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A Post-bin Laden Reflection on Violence
In the spring of 1999, during NATO’s bombing of Serbia, I was in the "Tent City" in Tirana, Albania. Floods of Kosovar refugees were pouring into the camps, telling horrific stories of rape and ethnic cleansing. Something needed to be done. The Serbs had to be stopped. But as fighter jets roared above and thundering Apache helicopters flew overhead, I experienced tremendous inner conflict. Could I support violence to stop violence?
The truth is, I prefer non-violence. That's exactly what I mean. I cannot with integrity say I'm committed to non-violence because most of the champions who've made this commitment don’t seem to agree on a clear definition of what they mean by "violence." And, if the use of force to protect a vulnerable child or my wife is "violence," then I may not be able to fully commit to non-violence in every situation.
This past weekend Osama bin Laden was assassinated, shot in the head, in what no doubt was an awful, bloody mess.
Immediately after his death was announced, there was a virtual flash mob of social media reactions. It's not surprising that the collective response was overwhelmingly celebratory; after all, bin Laden was America's #1 enemy.
But as I started sifting through the Tweets and Facebook status updates from friends, many of them self-proclaimed Christians, I wasn’t sure what to make of the celebration of death.
[Q editor Jonathan Merritt asks "Should We Celebrate the Death of Osama bin Laden?" at
Sure, maybe the celebration was more symbolic of what bin Laden represents than an actual satisfaction for bloodlust. But we all know that violence tends to beget violence. Groups like Al-Qaeda will continue to use violence, and may retaliate for bin Laden's death. No one is going to argue that this is the end of terrorism. The assassination doesn’t solve anything, and may likely escalate an already bad situation.
The morning after the news I'm left wondering where to find the peacemakers whom Jesus called "blessed." Can Christians stand above the bloodthirsty calls for revenge and lament all violence? Could we find the imagination to create a new, redemptive narrative of "justice," without separating it from grace? I'm hoping that we followers of Christ will find the courage to really learn to “love our enemies”—perhaps the hardest and most implausible of all Jesus' teachings.
Why? Because we're better than this. We are better than walking agents who perpetuate violence as retaliation. We are better than those who resort to violence to solve their problems or communicate their frustrations. We're human beings. We aren't animals limited to intimidation, fear and violence as a means of getting what they want, defending what is theirs, and keeping what they have. As humans who bear the imprint of the divine, we're creative, imaginative and hopeful.
The luxury of the non-victim is to externalize victimhood, to espouse theories without the burden of living with the impact of them. Today we wake up in a new reality, one without Osama bin Laden, a reality that we now have the potential to shape. Without turning it into an externalized abstraction, may we reject the absurdity that violence has solved anything. May we work to create a new future where love is the rule and real peace is the goal.
Should Christians rejoice in the death of Osama bin Laden? Should we condone the use of violence to stop violence?
Editor's note: The artwork from above is quoted from here.
Chris, we need guys like you who are particularly gifted when it comes to mercy. But I praise God that you are not our president and I rejoice that God has administered His justice through our government. "...for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer." Romans 13:4.
Osama was evil incarnate.
In Genesis 9.6 God gives us a command to punish those who take other people's lives. Christians should not "celebrate" his death but God's command is clear. By the way Osama was not executed. He had the right to surrender. Instead he was in a ~20 minute fire fight against our troops according to the news I heard last night. I'm confident that they would have preferred to bring him back alive but he made his choice. A cowardly choice if he used a woman as a human shield according to the news.
In 1 Samuel 15 we see what happened when Saul did not follow God's commands to kill all of the Amalekites men, women, children and animals. Samuel hacked King Agag into pieces.
God's knowledge surpasses man's understanding. Perhaps if Saul had killed all of the Amalekites we would not have the problems in the Middle East.
I like what you have to say in your post. I blogged about this topic yesterday at
Kyle J. Schroeder
Thanks for contributing to this. Both my wife and I found ourselves saddened this week by the celebration, and convicted that we should ask our friends not to send the viral email that promised to include images of his brutal slaying. What ideas do you have for shaping today's post-bin Laden reality
Yikes. Hard to know where to start.
First, the Bible clearly says that violence, done biblically, does indeed stop violence (Dt. 17:13). Second, your comments put God in the dock, since clearly He has given the sword of physical violence to rulers and commands them, as His ministers, to use it (Romans 13). Third, your characterizations of people on the opposite side of your views is quite unchristian and arrogant.
