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?