In which Osama bin Laden is dead

Peace, Paix, Paz, Pace, Frieden, Vrede, Pax free creative commonsphoto © 2009 D. Sharon Pruitt | more info (via: Wylio)

Osama bin Laden is dead.

I was on Twitter last night when the news broke ahead of the news conference. And I admit it, as the jubilation and celebration poured in, I was actually sickened.

And people wonder why I call myself “uneasy” pacifist.

Is it joy I feel? No, no, it’s not. I’m not waving any country’s flags and chanting slogans with glee at the death of another human being, even a wicked one. (Did the scenes on the news remind anyone else of the reaction of the Afghanistan etc. when Sept 11 happened? The jubilation and cheering in the streets? Maybe we’re not so different after all.) I can’t rejoice when another person is dead. Either life is sacred or it’s not. I am pro-life – for babies, for terrorists, for everyone between. I always believe with hope, I always take the posture of believing the best (it’s a spiritual discipline sometimes). I do believe that Jesus loved Osama bin Laden like he loves me – and you. And I can’t rejoice when another person has blood on their hands even if it is at the request of the state.

Yet he was an evil man. I can’t muster up much sadness for him. According to what I believe, I am pretty sure that that he met God last night and is likely understanding for the first time what his hatred and murderous actions have cost him and humanity. I heard someone refer to it as a “necessary evil” and I would agree with that. It is evil to murder but in this case, in our fallen world, it’s “necessary.”

Neither do I feel relief. This has not ended anything. The world is not safer. There will be retaliations, there will be payback. You can’t murder murder and so the cycle spins on, out of control, perpetuating more hatred and euphemistic phrases for killing. Now he’s a martyr for the cause.

This is not closure. I understand, I do, that for some people this feels like closure. This feels like “an eye for an eye” and it feels like justice. It feels like closing the book on a nightmare. But it’s not closure. It can’t be closure when it’s just going on and on and on. And as long as we keep this up, it will always go on.

Instead, I’m only grieving and remembering. And praying.

10 years ago, the sight of towers crumbling. I am remembering my horror – true shrieking horror – as people flung themselves out of high rises rather than remain inside to be burned alive. I am remembering people covered in blood and dust, the terror and agony we all felt. I am remembering the weeping and the mourning all across the world. I was in the States at that time of my life and I remember the patriotism, the giving, the love and even yes, the anger and need for revenge.

Today I’m grieving for every child that has grown up without a parent, every mother who buried her child, every person with nightmares and pain and fear.

I’m also remembering the military and their families. Those that serve and serve and serve, those that are wounded emotionally and physically, those that lost their lives. I am remembering them far away from their families, struggling and battling.

I’m remembering the thousands and thousands Iraqi and Afghani citizens that are referred to as “collateral damage,” the children growing up without parents, the mothers who buried their children, the twisted bodies in the sandy streets and hate-filled mobs screaming for revenge – again.  I’m remembering the purple forefingers of first-time voters and the girls with disfigured faces from acid attacks because they dared to go to school. The aid workers and the brave ones who stand against tyranny in a million small ways.

I feel raw and confused.

What is the way of peace? 

Are we naive enough to think that this has ended anything?

What is the way of unity and wholeness in our world?

What is the Christian response here? (When Brian and I were talking about it last night, I posed that question and he laughed in my face. “You mean, what’s A Christian response. That’s the whole point of the unity/disunity thing: there is no one Christian response to anything. Ever.“)

How very wrong it is. It’s all wrong. There is nothing that is right side up about this.

There is nothing right about what happened on September 11th. Nothing right about terrorism and murder. And there is nothing right about war, about targeted assassination.  There is nothing right about the use of violence to achieve peace. There is nothing right about civilian casualties, about families torn apart, about asking another human being to murder for you, about celebration flash-mobs chanting USA! USA! USA! at the death of another soul, no matter how wicked.

So I’m left again in a place of waiting on God and his kingdom.

I pray – oh, I pray – for the world leaders, for the families, for our victims, for our perpetrators, for all of us.

“Maranatha” again.

Come Lord Jesus.

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  • Thisheavenlylife

    I just posted a similar confusion. (Though not as eloquent as this.) The rejoicing is more than I can stand to watch….

    ‘There is nothing right about the use of violence to acheive peace.’ Exactly, my friend, exactly.

  • Janet Oberholtzer

    I’m with you!
    It seems we become like the people we hate. Celebrating when ‘they’ are killed and ‘justifying’ it with God’s name.

  • Brenda

    Come, Lord Jesus! That’s the Christian response.

  • Alissa

    This so eloquently puts my feelings into words.

    It is amazing how strong emotions can be at times like these.