"celebration of death"
"bloodthirsty calls for revenge"
"walking agents who perpetuate violence as retaliation"
"resort to violence to solve their problems or communicate their frustrations"
"animals limited to intimidation, fear and violence as a means of getting what they want"
Finally, your comments on the use of violence to defend your children or wife could lead one to conclude that either you regard your love for them as sinful, tempting you to something which you think is evil, or that your love for everyone else, including the 911 victims, needs to grow.
You wrote: "I'm left wondering where to find the peacemakers whom Jesus called 'blessed." Peace is God's order and justice in the world, and at times, comes precisely through the actions you decry. There are, no doubt, committed Christians in Seal Team 6. This past Lord's Day, by acting lawfully and biblically, not seeking their own revenge, but bringing God's justice, they were the peacemakers you seek.
I understand that violence is the last response we want to give as Christians. At the same time as a Lutheran I see you confusing the two kingdoms. Love, mercy and forgiveness have nothing to with the civil government. In the spiritual kingdom we do not resort to violence, we don't kill people because they are not Christians or because they sin. The civil government does have the right to kill people in war and in carrying out justice. The fact is we are at war. If you find out a child molestor is living next to you and you find out he is still molesting what do you do? Do you knock on his door and preach the gospel to him and hope he stops, or do you call the police and have him arrested and then maybe go preach the gospel to him in prison? If someone is breaks down your front door and is about to kill your loved ones, do you preach the gospel to him or do you put shot gun shells in his chest to stop him? The fact is there is a time for violence and this was one of those times.
Chris, I appreciate your call to attention on whether celebration is approprate for bin Laden's death. As far as we know he entered a Christless eternity and that is cause for grief.
We do celebrate a blow against terrorism and the heroic efforts of military personnel who put themselves in harm's way for our safety.
I disagree that bin Laden was assassinated. Lincoln, Kennedy and King were assassinated; public figures who were civilians. Bin Laden was a combatant who gloried in killing his enemies. His killing was in the battle of war.
I agree that we need God's power and guidance in fulfilling our calling as peacemakers.
What is more concerning for me in the flash mob response to his death is not the bloodthirst but the illusion that somehow we are more deserving of life than he in an absolute sense. We assume that we who are not terrorists are not candidates to receive violent justice ourselves. This assumption is based on a standard of morality that culture dictates and controls, not God's standard. "anyone who says, 'you fool' will be in danger of the fire of hell." matt 5:22.
Without grace, are we in any different position than a terrorist?
I agree in a perfect world there should have been no "celebration" at the death of OBL. I found it hard to think of it that way and posted a FB mssg. that said my patriotic side was gladdened but my Christ follower side could not rejoice at anyone going to their death without Christ. We don't know if he had an encounter and acknowledgment of Christ.
But he did use extreme measures to try to force his belief system on the world. And for that and his methods he was branded evil. Using terror or fear to manipulate is an evil thing to do and my personal belief is that his "belief system" is flawed. But is it not interesting that his problems with the "western culture" are similar to that of Christ followers? Promiscuous lifestyles, sometimes deviant behavior, lascivious actions and other things are issues the historical church or followers of Christ have warned about and preached against. OBL's real problem with the West was the decadent and spiraling moral environment that was progressing.
But, to encourage and indoctrinate young men to follow a supposed mandate to "kill the infidels" and covertly secure airplanes and fly them into buildings to kill as many as possible is an evil act. And, that happened on US soil where there are laws against that action and other like it. Scripture tells us we are to be subservient to the leaders and laws of the land we live in. In this country, that act was a deadly act of aggression. The person responsible for instigating that was OBL. According to our laws we sought to bring him to justice. In that Paki home he lived in, according to all reports I have heard, when confronted with these who sought to capture him, he was given the opportunity to surrender. He did not. He was shot (not assassinated by the way) but brought to justice. Sad it had to come to that but he violated our laws and we had a right to seek justice.
Here is what I think we should be discussing: what were the reasons he felt he had to act in defense of his beliefs? There may be similarities to what Christ and Follower of Christ are against as well.
So... what shall we do with Matthew 5-7... or that pesky Romans 12:17-21? Keep the faith Chris...UR rite, Jesus does have a better plan!
