Monday, May 2, 2011

A lesson learned once again

Another lesson learned, yet again: Don't react! This requires prudence. Acting imprudently is certainly an occupational risk for anyone who blogs, at least for someone who tries to do so responsibly. In light of the lack of seriousness and utterly absurd and preachy judgments arrived by many (among which I number my earlier post) concerning the death of Osama bin-Laden, I feel the need to highlight another aspect of this event, one in which I will try to avoid abstraction:

While I do not rejoice at or celebrate the news of bin-Laden's death, I am puzzled by those who seem to want to quasi-canonize him. Let's not forget that he was a man who consciously and unapologetically did evil things to good people and who had much blood on his hands, including the blood of untold thousands of his fellow Muslims. He also encouraged and facilitated others in their murder and evil-doing. I have no doubt that his death saved lives. So, while I am not rejoicing, I am not exactly in mourning, or bereft. Sadly, along with President Obama, I have to say that the world is better off without him in it.

I have come to see today that analogies, metaphors, et al. are not appropriate in this case. I read and heard a lot of emotionally-driven abstract statements, along with a lot of preachy advice about what my response, as a Christian, "ought to be". I would just say that it is precisely because we follow Christ that we must resist cheap grace, passively-aggressively dispensed over social media. Nothing can be cheaper, more worthless, or abstract than insisting something be forgiven that costs you nothing.

At end of the day, I can only share meaningfully from my own experience, which, even with deep wounds, indicates the truth of what Pastor Brian Zahnd writes in his very challenging book, UNconditional: The Call of Jesus to RADICAL FORGIVENESS: "Hope dares to imagine the future as a legitimate alternative to the vicious repetitions of the past. But refusal to forgive is a toxic memory that endlessly pulls the painful past into the present." Perhaps we should consider that the survivors of those killed by bin-Laden's terror are a little more at peace today not because they are blood-thirsty revenge-seekers, but because they realize that he will no longer be able to commit atrocities, or to faciliate, finance, and train others to kill innocent people, even while realizing there are plenty of people left who are still ready, able, and willing to do evil in the service of their warped idea of the good.

This morning I wrote that "[a]s I get older I come to grips more and more with who and what I am. In addition to being a husband, a father, a son, and brother, I am a deacon whose ministry primarily consists of teaching, preaching, and counseling. So, on this day when the demise of Osama bin-Laden, a man who really can't be seen as anything other than a murderer and an ideologue who was responsible for the killing many more innocent Muslims than any other people, is being widely reported and even celebrated, I offer what I can, which is my reflection for this year on the first of Jesus' Seven Last Words as He hung upon the Cross." While I do not retract what I offered, I realize that it was not really appropriate in this context and over this medium.

Thankfully, even early this morning I was capable of making at least a partially accurate judgment, grounded in reality: "In practical and realistic terms we can certainly hope that the death of bin-Laden strikes a blow to the financial, operational, and recruiting capabilities of al-Qaeda. We should pray that his death has the effect of reducing violence, especially senseless acts of terror, which were certainly his evil specialty, along with corrupting idealistic young men, drawing them into his evil and murderous game, which, sadly, is his lasting and pathetic legacy."

Jesus, I trust in you


  1. I was grateful for your post of this morning, because it reminded me of how radical my own forgiveness must be. I wasn't relating it to Bin Laden so much. The kind of anger generated by such public figures seems somewhat abstract, except for those more personally affected. There is plenty of evil close at hand that is baffling and a real challenge. Just to say that even if it was confusing to some, it was useful to me and essentially true.

  2. As I wrote, I don't retract what I posted because a good portion of that homilette arises from my own experience. It is what I would counsel anyone to do, especially based on that experience in which I was too scared of the truth.

    As usual, Sharon, you sum it up well and succinctly: "The kind of anger generated by such public figures seems somewhat abstract, except for those more personally affected."


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