Monday, May 2, 2011

cheering bin Laden's fall?

I was a minute from falling asleep when Lisa said “Osama bin Laden is dead.” My mind raced to process this. Was he found dead in some remote place? We switched on the news, and the details began to reveal a stunning story. Some swirl of emotions were touched off in me. Finally!

But I (perhaps alone…) was a little bit puzzled, and then mortified, to see my fellow citizens swiftly taking to the streets, shouting, waving flags, pumping fists… and I wanted to text each one of them to say “No, no, stay home, be quiet.” I think, like everyone else, I am disturbed, and frankly a bit fearful, when I see news video from other countries, and a rabid throng is shouting approval for some terrorist act, for the downfall of some American citizen/soldier. Somehow I want us to be different, not to match evil cheer for cheer, but to be humble in the face of death.

Yet I do not yet know what to think. Maybe the wise take a few days to let the news settle in, to reflect, and only then to respond. Yes, evil must be kept in check if at all possible; brave Navy SEALS apprehended a criminal - which had to be done. After 9/11, I agreed with those who said it isn’t so much a war on some vague “terror” out there; rather we are faced with criminal activity which must be dealt with. And we have also seen the face of sin, revolt against God, who is not pleased with terrorism.

I noticed a quick Facebook post just minutes after the news broke. Lots of people were typing in various Bible verses about victory over evil – but this post quoted Proverbs 24:17: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.” Is that right? I think of the old rabbi who was asked if the angels in heaven celebrated the drowning of Pharaoh and his chariots in the sea when Israel escaped, and he said No, they wept.

Christians, and frankly all sane people, have no cause to be sympathetic with Osama bin Laden. But the wave of glee seems a bit out of kilter for followers of Jesus, just not the right mood somehow. Good: justice was done – but I’m feeling quiet, humbled, grieving if anything over the past decades of so much anger and loss of life across this planet associated with bin Laden. I guess I’m realizing the craziness of the world, the tense rage that afflicts this planet that gave rise to Osama bin Laden, is still out there.

So I wish we could just be still, and pray, and wait for wisdom. Heroic soldiers did their duty; but it’s not a sporting event, it’s a moment of the specter of death in a chilling history of human sorrow. I can’t see cheering, but maybe that’s just my weirdness, and after a few days of tossing these events around, I’ll wave a flag and holler for a while.