We embrace them gladly in our interpersonal relationships! But we go on to Romans 13 and see what God's plan is for rulers. We embrace that part of Jesus' better plan too!
...or that pesky Rom 13:6-7 about honoring those in authority over you. This is a sovereign country and we abide by it's laws. Bringing people to justice and their paying for their transgressions of the law is "honoring those in authority."
I share in your dilemma. I pray I am never put into the situation of choosing between giving violence or saving a loved one from violence, because violence escalates violence.
I do not for a moment believe that Deut 17 nor 1 Sam stories give license to violence in God's name; the Prince of Peace preached non-violence, even unto His own death, and my reading of scripture is through the life of Jesus, not the other way around. We remember that the Deuteronomic Code was put into place as a response to the Babylonian incursion, when Josiah was attempting to "purify" Judea in an appeasement of God, so God would defend her. It cannot be read literally nor without Jeremiah's laments in mind.
I understand the desire of a hurt nation to strike out at the head of the terrorist group that caused 9/11. It all makes sense from a human feelings and reaction point of view. But just as Jesus laments for Jerusalem, with all its wrongs in the midst of its righteousness, so too must we lament these our human reactions, and not feel joy when we succumb to them.
In response to Frederick Hearn's comment making a distinction between the responsibilities of Christians and the responsibilities of governments: When you asked, "If someone breaks down your front door and is about to kill your loved ones, do you preach the gospel to him or do you put shot gun shells in his chest to stop him?"
We can certainly look at the example of Jesus as a comparison in this case. When the chief priests, scribes, and elders came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Simon Peter, in an effort to defend Jesus, cut off the ear of the slave of one of the high priests. Jesus responds, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matt 26:52) And Jesus heals the man's ear (Luke 22). So it would appear that Jesus' charge to the disciples was not to reciprocate violence, but to choose non-violence for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus' death is a non-violent response to unjust attack. Jesus sacrificed His human life to open up the freedom of the Gospel to the entire world, so that humanity could be reconciled to Him, Satan and death could be defeated, and we could live eternally in right relationship with our Creator.
How did the 12 disciples die? Well, we know from Scripture that Judas, overcome with shame, hung himself. Different sources seem to record varying accounts for the rest, but it does seem to be widely regarded that John was the only disciple who was not martyred and died a relatively peaceful death in old age in exile. The others were crucified, beheaded, or beaten to death all as martyrs.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord. I am thankful that our God loves mercy.
Far be it from me to define which relationships I am to use peace and love in and which relationships are Biblically permissible to the use of force or violence. You seem to have arrived in the area of deciding when love and mercy are useful and when they are not. I have never heard someone express with such clear discernment in how to conduct their relations with others. I must be alone in believing that as a member of a fallen race (humanity), my definition of what is permissible is no longer valid. It seems however, that you are above this dilemma.
I think this is a very interesting and compelling view on what happened this last week, and it is good for us all to ponder. I think that some people are taking this way too far, in what they are saying this article is representing. Of course, non-violence is better and peace is the best solution in the ideal world of the kingdom of God. But just like someone pointed out, this is an evil world that we live in that requires boundaries, consequences, and punishment....to keep order and civility in the streets and nations. However, I think that Chris is encouraging us to think about things in a different way, not to just negate and totally throw out all justice by means of force/violence...but to think about how we should respond and represent ourselves in a "celebration" of someone's death. It is a very complicated issue, and I can (as a former military spouse that went through a deployment) see both sides of the issue. But i think when we separate grace from justice...it is a very dangerous and slippery slope that we are on as a people.
The assassination may not have immediately solved anything, but I do think it was necessary for us to seek and attempt to stop the whole Al-Quaeda regime. Osama was proud to lead the attack on our country in the most dangerous way, and change our whole way of life and feeling of security. I think this dynamic is why some people cheered, because they have some sense of "security" back. (whether real or not) Bin Laden represented the person who tried to rob us of our sense of safety and freedom. So in that way he needed to be brought to justice, but in a somber and honorable manner. If we ignorantly and brutally celebrate his blood being shed we bring ourselves down to his level.
Thank you for saying what I have said to others. Our 13 year old daughter came home and said her friends at school were celebrating the Osama Bin Laden had been killed. She asked us why people were celebrating that someone had been killed. Our only answer was that their parents and most adults were celebrating so they followed the example we adults set. Our daughter knows how we feel about violence and I am glad she asked us, but on the other I am sad she had to.
