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May 2, 2011

A Righteous Kill

I woke my daughter this morning with the words, “I have the most wonderful sad news.” Of course, I was referring to the military strike which killed Osama bin Laden. However, I phrased it this way on purpose – to promote a discussion about the positives and negatives of this event, to think realistically and philosophically about what had transpired.
There has not been a more despised enemy of America since Hitler. So, it is no surprise at the jubilant reaction of so many when President Obama announced the death of the mastermind of the 9/11 attack and many other terrorist plots around the world, including the attack on the USS Cole and the embassy bombing in Nairobi, Kenya. Osama’s crimes against America (and the world) were heinous, malevolent and cold. That said; I needed my daughter to understand what the celebration should be about – and it is not because a human being had been killed.
Don’t misunderstand me on either side of this topic. I believe that bin Laden’s death serves justice, that he deserved a death sentence and that capturing him was an improbable option which would have further promoted the terrorists’ cause. But it is not right to celebrate and revel in another person’s death, no matter who they were or what they did. There is important distinction between justice and vengeance – even when the resulting consequence is the same for both aspirations.
Moreover, as a Christian, I trust the scripture passage of John 14:6 where Jesus states that no one enters Heaven without going through Him. I doubt few Christians would argue that bin Laden will enter Heaven, even those who follow Christian dualism or those who believe in an all-saving God. But because of my specific view of how this life and the afterlife reconcile, bin Laden’s death without knowledge and belief in Christ is personally very sad.
Perhaps even more importantly, I believe that Christ’s sacrifice, a Holiday celebrated just one week prior to this event, paid for all sins, including those of this mass murderer and enemy of our nation. God had already forgiven (or offered forgiveness for) his crimes – even as heinous, malevolent and cold as they were. Neither I nor any other citizen of America has higher authority than God; thus, for me not to offer forgiveness for bin Laden’s hate is a direct violation of God’s will – at least as I interpret Christian philosophy. For me, to celebrate this radical Muslim’s death is wrong. For me, this type of harboring of hatred is actually a self-afflicted poisoning of my spiritual relationship with God. (You may disagree, but I will concede the debate and let you take it up with God directly.)
However, applauding the soldiers and trusting this action suggests our martial presence in Arabic countries may soon be unnecessary is not wrong. Celebrating the justice bin Laden’s death brings about and delighting in the trust of a more secure nation is not wrong. Reveling in a military victory that means my loved ones, my neighbors and this country’s service men and women are less likely to suffer and may live without terrorism is not wrong. This is what we celebrate with the news of bin Laden’s death, and it is important that my daughter be able to distinguish the difference.
It is also important that my daughter not be sheepishly naïve. In a culture of zero-tolerance everything, it seems to be harder and harder to understand motive from behavior and premise from policy. I must teach my child that war is not a desired thing, but unfortunately it is sometimes necessary. I need her to understand that violence is not the answer, but sadly there are some for whom nothing else is. To permit these types of people to terrorize and reign through slavery of invisible chains is a greater harm than fighting back, to continue the right of life and liberty sometimes comes at the cost of life and liberty, and to make choices between the lesser of the evil options is occasionally what this world forces us to do – these are the sad realities it is my duty to convey with the proper discernment to my daughter.
These are not simple ideas, and they are often accompanied with a flood of confusing emotions. My hope is for her to develop the intellectual and spiritual maturity to know today’s event was indeed a righteous killing but it is not for our enemy’s death that we celebrate; instead we celebrate justice and the security of our future. I also pray this insight finds its way into the hearts of all of Americans.
May God bless you and those you love.

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