McLaren on Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics blog.  The article is entitled, “Mal-Engagement, Disengagement, and Wise Engagement” and here are the lines that made me nod my head in agreement:

“f people are saying they’re tired of pulpits and churches becoming the field for proxy battles between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, I couldn’t agree more. And if they’re saying that pastors and other religious leaders should try to throw their weight around in the political arena, bypassing normal debate and discourse by making theological pronouncements, again, I couldn’t agree more.

But if they’re saying, “Let’s go back to the good old days where in church we talked about ‘us and Jesus’ and nothing more,” I couldn’t disagree more. To talk about “us and Jesus” alone is unfaithful to Jesus, who linked love for God with love for neighbor. To exclude from our circle of concern the well-being of neighbor and enemy means that we aren’t following Jesus’ way, but some other way under “Christian camouflage.”

I grew up in those “good old days,” and I can tell you they weren’t so good. It wasn’t good when racism and concern for the planet were excluded from consideration because they were “social and political matters.” It wasn’t good when poverty couldn’t be addressed directly or in a sustained way – in spite of the fact that the Bible says so much about it – because it was “political” and “social.” It wasn’t good when we couldn’t talk about peacemaking in a violent world because to do so was “too political.  For more …”

If you are having a wonderful day, I’d suggest skipping the comments.  The lack of unity and love is disheartening.  But if it’s a normal day for you, then go right ahead.


Washington Post – GOP Loyalty Not a Given for Young Evangelicals

Found myself relating to this article.  Hope you enjoy.


DULUTH, Ga. — Jonathan Merritt is a Baptist preacher’s son with a pristine evangelical lineage. It was his dad, the Rev. James Merritt, who reportedly brought President Bush to tears in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks when he called the president “God’s man for this hour.” The Rev. Jerry Falwell was like a grandfather. 

“When you look at the political party that has traditionally championed poverty, social justice and care for the least of these, it’s not been the Republican Party,” said Merritt, who now considers himself an “independent conservative” and is unsure whom he will vote for in November. “We are to honor the least of these above even ourselves. It’s very difficult to reconcile totally.”

He is part of a growing group of young born-again Christians standing on one of the many generational breaks surfacing in this election cycle. Merritt still shares his parents’ conservative convictions on abortion, a core issue that forged Falwell’s Moral Majority and brought evangelicals firmly into the Republican camp, but he says they are no longer enough for him to claim the Republican Party.

“There’s a shift in issue focus,” said Joshua DuBois, 25, who was associate pastor of a small evangelical church and is responsible for Obama’s faith outreach. “I don’t think any young evangelical is ignoring the traditional values issues, but they are adding other issues, including poverty and war, and they are also looking at integrity and family.”

“The church has a bad reputation for being judgmental, worrying more about what people wear to church than the fact that they are coming to church,” he earnestly told the group of about 20.

The students agree, and they say some of it has to do with a politicizing of their religion. They feel the tension of their competing interests.

“I went to school with a lot of agnostic people and after Bush, they were like ‘no’ ” to religion, said Brittany Kelley, 22, who recently graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (HEY ADAM). She is leaning toward McCain because she shares his economic views and is afraid that Obama will raise taxes. But in a lowered voice she said she does not feel the way some of the other young evangelicals do when it comes to all social issues.

Full article here.