Thank you for reminding all of us, "Blessed are the peacemakers." and I might add Blessed are the meek.
You'll be happy to see the statement from the National Council of Churches:
"Osama Bin Laden is dead. Just as Christians must condemn the violence of terrorism, let us be clear that we do not celebrate loss of life under any circumstances. The NCC's 37 member communions believe the ultimate justice for this man's soul -- or any soul -- is in the hands of God. In this historic moment, let us turn to a future that embraces God's call to be peacemakers, pursuers of justice and loving neighbors to all people."
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary, National Council of Churches
I really like your perspective here, and I can pick up on your gift of prophecy. I think your words help correct those in the church that so often rush to find a prooftext (ie. Rom 13) to support whatever view they wanted to hold to begin with. So keep preachin' brotha!
i find it funny that most "biblical" responses to obl's death are either levitical or uncontextually Pauline. as Christians, our lives should be guided most so by the red-letters. those red letters rebuked Peter for attacking an unarmed man. Christ has already fulfilled the ancient law and torah. no one said following the love and law of Christ would be easy, and i believe that we are challenged to seek the heart of God, who hates death (matt 18:14 [granted, we are all children of God]). in short, i believe it is ok to be thankful that the world is now safer, but the only man's death that i will boast in or rejoice in, is that of Christ, and through who's resurrection i am able and charged to write these words.
Matt Porter: I'll remember that scripture should China nuke the Western US. After all, God appoints all govt's and leaders, so we must extend to their government and leaders the same grace we extend our own, yes?
jo anne jones
My question is. Do we see things clearly?. Are we the ones that should judge. I think we simplify cause and effect-right and wrong. We like simple answers and are easily swayed by media and dogma. I'm not sure the death of a figurehead will better this world we all live in. It's not us or them. We're all in this together . All People want the same basic things. Children and families that are safe and healthy . We must be careful when we demonize others. It leads to continued violence.
The moment we start "celebrating" death, we are as good as dead.
Andrew S. Dungan
I appreciate your fearless and contextual approach to the Scriptures. Thank you for remaining passionate and authentic. You are the next great theologian of our age.
It is one thing to give your biblical opinion, but it is another thing altogether to take personal shots at another individual giving his or her opinion about something. Calling Chris arrogant is a bit far don't you think? Give your opinion without taking shots. It's hard to see any arrogance in this writing, only candidness.
American Christians are such a joke. Jesus said love your enemies. You guys seriously believe that God himself put people like Hitler, Mubarak, Hussein, and Qaddafi in power and everyone under them should obey without question? Putting a bullet through OBL's face is God's holiness? Frankly - disgusting. Mr. Heuertz - it takes balls to tell the truth, good on ya.
it is my opinion that you are off on this one. Christ engaged the deuteronomistic code when he implored the pharisees to "cast their stones," yet added the condition if and only if they were without sin. the law called for the woman's death (indeed the three sins punishable by death in ancient israelite/proto-judaic law are adultery, murder, and idolatry) yet Christ almost begs the question: does killing in the name of fulfilling the law negate the cardinal sin of murder? this was in fact a genius moment of Christ...he did not go against the law, but rather implicitly claimed that only the individual sans sin can enact true justice. if that person (Christ) then chose to pardon this sin, which was again punishable by MANDATED DEATH, then who are we to pretend that we are able to participate in God's justice. would it not have been better to take an unarmed man into custody? even david, who wished beyond anything else to build a permanent alter to God was in a sense, mosaically (moses, who "was the only man to know God face to face" was not allowed to partake in the actualized abrahamic promise) cursed to abandon that dream due to the blood on his hands. america is not the saving grace of the world. it is God's job to judge, Christ's job to save, and Spirit's job to convict...we musn't pretend to do ANY of these, lest we reread Deuteronomy, which you quoted and has very strong statements about those who play the role of God (as does joshua, judges, samuel 1, 2, and the books of kings 1 and 2).
i must conclude this in saying, this is but my opinion, based on my own interpretations of the scriptures. it is very possible that i am wrong, but in the end, i believe that what we have seen in the recordings of the life of Christ to be the most recent and ultimate manifestation of the God's revelation to human kind. if that is to be so, then i/we must follow these instructions above and beyond the rest of scripture. the gospel according to matthew is clear in it's theme of Christ as the new moses....that is to say, the laws of old take a back seat to what our rabbi has taught us.
