I think Christians may find themselves struggling with how to react to the news that U.S. forces have killed Osama bin Laden. On the one hand, our nation’s primary enemy, the one who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and who has been waging war against this nation for more than a decade, has been eliminated. As at least one commentator has said, it’s as if Adolph Hitler had indeed been assassinated in 1944 – a huge victory that hastens the end of a larger conflict.
At the same time, bin Laden’s death reopens the not-so-well-healed wounds of 9/11, making us relive those awful moments. I imagine the families and friends of the victims going through their trauma all over again. There's been talk about those families finally having “closure” because the perpetrator has been executed. But I have my doubts about that. As a brother of one victim said in a radio interview on Monday, he lives with the pain of his loss every hour of every day, even 10 years later. Even if “justice has been done,” as the president said, legal justice doesn’t cause the dead to rise again.
For Easter people like us, celebrating someone’s killing seems somehow out of key. There are certainly elements of this story to celebrate: the memory of those who died in the 9/11 attacks, the service of those who have fought and suffered in this war against terrorism, the bravery of those who were called to carry out Sunday’s heart-stopping raid. But as we regard bin Laden’s death, maybe our best lens is a lens of healing – something much more in keeping with Christ’s priorities than celebrating a kill. May we see the death of bin Laden as the excision of a cancer that has been metastasizing and sapping the world’s strength for far too long.
And let us pray that our freedom from this cancer will allow our world to move more vigorously into the wholeness and well-being that God desires for all nations, indeed for all creation. Let us pray that bin Laden’s death will inspire not reprisal but renewal, not retaliation but transformation. As followers of Christ, let us take this moment not to beat our chests but to fold our hands and direct the energy of this day into prayer for the healing of God’s world.