MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

“Do Not Rejoice When Your Enemies Fall”

with 3 comments

Photographs of firefighters killed on 9/11 are seen outside the World Trade Center site after the death of accused 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was announced May 2, 2011 in New York City. Bin Laden was killed in an operation by U.S. Navy Seals in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.”
—Proverbs 24:17

We feel compelled to respond today to the killing of Osama bin Laden by the United States and to the jubilant response across the nation.

A nation has a right to defend itself. From the perspective of the fundamental national security of the United States, this action is legitimately viewed as an expression of self-defense.

But as Christians, we believe that there can no celebrating, no dancing in the streets, no joy, in relation to the death of Osama bin Laden. In obedience to scripture, there can be no rejoicing when our enemies fall.

In that sense, President Obama’s sober announcement was far preferable to the happy celebrations outside the White House, in New York, and around the country, however predictable and even cathartic they may be.

For those of us who embrace a version of the just war theory, honed carefully over the centuries of Christian tradition, our response is disciplined by belief that war itself is tragic and that all killing in war, even in self-defense, must be treated with sobriety and even mournfulness. War and all of its killing reflects the brokenness of our world. That is the proper spirit with which to greet this news.

This event does provide new opportunities for our nation.

President Obama’s respectful treatment of Islam in his remarks, and his declaration that Osama bin Laden’s body was treated with respect according to Islamic custom, offers all of us an opportunity to follow that example and turn away from the rising disrespect toward Muslims in our nation.

A second opportunity is for the United States to reconsider the questionable moves we have made in the name of the war on terror. From our perspective, this includes the indefinite detentions of scores of men at Guantanamo Bay, the failure to undertake an official investigation of detainee interrogation practices, the increase in Predator attacks in Pakistan, and the expansion rather than ending of the ten-year-old war in Afghanistan.

We also now have the opportunity for national reflection on how our broader military and foreign policies — including the placement of our troops throughout the largely Muslim Arab world, our posture on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our regular military interventions around the world, create a steady supply of new enemies.

There can never be any moral justification for terrorist attacks on innocent people, such as the terrible deeds of 9/11. But we must recognize that to the extent that our nation’s policies routinely create enemies, we can kill a Bin Laden on May 1 and face ten more like him on May 2. Might it now be possible for us to have an honest national conversation about these issues?

May we learn the right lessons from the news of this day. For Jesus’ sake.

~ David P. Gushee

Written by MattAndJojang

May 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Well said. Well done. A voice of reason is encouraging. There are many, many other voices also that can help us keep on track to a better world. Thanks. Keep Blogging, Keep Writing.


    May 3, 2011 at 7:57 pm

  2. Yes, thank you very much. I agree with you that this is a time of mourning. I don’t think in the long run any celebration of his death will be cathartic. Watching the news yesterday I thought people seemed drunk and giddy, even studio people. This seems to be the default mode of modern life.

    I resonate with much of what you have said, and you have said it very well and succinctly, and expressed concerns I have tried to talk about myself. But me, I feel as if I might be throwing dirty stones into a truffle bag, so I don’t quite have your confidence and clarity of expression.

    I know it is gross to say explicitly when leaving a comment, ‘check out my blog’, but I wrote a post this morning I would like you to look at if you have tine, given some of the things you have said and their closeness to my own concerns raised in my post. Because possibly you might find it helpful, at least to think about or as fuel for your thinking, but if you don’t you can obviously dismiss it. I don’t demand agreement! Not even consideration (and Uriah Heep is not a welcome character in my house!).

    Very good post, thank you very much. Watching the news and its perspective yesterday, I felt like an isolated alien. I can see now there are many dissenting voices for which I am glad.

  3. I do not agree with Osama bin Laden’s acts of terrorism. But as a human being and a Christian I felt that there was something wrong with the frenzy of celebrations all over the United States the day the news came out that he was killed.

    Sue, I agree with you that in the end he is still a human being, and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect inspite of what he did. A sober and reflective stance would be more appropriate in situations like these. A vengeful attitude would not solve anything but could only lead to a cycle of violence and war.

    ~ Matt


    May 4, 2011 at 9:52 am

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