  • Val

    My heart echoes your writing here…I thought the same thing with the chanting in our streets – we are no different than the chanting we saw ‘over there’ after the fall of the towers. I honestly don’t know what I feel, but I know it is not jubilation…no it is not…

  • Arianne

    Thank you for mentioning all the Iraqui and Afghan casualties too. It seems to be a fact some would prefer to ignore. Such loss, grieves Jesus so much.

    “There is nothing right about the use of violence to achieve peace.” Exactly. But I wouldn’t even say that everything we’re doing is because of a goal of “peace” so much as international dominionism…

    • Sarah Bessey

      Well, just trying to ascribe the best motives, I suppose. But yes, dominionism, oil, power etc.

  • DesignHERmomma

    yes. yes. yes. Come, lord Jesus.
    Fantastic post.

  • kaleigh

    sarah —

    i am asking those same questions. what is the/a christian response to this? i have a hard time with all the celebratory parties and cheering, as we are talking about human life here. i don’t believe in celebrating death of another human life. and yes, i’m sure he and god are having quite the conversation up there. yes, there was justice in it. that doesn’t mean i agree with how that justice came to be. there is a great deal of difference between justice and vengeance.

    thanks for your honesty as always. we, as christians, as followers of the one who taught us to “love our enemies” and “turn our swords into plowshares,” must continue to pray prayers full of peace and compassion and truly as god and jesus to be present in this situation.


  • Mary1912

    I’ll be the voice of vigorous dissent here and state I don’t agree with a lot of this. Yes, maranatha…come Lord Jesus. This world is fallen, corrupt and violent. How we need him! Yet, I’m not a pacifist.

    I disagree that we are just like them because we were dancing in the streets. We are not like them. They attacked unprovoked attack, out of hatred, evil and fanatic Islamist theology. Out of hatred for our freedom. They murdered over 3000 that day–innocent people. For no reason at all but hate. When they were dancing in the streets they were happy that the “Great Satan” had been dealt a blow. They delcared war on us and they thought it a fine, fine thing. We, on the other hand, were dancing because the bad guy had been dealt what was coming to him. They were wrong in this case. We were right. He sowed the seeds, he reaped his harvest. We delivered the justice. America is not always right. In this case, I believe we were.

    10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
    when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.
    Proverbs 11:10.

    And on today, Holocaust Rememberance Day, we should remember what happens when good men and women stand by and do nothing. In my opinion, we did the right thing in this case.

    I’m sure I will be pilloried for this view and labeled one of those dumb, redneck, hyper-patriotic hawk Americans who love violence and war and Jesus is only a tangental figure in my life and that I think he’s a Republican anyway. For the record, that is not what I believe.

    • Arianne

      Proverbs 11:10 is not a mandate to rejoice in the death of the wicked, but actually prophecy of the end times, when the wicked are perishing by the hand of God. The rejoicing is for God’s victory.


      The opposite of violence is not standing by and doing nothing. That is a common rebuttal to non-violence, but it’s just not true. No one is saying OBL should be walking around free. It’s the fact that the bible gives us no permission to be the ones deciding if a human should live or die. How do we know we were “right” in killing him? There was no chance for God to save the soul of OBL? I’m sure apostle Paul, and his Christian killing ways, are grateful God did not give up on him.

      I do not believe we are better for dancing in the streets celebrating death simply because some feel we had a good enough reason. Who decides what is a good enough reason? What does the body count need to be? If the terrorist killed one person it’s not ok, but if it’s a much higher number it’s ok? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m just honestly asking how we are to know when it’s ok to rejoice in sending someone to eternal separation from God, since that determination is entirely man made – how can it be trusted?

      • Mary1912

        Well, I am not going to start a whole debate here but I think that Osama sent himself to eternal separation from God. That was his choice and no one else is responsible for his salvation but Osama himself. To say Americans are responsible for his eternal separation from God isn’t biblical.

        If we weren’t right in killing him, then I don’t know what is right. However, when they bring guns to a fight, to stand aside and just let them steamroll over you and your families and your life isn’t honoring your own life and protecting what God gave you.

        As for the verse…Psalms is replete with verses cursing his enemies and seeking their death and destruction. Not exactly non-violent. Psalm 107:7-9.

        7 Remember, LORD, what the Edomites did
        on the day Jerusalem fell.
        “Tear it down,” they cried,
        “tear it down to its foundations!”
        8 Daughter Babylon doomed to destruction,
        happy is the one who repays you
        according to what you have done to us.
        9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
        and dashes them against the rocks.

    • Sarah Bessey

      “I’m sure I will be pilloried for this view and labeled one of those dumb, redneck, hyper-patriotic hawk Americans who love violence and war and Jesus is only a tangental figure in my life and that I think he’s a Republican anyway. For the record, that is not what I believe.”

