Monday, May 2, 2011

Mixed Feelings

Last night, I checked my e-mail "one last time" before going to bed and found some significant news. President Obama announced that a small group of Americans had found and killed Osama bin Laden, and they had positively identified his body via DNA tests.

It was 1993 the first time I remember hearing about Bin Laden. A bomb went off in the parking garage below the World Trade Center. Bin Laden took credit, and he was attempting to take the building down by destroying its base. Thankfully, that attempt failed, and the damage was repaired.

The next time I remember hearing of him was that fateful day in 2001. I woke up the morning of September 11, and I was headed toward the bathroom to start getting ready for work. My mom stopped me at the door of my room, and she was visibly shaken. She told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Not being fully awake, my first thought was, "Who cares?" As it sank in, I started to realize that I cared. We hurried into the living room and watched in horror as the news reports showed a huge plume of fire and smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center. Further horror ensued as we watched a plane slam into the second building. At that point, I had to start getting ready for work, as I wanted to be sure to arrive on time. I took a small portable radio into the bathroom while I was getting ready, and I prayed desperately. It was then that I heard on the radio that a third plane had slammed into the Pentagon. I prayed even more desperately, and later heard that a fourth plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, thanks to the heroic efforts of some passengers who had tackled the hijackers and prevented them from reaching their target. Walking to work, I glanced at the newsstands and saw a headline about whales...suddenly such a trivial subject. By lunch time, the papers had been replaced with special editions proclaiming, "ATTACKED!"

My job at the time was on the 9th floor of a Seattle highrise. At the time, nobody knew where the terrorists' next target would be, and early in the day, our managers told us we could go home if we wanted. I opted to stay, as the worst that could happen was that a plane would slam into our building, I would be killed, and then go to heaven, never to suffer again. That didn't seem to me such a bad option. Thankfully, there were no more attacks, but one thing I will never forget is the news reports of people dancing in the streets in the Middle East, celebrating the fact that America had been attacked and thousands had been killed. It hurt deeply to see their sick glee.

I never dreamed that nearly ten years later, the same celebrating over a death would be taking place in America. At long last, the perpetrator of these attacks has been caught and brought to eternal justice. Part of me is thankful that Bin Laden will no longer be inflicting his fierce hatred on America. I'm grateful to our brave troops for going in and doing the job that needed to be done, carefully avoiding the killing of innocent lives, and getting the bad guys. This is a great victory, and for that I'm glad. However, it saddens me to see Americans gleefully celebrating a man's death. I don't care who he was or what he did, celebrating any death is a sin. Proverbs 24:17-20 states:
Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the LORD will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
Do not fret because of evildoers
or be envious of the wicked,
for the evildoer has no future hope,
and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.
It makes me incredibly sad to think that a man who had so much potential could go so wrong. He was definitely an evildoer and an enemy, but Jesus gave His life for Osama bin Laden just as much as He did it for anyone else. Whatever evil Bin Laden did, it is truly a tragedy that he now has to pay with an eternity of fire and torment. It is without a doubt what he deserves, but that is a punishment I would not wish on my worst enemy, and it is what all of us deserve.

I think about Bin Laden's sympathizers dancing in the streets celebrating the attack on America, and I am ashamed to think that we would do the same thing when Bin Laden is killed. Yes, victory is a cause for celebration, but death is not.

On the other hand, just yesterday our pastor preached on King David's friends later in life. One of those friends was General Joab. David's reign was threatened by a bitter enemy named Absalom, who was determined to overthrow the King and take over. One catch: Absalom was David's son. David commanded Joab to crush the rebellion but to spare the life of his son. However, when Absalom's hair got caught in a tree and Joab was nearby, Joab took that opportunity to put an end to the threat to the King's life. When David heard the news that his son was dead, he was heartbroken. He mourned so deeply that his army slunk away as if they had suffered a defeat rather than a great victory. Joab then had to go to the King and remind him that the army had saved his life. While David didn't celebrate his son's death, he did realize the need to encourage the army and his subjects, and he returned to his duties.

Another thing that just came to mind was that after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry land, and then the sea collapsed on the Egyptian army, the Israelites sang a song of praise to God for delivering them from the oppressive Pharaoh. They brought out their tambourines and danced in celebration.

All that to say, I have mixed feelings about Bin Laden's death. This is a great victory, and I think we should be thankful for God's protection and that He allowed us to get the bad guy. I believe that this action saved thousands of lives, and the soldiers who carried out the attack on his compound did a truly heroic thing. But the fact that he died without a Savior or a hope of salvation is a great tragedy.

Maybe the thing we should be celebrating is not his death, but the fact that the lives of who-knows-how-many people that would otherwise have been killed by his evil have been saved.

Finally, I will say something that may sound strange at first. I am thankful for Osama bin Laden. I know he was an evil man. He was a perpetrator of genocide, and he probably would have made Hitler proud. But he did what very few people have done in recent American history. His deed on September 11 united America. Democrats and Republicans and people of all religions came together in a way that I have only seen once to march behind a common purpose, and for once, we all agreed on something. It was a beautiful thing. For that, I thank Bin Laden. May we continue in that spirit of unity.


  1. From my dad (who tried to post this here)...
    You did a very good job of honing-in on the importance of this event and clearly expressing your thoughts and feeling. Unfortunately, he is now experiencing his eternal place away from God. Our job is to take the Word of God to those who don't know Him and to move forward from here and now. There is still much to be done for our country and our Christian worldview. R.S.