Friday, 06 May 2011
Thanks to modern technology, when the Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis occurred, the world knew within minutes, even seconds. Thanks to modern technology, millions all over the globe watched Kate Middleton walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, and watched Prince William kiss his bride. Thanks to modern technology, when President Obama announced an impending late night statement regarding a national security situation, I, on the other side of the world, heard about it within minutes and was online, waiting for the news.
The news, of course, preceded the statement. Between Facebook and Twitter updates pouring in through a Google Realtime search (which is also the best tool, by the way, for checking up on aftershocks in Japan), the speculations, rumors, assurances and finally confirmations of Osama bin Laden’s death were out long before President Obama (finally) walked the red carpet to the podium to address the nation. By then, it was old news, by at least thirty minutes.
For stateside Americans the news came late at night. For me, it came right before lunch, and so, even as most of my fellow countrymen were sleeping, I was watching as the news networks covered the crowds of exultant celebrants at the White House and Times Square, as they waved flags and signs and sang “Nananana, hey hey, good-bye!”
One British new anchor that I heard noted particularly that much of the crowd were young people like me, and how it was their generation that had borne the blow of 9/11 as they watched it happen from silent high school classrooms. They celebrated the justice and vindication of the tragedy that had abruptly thrown them from childhood into frighteningly adult realities that would define the rest of their, our, lives as Americans.
I watched all of this unfold with mixed feelings and a faint frown, trying to put together the pieces of this event, the event of one man’s death.
I am an American. As such, there is a feeling of exultation over this. I saw the planes hit, the people leap to their deaths, the towers fall, the clouds of smoke chase survivors down abandoned streets. Osama bin Laden is dead. The man who hid in the shadows of our destruction that day has been shot down and disposed of. Justice is served. Part of me doesn’t mind laughing, flag waving and hugging strangers in the streets of New York because of the death of a common and dangerous enemy.
I am a Christian. This, in and of itself, could mean many things in relationship to this event. The Bible clearly allows both for rejoicing over the defeat of one’s evil enemies, and yet also says to love them, to show compassion on them. As several facebook friends have observed today, the psalmist praises God for the death of his foes, while Prov. 24:17 says not to rejoice when your enemies are struck down. Ezekiel 33:11 says that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, while in Psalms 2 God laughs in their faces. I suppose I can do both too. Osama was a perpetrator of evil and his sins are reprehensible and many. I can rejoice and thank God that such a man has been removed from this earth and has experienced both human and divine justice. At the same time, Osama was a victim of evil; he inherited false teachings of violence and hatred, he was influenced by evil men before him. He was a fallen son of Adam, a broken man in a broken world, like the rest of us, and he found no peace or redemption in the road he walked. He was God’s enemy in sin, but he was also God’s creation. God is infinite, and so I suppose He can mourn and rejoice simultaneously, but I am finite, and am trapped between the two.
I am an American overseas or, as I have called it before, American +. I look at the crowds in Times Square with the signs and flags and songs and celebrations and it reminds me of the crowds that flocked Islamic streets when 9/11 happened, rejoicing over the blow America had taken. Why are we celebrating? Because we are at war and our enemy as a whole has sustained a hard blow, and a specific threat has been eliminated. That is good cause to rejoice, as any nation might, but that is what I see as I watch the footage today. I see any nation. We’re not really that different. We receive a blow, our blood is spilled, and we mourn and we fight back. We achieve a victory, we spill blood in return, and we proclaim it together in the streets. Like any nation would do. Like Afghanistan or Egypt or Libya or anyone else might do. Such is the way of a broken world that we are only one part of after all.
I do not say that I wish him to rest in peace. I’m an American; I can’t. I’m a Christian; he won’t. I’m American +; he is just another casualty of another war. Thus perished Osama bin Laden.
Do you agree with this author's perspective as an American and a Christian? Did you have mixed feelings about Bin Laden's death? What is the proper relationship between Christian faith and American citizenship?