      Wow! Mary, I would never say or think those things! You and I go way back. I’m sorry if anything I said made you feel that way.

      • Mary1912

        oh no Sarah, I wasn’t thinking of you at all. I was just speaking in generalities…it never occurred to me that you would judge me in that manner. Lots of love here!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Oh, and I probably would have been more comfortable if it had been a case of capture and trial instead of assassination. Even many of the holocaust perpetrators had a trial as did Milosevic. It’s the “take him out” nature of it that I find hard to digest. And Yes, he needed to meet justice absolutely.

  • Cat Wise

    Well said! My initial response was one of relief, and then I realized the tragedy and sin of ever rejoicing in someone’s death. You expressed this well. Thanks!

  • Jenmonique1971

    I have to agree with Mary. How can we be happy a terrorist is dead and call ourselves Christians? Ask God, who destroyed Sodom and Gomorah and destroyed the Earth with a flood because man was so evil. Does this solve our problems? No, but this man deserved to die for what he’s done. I hope I don’t get flamed but that is my opinion, but what do I know, I am just a redneck clinging to my guns and religion.

    • Sarah Bessey

      “I hope I don’t get flamed but that is my opinion, but what do I know, I am just a redneck clinging to my guns and religion.”

      I said the same thing to Mary, Mon, but I would never think or say those types of things. I’m sorry if you felt that way about this space. I know we think differently on many of these issues but we’ve been friends a long time. This isn’t that kind of place (I hope!).

      I probably would have been more comfortable if it had been a case of capture and trial instead of assassination.

  • S_lopatin

    Maranatha, I am not a Christian; I am Jewish. And my mother is a first-generation American. Her parents escaped Poland as children, just before the Holocaust swept across Europe. A very good Christian friend of mine posted your commentary on Facebook, and I love reading other perspectives. While I admire your strive for peace and loving thy neighbor (I strive for the same heartfelt compassion … called “Mitzvot” in the Jewish faith), I must disagree–respectfully–with two of your points:

    1) That we are like them for celebrating in the streets. While you have a point that perhaps we took it overboard on celebrating the death of another human being, they attacked us, unprovoked–and celebrated for it. They took INNOCENT life, and rejoiced! However, bin Laden is far from innocent life. While I believe you are looking at this as a true Christian, as Christ preached to love one’s enemy, I think your assertion that we are like them for celebrating is a little far-reaching. I cannot agree with that. And as an American who spoke against the Iraq war from the beginning, I feel somewhat insulted by your claim.

    2) Violence is never the answer to peace. I wish I COULD agree with you here, with all my heart. I strive to live my life in response to hate the way Dr. King lived his life in leading the Civil Rights movement (a true man of God). However, sometimes, certain evils are so great, that violence must be used to stop it. The first thought that comes to mind is Hitler. I am here today because our country did what was necessary to stop such a horrible evil. My PEOPLE are here today because violence was used to stop the Nazis and their evil movement. Violence should ALWAYS be a last resort, but sometimes, it is the only way to face a great evil.

    Thank you for your thoughful perspective, and for striving to live your life after Christ.


    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Shari. I truly appreciate your response and am thinking it over for certain.

      • S_lopatin

        Sorry Sarah, I just realized (God knows what I was thinking), that I referred to you as “Maranatha.” I read that at the end of your article and for some reason, thought it was your name. My apologies!

  • Heather

    I’ve been searching my heart since last night for the words to express how I’m feeling through all of this. You found them for me. I can’t rejoice in a sinner’s death. I can’t help but feel afraid because right now, my husband sits in Afghanistan, three weeks from coming home and I’m terrifiedwhat retaliation means for him. I can’t find words to express how sad I am for those who are still mourning the loss of a parent, friend, spouse or child. This is not about revenge. Revenge is not ours to have. Osama is now standing before the King of Kings and giving account for his life, just as one day we all will stand before Him. There is so very little that seperates us from those we judge.

    • Arianne

      “There is so very little that seperates us from those we judge.”

      Amen, Heather. <3

  • theycallmepastorbryan

    I have felt and am still feeling many of the tensions you mention here. Maranatha seems fitting in response to this.

  • Katie

    I keep on thinking of how Jesus clasified “sins” – ie. Hate being JUST AS BAD as murder! I picture Jesus on the cross – next to a murderer, and he was inviting him to heaven with him!
    I hope that Osama bin laden, met his maker BEFORE his life was over, and received his forgiveness and his welcome into heaven also! And if not, I believe Jesus will be weeping for his lost soul (as He weeps for far too many “civilized” western people who die without Christ).

  • David N.

    Amen, Sarah. Thank you so much for this.

  • Ray Hollenbach

    Brian’s remark, “That’s the whole point of the unity/disunity thing: there is no one Christian response to anything. Ever,” deserves a post all to itself! (I dunno, Brian.)