Celebrations on someone death is not allowed in any religion, it was awful to see all those people celebrating the death of OBL.
Jesus never celebrated death. Period. No one deserves hell more than me....who am I to label OBL as "evil incarnate."
The government may need to do there job, but that's where I and the government part ways. As a Christian, I could not take part in killing anyone. If one soul is worth "the whole world" to Christ, then sending a soul to hell by killing him has got to break Christ's heart. So if Christ isn't rejoicing about his death, then I who is striving to be like Christ, can't rejoice.
The Kingdom of Christ isn't called the "upside down kingdom" for no reason.
Cristina from Romania
I am not American and therefore may be totally out of line in stating things about the US politics.
From where I live I see acts of violence carried out by both countries. If I’m allowed to picture a portion of the sky where war aircrafts fly I could say that it’s right above me. Maybe it’s a good thing that my country is situated somehow in between the two continents because prevents me from taking sides.
I am not a theologian therefore I am more willing to listen and learn than state things that I weren’t been given as a personal inspiration from the Lord.
I am a Christian though, a receiver of His immense Grace, a person who has been forgiven much, a person who is continuously being forgiven. And I think it’s ok for me to speak from this perspective. The moment I forget about the CRIMES (yes, “crimes”) I committed I am prone to judge others, to criticize, to celebrate death. And as Jeelan Syed put it, “The moment we start "celebrating" death, we are as good as dead. “
I don’t know if Bin Laden was assassinated (like the above mentioned US former presidents) or if he was killed in a war battlefield as a soldier.
I know though that the US citizens who celebrated on the streets could have responded differently. It is the US that is praised for respecting moral values, human rights, correct treatment of prisoners…right? At least this is what I hear. So, if the US sets the tone for many things on this planet, if the US is the “better person” in our world, why not act like it? What kind of message did the US send to the world?
Even more, as Christians, are we allowed to celebrate death?
Chris says ” I'm hoping that we followers of Christ will find the courage to really learn to “love our enemies”—perhaps the hardest and most implausible of all Jesus' teachings. Why? Because we're better than this. We are better than walking agents who perpetuate violence as retaliation. We are better than those who resort to violence to solve their problems or communicate their frustrations. We're human beings.” I want to strive for this. I want to be a human being that sees humanity in other human beings.
I love it that both Jeelan and Fakru talk about violence the way they do. I have met both of them and I know that we have different ways of worship. I love it that I once again discover this common ground: “Celebrations on someone death is not allowed in any religion.” (Fakru)
I am an atheist and think this is all crazy talk. How is the rhetoric
of celebrating Old Testament violence, in service to a god, different than
Muslim extremists? I know, I know, because you know you are serving
the one true god, King of Kings, etc. If you are celebrating violence
claiming divine right, I am just as afraid of you as of Osama bin Laden. And
remember, Muslims trace their roots to Abraham as well, so you are like
two peas in a pod in my eyes. When people use terms like "American Taliban"
that is exactly what they are responding to.
I remember Jesus in the garden, and the poor high priest's servant who lost his ear to an overly-excited sword-wielding Peter. Jesus didn't praise him for acting in his defense and he slapped the ear back on rather than let the guy bleed out because he was acting against the God of the Universe.
Governments will always act in the interest of themselves and the powerful, (and that is another topic altogether). As Christians, I'm firmly convinced we must step back from the spin and frenzy of the crowd in this situation and mourn. Sometimes violence is necessary. Sometimes violence is right. Celebrations of death and violence, however, cannot be God-honoring. He certainly doesn't delight in the death of the wicked (Ez. 18:23). Neither should we.
We live in a violent world. Arms dealers made sure of that. When today's non-violent preachers like Dalai Lama justified the killing, I guess killing is non-violent:)
What struck me most is the similarity between the images of 9/11 celebrations by (some) Muslims and OBL-is-dead celebrations by (some) Americans. Whatever the actual motivations of any individual celebrant (gladness at revenge, happiness at justice done, etc.), the similarity of the images speaks of similarity of the crowds.
Sean: Prooftexting is an offense not restricted to those on the other side of an issue. There's prooftexting going on both sides here.
