osama bin laden’s death, celebration, and props to al mohler

well, i have to say, i didn’t expect this day to come.

i’m not referring to bin laden’s death.

nope, i didn’t expect to so fully appreciate and agree with a post, on a volatile subject, by al mohler.

let me back up: last night, when my iphone buzzed with a breaking news update from my cnn.com app saying that bin laden had been killed, i immediately experienced a mixed reaction. on one hand, i was (and remain) glad he was found; and even more glad that he has been captured (dead or alive), and will not perpetrate further terror. on the other hand, i had an uncomfortably squeamish response to the word “killed”, used as a positive. 30 minutes later, i entered the home of my friend brian berry, who was watching frat-boy partying outside the capital building in dc. on a political level, this seems unwise. it seems to be inviting a response. bin laden was not a one-man show. brian said it well, “if americans were watching al qaeda celebrate over the killing of one of “ours”, we would be appalled, and question their very humanity.” (well, he said something like that — those are my words, to be fair.)

today, i’ve watched the internet, and it continues to make me uncomfortable. christians are celebrating that osama is in hell. christians are “rejoicing when God ordains leaders to execute civil justice” (that’s a direct quote from a comment on my facebook page). wow. i am so uncomfortable with claiming this as god’s action. a friend of mine saw my facebook status, and texted me, asking if i think the killing was unjust or unrighteous. i responded that my struggle is less with the result (full disclosure, i’m wrestling with this, and am far from ready to be dogmatic on it!), and much more with the celebrations and revenge/triumph perspective.

then, someone pointed me to al mohler’s blog. i rarely look at mohler’s blog, because it usually frustrates me more than anything else. but this post — well, all i can say is that he did a good job of parsing out the difference between “just war” (which i’m probably not in complete agreement with him on, but that’s not the point here, nor is it mohler’s point) and “revenge”. the money paragraph:

And yet, there are two troubling aspects that linger. The first is the open celebration in the streets. While we should all be glad that this significant threat is now removed, death in itself is never to be celebrated. Such celebration points to the danger of revenge as a powerful human emotion. Revenge has no place among those who honor justice. Retributive justice is sober justice. The reason for this is simple — God is capable of vengeance, which is perfectly true to his own righteousness and perfection — but human beings are not. We tend toward the mismeasure of justice when it comes to settling our own claims. All people of good will should be pleased that bin Laden is no longer a personal threat, and that his death may further weaken terrorist plans and aspirations. But revenge is not a worthy motivation for justice, and celebration in the streets is not a worthy response.

that says it well. i want terrorism stopped. but i cannot celebrate — waiving american flags and cheering about ‘god’s favor’ — the killing death of anyone, including (maybe particularly?) an enemy.

i’m not sure that i’m trying to “take a stand” here, as much as i’m writing about my discomfort and trying to figure it out. but i’ll stand by my facebook status at least, which was: “i’m struggling a bit today with all the blood-lust and revenge (often cloaked with language of justice and righteousness) that is swarming the internet. much of it represents a nationalism and/or christianity i am extremely uncomfortable with.”

(as an aside: meeting al mohler’s 70-something dad a couple months ago, and watching his commitment to middle school ministry, was a pretty amazing thing. maybe al and i are going to become BFFs.)

16 thoughts on “osama bin laden’s death, celebration, and props to al mohler”

  1. an excerpt from my buddy’s musings on the same question, which I think accurately represents the mindset of all of us at the Naval Academy:

    “I admit that I am not comfortable in the idea of celebrating the death of any man, and especially not the death of an unbeliever, but I think for most of us at USNA last night we were celebrating much more than a death. We were celebrating our country. As we rioted last night we did not chant any blatant slanders against Usama or Al Qaeda. Instead, we chanted U-S-A, we sang the national anthem, and we celebrated the work of our fellow American service members (fellow sailors).

    Do I wish that there could have been another way to have handled this? Yes. But I also believe that what happened was good for our nation. We needed that closure. The Americans who lost family members in 9/11 will forever have a gaping hole in their lives because of this man. So, should we celebrate his death? No. But we should celebrate and be proud of the work done by Naval Special Forces who risked their lives so that other Americans will never have to suffer at the hands of Usama Bin Laden and others like him.”

  2. Great post Marko.
    It’s quite disheartening to not find more posts like yours. I am all about justice – but God’s justice right – the kind that asks us to look after orphans and widows.
    Thanks for the post. Thank you for sharing your processing. It helps me to process, and it’s too soon for me to post something on my blog. It helps to comment on yours. Thanks Marko.

