This week’s blog is about the most important thing that happened last week. It’s not about the royal wedding (though I wish the best for Will & Kate, and I hope they can have a solid, lasting marriage in that fishbowl of a world they’ll have to live in). It’s also not about the death of Osama Bin Laden (well, maybe it’s a little bit about that). But that’s not the most important thing that happened last week.
I suppose I should weigh in on the Bin Laden thing (perhaps against my better judgment). I’ve been watching the facebook posts fly by with a lot of interest, but without making any comments myself. And I’ve noticed that everyone else’s blog is about this – which is why my blog is NOT about it. But before I talk about the most important thing that happened last week, I’ll put my two cents in. As usual, it seems like everyone’s going to the extremes, and I feel a need to speak for the middle. I feel I need to be the voice of moderation, of balance even. In other words, once again I have to be the voice of Goldilocks, because, as always, the truth is in the middle.
I don’t think we can blame anyone for celebrating the death of Bin Laden. On one level, it’s a needed catharsis after almost ten years of frustration and anger. But seeing the scenes of high-fiving and dancing in the streets, I couldn’t help be reminded of similar scenes after 9/11/01, but on the other side – remember the video of the guy handing out cake? So I want to say to the people who are triumphantly shouting, “Ding Dong, the [fill in the blank] is dead!” or saying Bin Laden should burn in hell, be careful you don’t become what you hate.
On the other hand, I was annoyed by all the self-righteous condemnations I saw, proof-texting Proverbs 24 like a bunch of good fundamentalists, as if to say… what? Are you saying we shouldn’t have killed him? Or just that we shouldn’t be glad he’s dead? Sorry, but I’m glad he’s dead (notice I didn’t say happy). Did I “rejoice” over his death? No, just a mental sigh, and one word: finally. But we did the right thing. We did what we had to do, and I applaud President Obama for having the backbone to pull the trigger. And I don’t care whether Bin Laden was personally armed or not, because as long as he remained alive, he was a threat, so he had to die. I have no moral problem with an assassination in this situation. Taking him alive would only give his people a reason to kill or kidnap US citizens to try to force his release. So I want to say to the people who quoted Scripture out of context to support their previously-held convictions, be careful you don’t become what you hate.
It’s fine to talk about forgiveness, but when someone still has the means and the desire to kill you, you have the right to stop him. And anyway, let’s be realistic – who could actually forgive someone who wants to kill you? Oh sure, Jesus did, but who else could ever do that?
Well, now that I think about it, there was this one guy. Someone tried to kill him – actually shot him – and this man sought out his would-be assassin in his prison cell, and forgave him. The man I’m talking about was Pope John Paul II.
I am reminded of the song, “To Forgive” by Steve Taylor. The song begins with a reference to the scene in the picture:
I saw a man, he was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live to forgive?
I saw the eyes, and the look of surprise
As it left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live to forgive?
As history would have it, Osama Bin Laden died on Divine Mercy Sunday, the day that Pope John Paul II was beatified. Beatification is the first step toward sainthood. To be declared a saint means that the Church has designated the person as an exemplary Christian – one who has followed the example of Jesus Christ is such a way that he or she is also a worthy example to follow.
The song (by a non-Catholic, by the way) goes on to say this:
Follow his lead, led the madness recede
We can shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live to forgive
As I said in Wedding of the Lamb, victory is bittersweet, like the scroll in Revelation that is eaten by the author. It tastes good at first, but makes him sick to his stomach. The death of Bin Laden is also bittersweet. And the ongoing media coverage is now making me sick to my stomach. Release the pictures? Are you kidding?
In the end, we aspire to be something better than what we are. We aspire to repay evil with good. We aspire to love our enemies. That doesn’t mean we can’t defend ourselves, but it does mean that our number one goal should be reconciliation, not revenge, or even justice.
This is why the beatification of John Paul II is the most important thing that happened last week. Because the world needs more saints.