Think about this. . .paradoxically, Jesus said it both ways: "He who is not with me is against me" (Lk 11:23) and "he who is not against you is for you" (Lk 9:50). Paradox appears again and again in Christianity. Somehow it seems we must hold on to the tension between competing notions that appear on the surface to be contradictory.
Jesus said, "blessed are the peacemakers" and then violently cleansed the temple. We can argue details about it, but it seems to me the main point is that, on some level, Jesus didn't follow his own direction. What I take away is
that Jesus was of two minds, but rather that, if I'm to find his heart, I'm going to have to dig deeper to find it. And paradox will be a big part of it, and it will require careful and humble discernment.
Personally, for me, OBL's death is a solemn and complex moment. It is simultaneously a moment of sad recognition that sin has consequences, of sadness that circumstances prevented a more civilized manner of pursuing justice, of gladness that goodness can work to pursue protection of the innocent, of gladness that a testimony to justice was "spoken" into the world, and of more that I can't seem to articulate. But anyway, I couldn't celebrate in the streets, and I hurt to see such celebrations.
Yes, violence escalates violence, but not always and forever. WWII ended. This moment is different, yet somehow we are called to be a presence for both God's love and justice.
I was pleased to read D. Tuuri's comments. They difine what we are and who we should be. I think we have a hard time separating violence from justice. They are different. As for me, I would kill any person who tried to inflict physical violence on my wife or children. I also think the death penalty is a logical and just punishment for rapist and child molestors. But I also believe that we should love all men regardless of who they are, what they do or where they come from. We need to love our fellow man and become "engaged" in the world.,,,,,,You can have this and justice.
Here are some red letter quotes. The Trinity, including the Son, said:
Deuteronomy 32:39–43 (ESV) — 39 “ ‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. 40 For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, As I live forever, 41 if I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me. 42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh— with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.’ 43 “Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people’s land.”
Verse 43 is cited in Romans, clearly indicating this is a command to us:
Romans 15:10 (ESV) — 10 And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
Speaking, I believe, of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Jesus says:
Revelation 18:20 (ESV) Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”
There are occasions of God's physical violence that we are commanded to rejoice over. Whether or not this includes the death of OBL is a topic good men may disagree about. But the lure of humanism and gnosticism should be avoided. The bible is One Word, which is at the same time, a grace Word and a law Word. Attempts to "contextualize" it to make it fit our desires by denying it's plain teaching leaves those who should be guided by the Spirit speaking through the Word defenseless against the spirit of the age, usually speaking through emotionalism.
Surely there were many displaying their own sinfulness in their joy this week. But lets not paint all those who believe we are actually commanded to rejoice over God's temporal judgments in the world with the same brush.
These verses leave us with many questions. But just as I will happily obey the commandments to not take my own vengeance, I will happily rejoice over God's temporal judgments on the wicked.
And physical violence against the wicked may well be the way God loves them, and brings them to repentance and salvation. This was beautifully depicted in Dead Man Walking, though the makers of that movie wanted the opposite message.
For all I know, OBL repented and trusted in Jesus at the moment of his death and I will sing the praises of our blessed Savior one day with him. If this is the case, I would love to be his pew partner.
Diana S. in response to your comments I would say you too are confusing the two kingdoms and comparing apples to oranges. Jesus stopped his disciples from fighting the soliders because he knew it was God's will that he go to the cross and die. In fact he says if my kingdom was of this world I would have legions of angels to fight for me. Jesus certainly espoused non-violence in spreading the kingdom of God. The disciples also died for their faith in spreading the kingdom and in fact several of them were glad to die for Christ in that way. That is an entirely different issue then then what we are talking about here. Jesus never said that if someone came to hurt his mother he would stand by and let them do it. He never told soldiers that they were wrong to be soldiers and if he was a pacificist he certainly would have. We are talking about an entirely different realm here with the Civil government. Would you seriously stand by and let one of your loved ones be raped or killed when you could put a stop to it? You have got to be kidding me. A peacemaker by the way is not someone who gives in and lets people do what they want to them. A peacemaker is someone who is strong and stands up and puts boundaries up and says if we are going to live in peace these rules have to be obeyed. Sometimes the only way to keep the peace with a person who is intent on killing or harming someone is to use violence to stop them. Using violence to enlarge the spiritual kingdom no, using as a last resort to protect yourself and others yes. Two totally different things
We would all probably agree that true love is not coercive, let alone violent to the object of your love. If we are called to love everyone as Christ loved them- enough to die in their place, practicing nonviolence has to be a serious consideration if you call yourself a "Christian". Obviously this philosophy doesn't apply to the decisions governments make, as they are not "Christian" institutions, and when it comes to national defense there's always going to be a valid argument for the use of arms and military force. However, rather than assimilating the worlds values for the "politics" compartment, we should allow our spiritual values to shape our political views and seek more creative and redemptive solutions as a first course- which I think is what Chris is suggesting.