    Regarding the rabble in the streets, yes, it was depressing. Yet I *do* think it’s important to recognize there is a difference between statecraft and soulcraft. God gave the sword to the state, and established the nations and their boundaries. A very tough subject. Peace!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Well, don’t ascribe too much to it! I was a flippant moment on how we Christians can’t agree on anything much less this!

      It is a tough subject, very tough.

    • Mary1912

      Thanks Ray for explaining my view. There is indeed a difference between statecraft and soulcraft.

  • Jenmonique1971

    Sarah, re your reply to me (I’m on my phone so can’t log in),didn’t mean you. We’ve known each other for a long time and we’ve been on opposite sides of the fence many times. There are a lot of your readers who do not know me and my concern was getting jumped on for having an opinion that differed from the majority. It’s all good!


    • Sarah Bessey

      Oh, good! I was so sad when I read that! Thanks for clarifying!

      • Monique Vining

        Oh no! Only referring to people who don’t know me and don’t know my intentions!

  • Anne J.

    So glad you wrote today! Now where’s your post on the election? :)

    • Sarah Bessey

      Let’s see if I can alienate EVERYONE in one day, right? Ha!

  • Guest

    I loved this…thank your for writing it

  • Monique Vining

    Hey Sarah, my ultra conservative, Fox News watching husband is more in line with you. He said he’s not “happy” he’s dead, but at the same time he deserved it. Pretty liberal talk for him!

  • Leigh Kramer

    You articulated my thoughts beautifully. Thank you for this, Sarah.

  • Amanda Tabary

    Thank you for posting this. You’ve put into words what I cannot begin to describe. Not many people understand why I feel so upset over this, but I hope they can understand what you have to say.

  • Laura

    this is a fantastic post. “maybe we’re not so different after all” — so true. so sad. we need God more than ever.

  • chaz robertson

    As long as there are evil men with the means to do violence, there must be good men with the means and the will to combat it. Violence on this earth is the catalyst of freedom, the is no peace on earth until the second coming. Adam and Eve and the Serpent all ensured that. There is a place for violence in a violent world, did Jesus not pick up a weapon and chase the money changers from the temple?
    Yes, I have some pause at the celebration, buts lets look at it from a different perspective, we were attacked and have fought two wars for ten years in response, and we finally have a tangible victory to celebrate.
    It was a capture or kill mission, and I would rather he took one in the head than one of ours boys took one in the head because they were trying to take him alive.
    The condition of OBL’s soul is strictly between him and the Lord.

    Very eloquently said young lady, it brought to a head some of the things that I had disquiet about and allowed me to put a voice to the reasons I can be at peace about it.

    Love in Christ

  • Diana Trautwein

    Oh, amen, sister. And maranatha is the only response any of us Christ-followers can offer in the midst of this sad mess. The jubilant mobs around the White House totally brought back to mind the pictures of all the celebrating over 9/11 in countries far from here. We are they, indeed. Word, as my grandsons would say. And thank you.

  • Emily Morrice

    love your insights!

  • Abbie Kampman

    A- flippin’- men. Gavel.

  • SarahR

    I am so confused as to my feelings, and my husband and I had a long conversation about it last night. I don’t consider myself a pacifist, but I am not really happy that he’s dead. I think the world may be a little safer because we cut the “head off the snake” as Christiane Amanpour said. I do think that he deserved some kind of trial, although that might have given him a podium to spout off more despicable things.

    I also really wish that we wouldn’t have had the celebrations with all the flag waving. I know that’s what “they” did after 9/11, but I would like to believe that we can hold our country to a higher standard.

    As for closure, I just don’t see how this brings any closure. Granted, I didn’t personally lose anyone in 9/11, but I don’t see how bin Laden’s death can bring back any of the loved ones who died then. There are still kids growing up without a parent, spouses living without their spouses, parents who lost children, etc. Nothing will bring them back and that is heartbreaking.

    Thanks for your honesty and openness in posting your thoughts.

  • ~ KS

    What a beautiful post…. I found you through another blog and I thank you for your thoughtful wisdom. I wish more people in this world had a heart like yours. It would surely be a better place.

  • Elaine

    Wow, you said it all right here. And you worded it so perfectly. Great post about this whole situation.

  • Pam Elmore

    Oh, so good. So very, very good.

    Thank you for this, Sarah.

  • Stephanie

    I wrote a post almost exactly like this, but didn’t end up publishing it. Perhaps because I’m still a little confused about a Christian’s response to war/violence/means-to-an-end. Tim & I stayed up until 2am debating it a few nights ago. 😉

    The end of my post went like this…

    “These three things I DO know, however: Death is a serious business. War is a terrible sadness. Love is the answer to most everything.”