“This is a good day for America,” U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday, a day after announcing American forces killed Osama bin Laden in a spectacular lightning raid in Pakistan.
“The world is a better place” with bin Laden dead, Obama said after a ceremony at the White House to honour members of the military.
Those sentiments were widely echoed around the world.
It may have been a good day for America, but was killing Osama: a good act; neither good nor evil, just necessary; evil but a lesser evil than leaving him alive; or just evil?
Predictably, Hamas has decided that killing Osama was wrong, so we can immediately rule that out.
Some Christians seem to be worried that the cries of “USA USA” by rejoicing Americans is a sign that this chanting Western mob is in the same league as the chanting Arab mob that exulted in the devastation of 9/11. While I myself feel little inclination to run around in the street waving my arms in the air no matter what the celebration, this comparison is facile since one mob is celebrating mass murder and the other the death of a mass murderer. Insofar as earthly justice exists at all, the killing of a mass murderer surely falls easily into the category of justice.
So I think killing bin Laden was necessary and a lesser evil than leaving him alive because it served justice. But was it good? I suspect St. Paul would say it was: “The King is God’s minister to do good. If you do evil, be afraid, for he does not wield the sword in vain. He is God’s minister, the avenger of evil deeds.” (Romans 13:3-4).
Western Christianity has become too embarrassed – too nice perhaps – to confront evil; not to confront it, though, it to be complicit in it.
So should Christians rejoice in bin Laden’s death?
I don’t see why not.
A Christian might protest at this point that Jesus tells us we must forgive those who have wronged us. And, of course we must – or, at least we must try. A person whose life has been decimated by bin Laden should, if he is a Christian, do his best to forgive him – even while recognising that he should die. One thing we cannot do, though, is forgive a person on the behalf of someone else; for most of us whose lives have been more or less untouched by bin Laden, to say we forgive him is to indulge in a sentimental, meaningless, vicarious, mealy-mouthed kind of forgiveness to which we are not entitled. It is enough for us simply to be glad he is dead.
I think Sen. Lindsey Graham’s reaction was about right: “we got the bastard.”