What about the other forms of violence used by our nation... above and beyond our military presence and action around the world? American-imposed trade barriers are a significant reason that many of the most hurting, starving, desperate, defenseless people in our world are hopeless and dying. They stay poor because of policy decisions by our government that directly benefit each one of us as Americans. That is political and economic violence. 22,000 kids under 5 today will die TODAY in the developing world. That's more than 7 times the number of people killed on 9/11. Where's the 1.3 trillion dollar response to that?
Whether you like it or not, the U.S. is in one way or another an Imperialistic nation. Imperialism is defined by Merriam-Webster as: "the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas." If you believe in freedom, you probably shouldn't simultaneously believe in the oppression of other people groups outside the U.S. The American dream is often in direct opposition to the livelihood of our global neighbors. We as Christians need to be careful not to just adopt and defend our culture's Imperialism (military or economic). We also need to be careful not to adopt the religious values of the Pharisees who got so caught up in the letter of the law of the Old Testament that they couldn't see or embrace the kingdom of God and it's self-sacrificial, nonviolent, non-coercive love and freedom.
I think you may have missed what I am trying to say about the roles or functions that God has established to make manifest His will on earth as it is in heaven. I am not to take personal vengeance, but the King of Kings has established a civil governor that must, if he is to be a faithful minister/servant of Jesus.
This is crazy. Why are people so upset? Don't do violence and be a peacemaker...sounds like the Bible to me.
Again D. Tuuri, great read. Lila we are not upset. I understand how you feel though. It is easy just to say dont do violence. To me its like saying believe in God and go to heaven. Things are not as cut and dry as they seem. Great read and great comments from all. I respect all of them and I am thankful for this web-site.
Just because all scripture is useful for teaching doesn't mean it is all ethically sound or Christ-like. I see the theology of old testament scriptures being counted as "red letters" as well as very faulty...simply because they aren't red. many of the Hebrew scriptures are highly xenophobic, which Christ stood against (ie the woman at the well). Also to assume passages/laws like exodus 21:20 are in line with Christ's heart is insane. I firmly believe that when Paul wrote that we are new creations in Christ, that he also was referring to our relationship to the law...the old has passed away, the new had come. How else could Paul have taken this message to the Gentiles? Again, Christ's death did not nullify the law, but completed it in full. That covers sin and the law....which is a far more prevalent theme in Romans than the idea of sovereigns and despots.
my thoughts on this are on my blog:
Jesus seems to be pretty clear, in the Sermon on the Mount, about seeking peace, loving enemies, and turning the other cheek. I see him calling us to a commitment to nonviolence, whether it is "practical" or "in the best interest of the state" or not. I'm not saying that is easy. I am just a little frustrated when people rationalize as a way to avoid even trying.
I would say it is not the Christian’s job to worry about the success or preservation of the nation state. (We are to be in the world but not of it.) To say that not killing people in the name of national interests would result in something horrid is to profoundly distrust God’s sovereignty and to ignore Jesus’ absolute refusal to allow his disciples to defend him with violence (Peter and the soldier’s ear), even though not doing that meant Jesus’ certain death. (I can imagine Peter rationalizing, “Yes, Jesus, you said ‘Love your enemies,’ and yes, the law says ‘Do not kill,’ but you are doing such good work, such important work, surely saving your life is a worthy exception.” Jesus said a pretty clear “no” to that.
People always resort to citing the Hebrew scriptures as a justification for "holy violence," forgetting that Israel at the time was not a nation but a chosen people, and yes, God protected them, but that is not the same as blessing a particular nation. I believe we are to trust God to save us, not to try to save ourselves.
We are called not to “success,” not to “self-preservation,” but to faithfulness and service.
