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Osama Response

10 hours after hearing about the death of Osama Bin Laden my response is rather confused.

I see the television scenes of crowds gathering in significant settings (Ground Zero, White House, Etc.).  They are jubilant and full of joyful celebration over something.  I think the confused part of my response comes from the question: “What are they jubilant about?”  Is it the death of a mass murderer?  Is it the completion of a national goal?  Is it the adrenaline rush of revenge?  Is it the breaking of an emotional dam?

Laying in my bed, watching the initial report last night, I heard the news and had an instant response of adrenaline and was confused by it.  You see I recently preached through the book of Esther.  Toward the end of that story the bad guy, Haman, gets trapped and is hung on his own gallows while the man he built the gallows for watches.  In that particular sermon we explored the feeling of joy we have in the execution of justice.  I felt odd about it then, too.  Why am I happy about the death of another human?  Deserving?  I can’t deny it.

I don’t begrudge anyone who is excited and feeling happy today in light of the completion of one of our nation’s longest manhunts.  I can’t imagine the relief that must be felt by those who have lost a loved one in one of this man’s terrorist attacks.  And I DO feel like some justice has been meted out.

I guess it comes down to this: I think I’m sad.  Sad that it has all come to this.  Sad that men turn to bloodshed over words.  Sad that humanity has strayed so far from our original purpose.  Sad that I feel some happiness over someone’s demise.  Sad that I can’t jump up and down with the throng.  Sad that I’m of two minds instead of clear-headed and unidirectional in my emotions.  I think I’m sad that my initial response is to picture Osama on a brimstone elevator heading downward.  Sad that I don’t hope mercy upon him.  But I don’t.  I’m conflicted.  And in the middle of all the sad there is one happy note:

I’m happy that I’m not in charge of justice.  I’m happy that I’m not the judge.  I can pass that buck up the ladder to the One who is clear-headed over the whole matter.  I feel relief that I can trust this whole matter (and the matter of what happens to me at my end) to the One who is an incomprehensible combination of Justice and Mercy.

  1. Dave
    May 2, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Your words resonate deeply for me, Jim.

  2. May 2, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Thanks, Dave. That helps me to know I’m not alone on this feeling I have.

  3. Liz
    May 2, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Thank you, James. Good words.

  4. May 2, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Incredibly well said.

  5. Joanie
    May 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you, Son, for your words. Extremely well said and puts the whole thing in perspective.

  6. Becky
    May 2, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Thank Pastor Jim – I am so glad others feel the same way as I do. You said it perfectly!

  7. Julie Heerspink
    May 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Jim, I had a lot of different emotions this morning when I heard the news also, confusing to me. I sat by my computer as my son was in the bathroom in the next room with his radio on and they were discussing it and all of a sudden tears were streaming down my face (which pretty much stunk, seeing as though I had just put on my makeup) and I couldn’t figure what emotion I was feeling. I think you have said it all very eloquently and thank you for your words. It seems like I have a confirmation now for what I am sure many people are also feeling. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Justin Doe
    May 3, 2011 at 2:25 am

    You’re upset that you feel happy that we caught the leader of Al Quaeda. The one that is responsible for so many American deaths. One that has been at war with America for over two decades. I know you are happy that he is gone. You don’t like that you are happy though. I want to understand this more. I remember that God told Abraham to shed the blood of Isaac to show his love. I say that because I don’t understand this “original purpose”. I don’t understand the mind of God. I am sure you know more about it than I do, but it confuses me. Two were given a choice in the garden of Eden and acted upon it. We have known evil since the beginning. God has helped us through it the entire time. I don’t understand being sad about having to play with the cards you are dealt. God was Glorified with the bloodshed. We are washed over bloodshed. You rejoice in bloodshed everyday, before every meal, before going to bed. I accept that I am who I am. Osama attacked and killed many American lives. I am happy that he is dead. I am happy that our national goal has been met. I am happy that justice has been served. I am happy that I am human and can rejoice in his demise. Why feel sad? God is God we are human.

    • May 3, 2011 at 9:17 am

      @Justin, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Let me help you understand the muddle of my mind. You’re right, I am happy they caught Bin Laden. What you read was my initial, visceral, emotional response to what happened. I would need to fact check this quote, but a friend posted that MLK jr. said, “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” I think that helps me in understanding how I feel. Certainly I want evildoers out of the loop of action, but I’m uncomfortable with shedding their blood if it can be helped.
      What you say about bloodshed and about Abraham and Isaac is certainly right. I can’t say I understand the mind of God about that one, and the whole idea and theological theme of blood is still a mystery to me (a happy, uncomfortable mystery).
      I, too, am happy justice has been served. I do, however, disagree with you on being human. You mentioned that you are “human and can rejoice in his demise.” I believe we are far from human since the corruption in the Garden, and rejoicing in someone’s demise is not the intended humanity. God is God and we are human (almost). I think we’ve lost the wholeness of humanity, and only in the coming (or returning) kingdom of God, and in Christ, do we find humanity.
      I really, really appreciate your thoughts. I welcome your response to mine.

