A week ago Osama Bin Laden, probably the most infamous and likely the most dangerous terrorists in the modern world, was killed during an assault/raid on his lush Pakistan compound.
Shock and unbelief were my first two reactions. Could this be for real? We hunted him for near a decade. I guess I just never expected he'd be found, caught and/or killed. Millions of people across this country and many others celebrated. Parties, drinking, music, all manner of craziness let loose.
President Obama was quoted saying, "Justice has been done." Not trying to nit-pick, but I believe the proper words would actually be, "Revenge has been done." I mean, don't we Americans believe that justice includes a trial, witnesses, a judge and all that mess? Of course, everybody and their mothers know that had Bin Laden been tried he would have been quickly convicted and swiftly killed by the death penalty (costing the state mucho dinero in the end, I might add).
I heard one report that Bin Laden was unarmed and shot in the face. Don't know what is true, though.
In my almost two years as a hospital chaplain I've seen a fair amount of death. Dead people, people about to die, actively dying, and some dying so slowly and subtly that you cannot pin-point the moment when they actually died. Some families are relieved, but most are grieved. Some reminisce on the good times, and some painfully admit that because of the person's addictions/character-flaws/etc there were few, if any, 'good times.' I've seen graceful death, horrific death, painful and peaceful deaths.
Never have I seen death celebrated.
And so, when I heard that Bin Laden was confirmed dead, and it was time to 'partay,' I hesitated. Yes, I felt a sense of relief to hear this terrorist was no longer a threat. I was glad. The revenge in me got a sense of satisfaction. I thought about all those families of the 9/11 attacks and what they must be feeling. I was sad that we lived in a world where we shoot one another in the face. I was sad that we celebrate such things. I was a bit shamed that I too wanted to celebrate. I wondered (and still wonder) what this might mean. A mix of emotions, and I don't know what to make of it all.
I wonder how God receives Osama bin Laden. There are those who believe that only Christians will experience God's grace after death. There are those who believe all people will be welcomed by God after death. I'm sure most Americans would balk at the thought, even the minute suggestion, that it is remotely possible that God might welcome Osama bin Laden (a deeply wounded and broken human) lovingly. I want to believe in a God who can do, who would do, who is capable of, this. Is Bin Laden in hell? Perhaps he lived in a form of hell? Is he now sentenced to endure unending conscious torment in a firey hell? I strongly question whether such a place actually exists. Whether God could tolerate such a place.
The opposite of judgment is compassion. Both judgment and compassion are natural human responses to differing situations. Is it possible to find any sense of compassion for bin Laden? I struggle to. Would Jesus have compassion for him? So many questions. And, we want answers to them all. So many feelings of joy over a persons death. Revenge, solemness and satisfaction wash over me. A mix of emotions and thoughts so tangled they'll never be unwound and understood. But, isn't that human nature?
I wonder what your reactions are to Bin Laden's death. To this blog post?