Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I will not rejoice!

The news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden is being celebrated by many. The thought of my country being a part of a strategic plan to “take out” a leader of a movement that is contrary to the commonweal of my nation bothers me. I know there is war. I know that we were attacked by the efforts of this man. I know that I enjoy a quiet life in a nation that has responded to an attack with an act of vengeance. I don’t rejoice in Bin Laden’s death. But I AM relieved. Perhaps by cutting off the head of the movement, we will see that movement diminish. As a Christian I deplore acts of violence as ways to settle problems in the world because they never do.

I am also reminded of Dietrich Bonheoffer’s complicity in the attempt on Adolph Hitler’s life. As a theologian he hated what was happening in his country in the name of the Church, the name of Christ with the twisted theologies of Nazi anti-Semitism. He saw that Hitler needed to be assassinated as a way to regain the soul of the German people. So he left the safety of the US and returned to his homeland to assist in that plot. He was caught after the plot failed and he was executed just days before the fall of the Third Reich and Hitler’s suicide. He is marked as a saint by many. And yet, we are aware that he crossed over that line into participating in violence. The end somehow justified the means.

All too often I am overwhelmed with the complexities of life. I am overwhelmed with economic systems that must be run by those who have great wealth and power that deprive others of their small holdings just to keep the world running as we have known it. I am overwhelmed with foreign policies that keep small nations from being able to exploit their own resources for the benefit of their own people. I am overwhelmed with military attitudes and national jingoism that often take root in the hearts of my neighbors and friends in this country and I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed at the celebration of the death of a single man when so many more are dying in the streets of our cities, the deserts of Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan and so many places in Africa. And in that embarrassment, I have to accept the guilt of also being relieved.

As a Christian I want to be better than that. I want to call from myself, and those who represent me, efforts that are rooted in the shalom of Christ. And so I stand in this ambivalent way, not rejoicing but not maligning the actions of my President or military either. I am not likely to find fault with the leaders who brought about this mission militarily. Just as I have never maligned Harry Truman for the A-bomb in 1945 or Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs. It was what it was. Were their actions just? Only God knows. No one today can stand in the shoes of those leaders knowing what they knew at the time any more that I can stand in the shoes of our leaders today.

I want my nation to live more clearly what it means to be Christ’s own in their lives so that they do not resort to violence. I want them to understand that violence only begets violence. So I continue to preach what I preach. I continue to write what I write.

In the Middle East things are happening in Egypt, in Libya, Syria and other places in the Moslem nations that are boiling up from the bottom that are not rooted in violence. There is a weariness of fighting and a deep longing for freedom from dictatorship. Hopefully they will be able to create among themselves a kind of governmental system that is appropriate for them that will take into account the needs of the people. Who will be the Thomas Paines of their struggle; who will be the Thomas Jeffersons or Ben Franklins of their revolutions? Even the Deists who formulated the Constitution and finally the Bill of Rights knew that vengeance could not be sustained as a policy without it costing us our liberty. And hopefully they will know that the salaam of Allah can only be found in the willingness to listen and compromise.

So my ambivalence stands. The media can string this story out for as long as they want. I won’t be glad. I will respect the precision with which our forces did their job and commend their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way. But I will not rejoice in it. It is time for us to know that peace is much harder to maintain than is war and costs us much more than young men and women’s lives. It cost us power and might. It costs us economic sovereignty; it costs us pride. But after all, that is what we need to give to know the peace of God.


Unknown said...

Wanted to let you know we used your post for the Wednesday Festival at RevGalBlogPals today.

Unknown said...

Lauren, thank you for this reminder - that regardless of what the actions of the President and military were, it is not my place to decide if their actions were just or not. Like you, I will not celebrate either.