The texts that I cited (and Ex. 21:20, BTW) purport to be the very words that God spoke, hence my designation of them as red letter texts. The Gospels also purport to quote God (Jesus the second person of the Trinity). Why believe one and not the other? You SEEM to have some standards that you judge and form the Word of God by, rather than let the Word of God judge and form you. Can you see how I would think this?
The clarity you see in the Sermon on the Mount must be squared with the whole word of God. It was Paul, divinely inspired new creature apostle to the gentiles, who asserted in the Greek Scriptures that the state is God's divinely sanctioned minister of vengeance, using a sword of violence against evil men. While you may not agree with me, can't you at least see that I am trying to deal honestly with the whole word of God, not rationalizing or being pragmatic? On the personal level, it makes no sense to me to turn the other cheek, but that is what I trust God will use for His glory. But on the governmental level, can you trust God to use violence to effect His peace, even though it makes no sense to you?
Chris - Thanks for this. It's fascinating to see the ways in which this has brought out the good old "Romans 13 Defense." I appreciate anon's comments about China, as they bring things to their logical conclusion - a conclusion I suspect most of your commenters loathe.
A number of years ago, Brian Walsh wrote a provocative response to the misuse and abuse of this Romans 13 passage to justify the very idolatry, deceit, violence, repression and imperialism we see being defended here.
You can check out the post here:
alongside my own response to the Bin Laden assassination (for that is what it truly was)
I am glad to see so many trying to orient their faith to the activities around us! This is great.
For me, this debate was well addressed in the paperback, The Shack, a few months ago. In that piece of fiction, God is positioned as supporting the administration of consequences on the man who kidnapped a 9 yr. old girl and then killed her. And at the same time this same God had wanted to love the man who did this and to offer salvation to him. We do live in this tension! We do have a responsibility to participate in the administration of justice while witnessing to the living God who can offer salvation to anyone who confesses their sin and repents of their sin. Thankfully, it is not our job to make some of those decisions --- the living God is the judge! We are witnesses to that God and servants of the Most HIgh! We need to be careful not to become guilty of trying to make God's decisions for Him ---- how fabulous GRACE is! At the same time we must be ever faithful to be a solid witness to the salvation that comes from this God of Grace and of justice.
---- and may the peace of Jesus Christ be with all of you! ---- Loran
Jesus does not celebrate death, but life, and for that reason was killed in history. Until the Kingdom of God comes fully and God is "all in all" none of us will be free from violence and death and we must choose whom we will serve. Bin Laden's death was a tragedy, because even he is one "for whom Christ died." The most we should say about his death is it was expedient, and then reflect on whether our objectives and ends are just.
It is interesting to me that Gandhi effectively brought an end to the most powerful empire of the day through a very intentional commitment to nonviolence. Even when his supporters wanted to retaliate to gross injustices done to them, he continually encouraged pacifism. He gained world attention and international respect even from his enemies. Churchill couldn't help but admire Gandhi. Though he was not a believer in Jesus Christ, the Mahatma studied the Sermon on the Mount as the central thesis upon which he built his non-violent philosophy--which in practice ended British control in India and began the toppling of the British Empire.
It is easy for me to see how, as the powerful nation we are, we can speak about defending ourselves and not simply rolling over and letting terrorists have their way with us. But would our narrative be different if we were not as powerful? Is the "Good News" of Jesus Christ as spoken in his Sermon on the Mount (go ahead, read it) actually a slap in our faces? I'm just asking.
I also want to comment briefly on the concept of judgement-drawing conclusions-making decisions based on our own points of view. As Christians we are exhorted not to go there. There is only One who judges and thank God its not me. Determining who is and who is not evil-that is some shaky ground that I would not be comfortable standing on.
People celebrated not so much the death of OBL, rather celebrated that there will be no more deaths at the hand of that man. And that I believe, is just cause for celebration.
If we all believe in Jesus then we must all believe in Satan. Jesus has been battling Satan since day one. We are followers of Jesus. There are followers of Satan. OBL was an inadvertant follower of Satan.
Should we not rejoice if a follower of Satan is put down? It's simply good vs evil. We were celebrating the demise of evil. Albeit, only a temporary celebration. Because the war of good vs evil, is never ending.
God Bless the NAVY SEALS.
...and Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 (NASB, The Open Bible Edition)
SEMPER FI & GOD BLESS AMERICA
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