Monday, May 02, 2011

The Kick in the Crotch

My immediate reaction when I heard the news this morning was relief. Good. Good riddance. And I still believe that. But I didn't, and don't, feel like celebrating. Within about fifteen seconds my mind had turned to thoughts of, "Hmm, I wonder where the terrorists will strike next?" Because they will. We destroyed the figurehead of an insidious movement, but we have not destroyed the movement. And all the gloating, all the flag-waving, will do nothing but further incite people who are bent on hating and destroying us.

I posted some MLK and biblical quotes on Facebook today not because I wanted to be preachy and santimonious, but because I actually believe them. I think Jesus' teaching about these issues is fairly clear, and I try to take those teachings seriously. I certainly understand that there is a lot of room for differing views here, but what I don't understand is how Christians can condone and celebrate a spirit of vengeance, and how they can justify and gloat about the use of, for example, waterboarding, which apparently led to some of the information that resulted in bin Laden's demise. I guess the ends really do justify the means. I'm not sure where I read that, but I don't think it was the Bible.

There is much that I find dispiriting, unseemly, and distasteful about the events of the past 24 hours. Celebration is fairly far from my mind. So good riddance. But let's not pretend that there's anything remotely Christian about these proceedings. I know, it's a fallen world, and idealism gets kicked in the crotch every time. But don't ask me to cheer the kick in the crotch.


Connie said...


Shannon Lewis said...

Amen, Andy. I felt the same way. Part of me was definitely happy to found him, but I was not only saddened by how it ended (redemption is a better option, by far), but really wrecked by folks celebration of it all.

On a side note, I see you're at OU! I graduated from there ages ago - used to live at 3 Elliott with Josh Antonnucio, and saw Chris Pyle as a spiritual mentor back in the day. On another odd intersection, the founders of Paste Magazine went to the Campus Ministry I went on staff with at UGA (I only met them once - they were on the way out when I was on the way in, but still)... small world.

HCJoel said...

I have been disturbed by the response to this assassination. Seeing people chant 'USA' at a baseball game or in the street because some guy was murdered by the state is messed up. I could have sworn 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan was fighting the Iron Sheik in the WWF. Instead, it is glorying in someone being killed. People justify their murder of someone but then can't believe that the 'others' would not welcome it and not strike back.

Christians, especially, should know better. I was disappointed to see several Christians write things like, 'Yes, we should not celebrate Bin Laden's death but we should celebrate justice,' or some self-righteous, self-deceiving bullshit. Would we accept that if someone was 'celebrating justice' when a member of our family was murdered because, really, they are a sinner and deserve death? I doubt it. I don't want to be arrogant myself or self-righteous but I'm struggling with how to respond.

Andy Whitman said...

Hi Shannon,

Nice to "meet" you. I'm not actually at OU, but I have a lot of OU connections. I went to school there and graduated there ages ago (remember the Ford administration? I didn't think so?), and now my youngest daughter is about to graduate. I know Chris, and have met Josh, and think very highly of both. I do know Josh and Nick from Paste. They're friends, and have been amazingly supportive of my writing. Small world, indeed.

Brother-in-law Bill said...

Many years ago, I was shocked to hear college students, many of whom I knew from working at that college, cheering and celebrating because they had heard that President Reagan had been shot. I can still summon the outrage I felt then. Today, I can honestly say that I don't feel the same way about what happened to bin Laden. To my mind, bin Laden belongs wherever Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, and other mass murderers are found. I will admit unashamedly that I celebrate his death. My outrage is for bin Laden's victims. I mourn for innocent deaths, not the deaths of the guilty. By the way, I regard myself as a faithful Christian. I also occasionally read the Old Testament.

Christian said...

Thank you for your remarks. Being involved in this war through family and many friends and as a Christian, I thought I would respond. As a Christian first and as an American, I struggle with divided emotions. First, as an American, I view this entire struggle, beginning way before 9/11 as a war. War. Not a skirmish or police action but war. If we as a nation ignore the declaration from the many Islamic militants scores of our citizens will die, both at home and on foreign soil. Thinking we as a nation can detente our way out of it or anything other than using everything at our disposal to destroy the enemy will result in more innocent lives lost-mostly Americans. One incident a federal officer told me about (stopped before the terrorists involved could implement) only involved the brutal deaths of several hundred American school children. That is our enemy. Reading Tom Paine and other Christians involved in the founding of our nation convicts me of how far we have fallen as Americans and Christians. I read the other day about a big problem with post college age Christians who can't seem to move out of their parent's house. When I weigh that against the Bible's description of David's mighty men, I have to shake my head. Maybe, as a nation with our socialist president, we don't deserve the freedoms we have and celebrate anymore.

Andy Whitman said...

Christian, I suspect (okay, I know) we have fairly different political views. Be that as it may, I appreciate your comments. My comments were not really addressing the War on Terror, or even Osama bin Laden specifically.

In light of Jesus' teaching about loving and blessing our enemies, in light of the sciptural injunction to forsake vengeance, I am very ambivalent about the reaction to bin Laden's assassination. I'm glad he's gone. Truly. He was an evil man.
But there are other evil men still out there, as you point out. And I'm fairly certain that gloating, although a very human and understandable emotion, is one that I don't want to adopt as a Christian.

I'm not at all convinced that this act won't lead to an escalation of violence against innocent people. What shall we celebrate then? Or will we pretend that one is not related to the other?

I can see the justice of this act, at least on a temporal/governmental level. But that's not where I want to take my cues. This is the way it has always worked. People execute justice. And then other people execute more justice. And pretty soon there are a whole lot of people executed. It may be inevitable. I don't know. But I'm not going to cheer the prospects.

Pilgrim said...

It is strange having it happen a week after Good Friday and Easter. Christ's death was sufficient for him. I don't mean that in a facile (or universalist way) way. An amazing grace way.