  3. I am grateful that the world is relieved of an evil and perhaps it gives us good cause to get out of Afganistan and regroup militarily. but the rah rah aspect makes me a little uncomfortable, and it feeds in to the worst aspects of a 24 hour news cycle which is score keeping rather than reflection and context..Based on books I have read regarding the rise of militant islamofacism (the looming tower especially) we have a long road to travel if we hope to see some stability in the region…praise to the military people who did a wonderful job, and praise to a mission with no casualities, but I think we need to reflect on this as a way to move on

  4. well said Marko, it’s hard for us across the pond to get our heads around all the celebrating, we know it’s not representative of your nation as a whole, but well done for delivering a balanced perspective.

  5. thanks for the post Marko…both here and on facebook

    if celebrated, this should be a sober (tone not alcohol) celebration that respects and celebrates life and above all honors God

    if mourned, perhaps what should be mourned most is the extent of sin (which plots evil and affects us all) and the fall and the hopeful longing for Christ’s return mixed with an appreciation of God’s redeeming grace

  6. Great post, thank you for sharing your thoughts today. As I sat and read all the giddiness about Bin Laden burning in hell it made my stomach turn.

  7. Well said. I’m with you on the struggle. I’ve been struggling a bit too. It really hit me when I saw the cover of the New York Daily News that read “ROT IN HELL.” Wow.

    While I’m grateful a leader like Osama Bin Laden has been dethroned, I struggle with you knowing this is one more person that will be separated from God for eternity.


  8. Living in a suburb of New York City, September 11 is a day I still have trouble talking about. Even so, today’s reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s death has left me very uneasy. I am not sure that I can celebrate anyone’s death and final separation from God. I have felt very alone today. Thank you for writing this.

  9. my wife and I were discussing this at dinner last night and I was trying to verbalize my uncomfortableness with this whole situation. She made the comment, “Well, were the Israelites not supposed to be happy when David slayed Goliath?” I’m not sure if that comment takes the story of David and Goliath out of context or not, but it definitely gave me a different angle to view the Osama situation from. Still not sure I’m completely comfortable with it all though.

  10. @jon, i hardly think we want to use the OT jewish response to death or victory over enemies as our bellwether. i’m much more interested in what jesus said to the jewish people about how they should respond. (i’m not dismissing the OT, btw – but i think there’s a cultural context in that david and goliath story that makes their celebration ‘non-instructive’ for us; and, i think the teaching of jesus supersedes.)

  11. Hey Marko,

    What about the saints under the throne in Rev 6:10-11 asking God why He is holding back judgment on the wicked? Even Proverbs says that the righteous rejoice when the wicked are cast down, and those are supposed to be timeless principles. Sure, we can go into conversations about HOW he was taken down, but the fact that he is now removed from the face of the earth is quite a good thing! However, I do have a hard time using such an event as grounds for claiming the moral superiority of the USA in light of its stance on abortion, sodomy, wealth redistribution (theft), etc, etc. I highly recommend RC Sproul Jr’s thoughts on the matter:


  12. jonathan — i’m sure we could find much to disagree on; but you’ve written your comment in conversational tone (which i appreciate), so i’ll respond likewise; and let me focus on what we would agree on: i am glad that bin laden is no longer a threat (you could say i “rejoice” in that reality). and, while we would disagree on some of the reasoning, we also agree on the futility of claiming america’s moral superiority (before or after the bin laden killing).

    on the rev 6 passage, i have (as i’m sure you have) often asked the same question of god. there is blatant wickedness in so many instances around the world that “deserves” god’s judgment. as for the proverbs passage: as i said, i “rejoice” that bin laden is no longer able to perpetrate evil. but i don’t understand that passage to give permission or instruction to dance like a frat-boy in the streets, shouting U-S-A, or to tweet that he’s burning in hell (particularly, to tweet that with glee).

    as an aside: i haven’t said anything about HOW he was taken down.

    thanks for your comment.

  13. I’m not comfortable to call what took place in front of the White House, or at Ground Zero, or on numerous college campuses as mere “frat boy partying”. To me it was fascinating to witness this demonstration of jubilee coming from a generation that just 10 years ago was probably in their middle school years

    Is there something more to this? Was something of innocence stolen from this generation in the same way we haven’t seen since the generation that grew up too soon during the great depression, Pearl Harbor and WWII?

    I don’t have the answers as I’m still trying to reconcile the past few days. But I would greatly appreciate hearing any responses.

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