  9. Susie
    May 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing that. I too have struggled with those same thoughts. You just put it into words my brain could understand.

  10. Justin Doe
    May 4, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Thank you for explaining more. I do think that what we were intended for and what we are are two different things. What I was really trying to get at is, why be sad at that fact that we aren’t what we were intended for anymore? I want to make sure that we are on the same page on the fact that Osama did try and resist capture and attacked his would be handlers. They took is life in defense of their own. With that understanding, is it not more justifiable to accept his demise with rejoicing. I did not say this before because it doesn’t matter but I do want you to at least know more about my stand point. I am in Iraq serving right now in the Army. I was raised a baptist. I only want to understand peoples mind more. I guess I would like them to understand mine as well. I do not believe that he was murdered by the state which would have happened eventually if captured, but nonetheless he was killed in “battle”. With retrospect is sadness really something we ought to feel when we here that justice has been carried out. We are not perfect creatures. We only try and do the best that we can. If we strive to do better and mean better, we will still fall short of perfect. Again why be sad? I guess I look at it as being sad is losing. You are losing the ability to handle your emotions. You are putting less thought into how to make the most of a bad situation and more feeling sorry for the cards you are dealt. That is how I see it at least. What else is there for us to do as humans. What does sadness help us with. It shows us that we are in touch with our conscious? I looked up the definition of sad. It says painful grief. Grief means regret. I do not feel any type of regret for the loss of Osama or the fact that our abilities to deter his type of actions are state funded murder. It is a necessity forged with the knowledge of good and evil. At least in my mind. Again this is just my understanding of things and I enjoy seeing all types of the spectrum. Thank you again for reading and responding to my last post.

    • May 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      I think I can understand “sad is losing.” I don’t know if it’s the whole don’t let the terrorists win in this way or in that way thing (which I don’t intend to make light of), but I don’t think being sad or happy or angry or nonchalant or having any particular feeling is a win or a loss. I guess I feel the freedom (and there’s the crux of the matter, right?) to own my feelings and name them.

      I don’t buy the connection between grief and regret. A family member dies of cancer and I don’t regret something. I just grieve. I get sad. I’m not sad that Bin Laden is gone. I think he got what comes to those who walk his path, and it doesn’t grieve me. I grieve that the world has come to this place.

      Looking back at my original post I began to think more about how I feel. I wrote: “I think I’m sad. Sad that it has all come to this. Sad that men turn to bloodshed over words. Sad that humanity has strayed so far from our original purpose. Sad that I feel some happiness over someone’s demise. Sad that I can’t jump up and down with the throng. Sad that I’m of two minds instead of clear-headed and unidirectional in my emotions. I think I’m sad that my initial response is to picture Osama on a brimstone elevator heading downward. Sad that I don’t hope mercy upon him.”

      It’s the wishing I could feel another way than I do that makes me sad. I wish I were able to be of one mind instead of being divided. I guess it’s that I wish it were simple, and it’s not. I juxtapose Christ’s words with my heart and feel sad that I’m not all the way where I want to be, but the truth is I’m twisted inside and my “best person” doesn’t win often enough for me. Yah, that’s it, I think: I’m sad that it’s not simple – this lot of feelings I have over the whole matter.

      I am relieved that there are people for whom it is simple – people who, for whatever reason – have a clear sense of purpose and followthrough. If the world were left to me we would probably vascilate too much and never make a distinct decision.

      If you are one of those people, I thank you. And I thank you for your service so far from home and comfort for my benefit, and the benefit of our country.

  11. Justin Doe
    May 6, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Thank you again for your posts. They are very eye opening. I can see more clearly what you were meaning about why you felt sad. It’s a very noble reason. I think that empathy is a very decent attribute to have. I say that because I think you would want to feel more or be more like Jesus. I guess the whole point that I was going for is that people like you are the ones that need not to vacillate. You wrote that “I grieve that the world has come to this place.” I just believe that the world has not come to this place but has been here for thousands of years. We should start taking steps to become a better society. It’s just my understanding that when you can merry your feelings with why you really feel that why people can relate better with you and feel more from what you are saying. Before you sad you were sad that the world was the way it was, but know you say that it’s how you are in the world that makes you sad. I can relate more to that and I think so can more people. Truth about how we feel is very important. I wrote one day how I saw a man in the gym trying to lift too much weight. For some reason he made me angry, but it wasn’t him that made me angry. It was that I saw myself within him. I did not like where I was and seeing it in him gave me this anger for him. I feel that it has been long enough for people to get over one’s self and start realizing there is more to give then to receive. I just wish I could figure out a way to reach people. Thank you again and thank you for saving people from themselves.

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