Culture

CELEBRATING A DEATH

Never in my life have I celebrated a person’s death.  Never.

I confess, at times, to being indifferent—particularly celebrities.  The media go super-crazy when celebrities like Liz Taylor or Michael Jackson die.  Celebrities have no impact on my life so their death means less to me than, say, the beloved saint who has been wrestling with cancer and dies at home with only a brief obituary in the paper.  Those are more touching to me than celebrities.

Today, however, I feel oddly hopeful at the death of someone.

When I heard President Obama announce Bin Laden’s death a shocking and disturbing feeling of gladness came over me.  Bin Laden changed our world for the worse, culminating a decade ago in the infamous attack.  I think of my daughters—one 16 and the other 11.  Neither one of them will ever remember America the way it was before 9-11.  I think of my nephews who are 19 and 15.  They cannot fully comprehend what Bin Laden’s death means to me.  It would be a merry thing if their lives could be made better—not just safer, but measurably better.

But, how do I feel about his death?  Emotions are complicated things, but the overall feeling is one of relief.  I also feel proud of the Navy Seals.  I know so many sailors and courageous, dedicated soldiers and I am proud for them.  Good job.  There is also a sense of justice—that might be the greatest feeling.  Ten years ago we prayed for justice.  Now that prayer, in part, has been answered.

As a Christian, though, I wonder.  Is it okay to celebrate at seasons like this?  David wrote “Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.  But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37:37-38 ESV).  Peace, sometimes, can only come when the wicked are dealt with harshly.  King David certainly would be celebrating the demise of evildoers.  Sometimes we forget that peacemaking is not for the faint of heart.  It is hard, and sometimes dirty work.

The world has been off-balance since Bin Laden unleashed his plans (Psalm 2:1-2).  Perhaps now the spiritual equity of justice will return some semblance of balance.  That is my prayer.

I do not celebrate Bin Laden’s death, but I am glad he is dead.  I am hopeful.

8 replies »

  1. You know, Jamie, it’s complicated, isn’t it? The thing is, there’s no shame in celebrating a victory–an end to a war. So why do people feel guilty or ashamed about the celebrations around the death of a single man whose vitriol poisoned peaceful relations around the world? And that’s being kind…

    Perhaps it’s because there’s the idea that bin Laden’s death doesn’t really change anything? That someone who is perhaps even worse will step in and take over for bin Laden?

    As I told my kids… There’s a difference between being happy someone is dead and being satisfied that justice was served. And justice was served here. But I also reminded them–bin Laden got what we all deserve–death for our sins–unless we accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ. His crimes just necessitated a punishment on this plane of existence.

    I share your hope, though. I do hope that perhaps his death will change things for the better. Time will tell. 🙂

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    • amy, the word complicated is perfect to describe the emotions, the theology, and the politics. as to hope, that is the only thing i can bring to times like this. there is so much negative in the world that hope–both in the future we are making but also the eternal hope in Christ–that i cling to. thanks for your comments.

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  2. Jamie, You have a beautiful way with words. I really wish I could express thoughts and feelings in such a way as you do. As you know, I end up saying something sarcastic or meaningless but I occasionally think nice thoughts especially when I think of two of my most favorite people who have no qualms about about bringing me around to right thinking, one by laughing in my face, the other by talking me down. Love you both.

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