Home > Current Events > a brief comment on the death of Osama bin Laden

a brief comment on the death of Osama bin Laden

I recently took a break from listening to ESPN Radio in the morning, opting instead to listen to our local liberal talk radio station, which used to be an Air America Radio affiliate and now seems to offer the radio equivalent of the MSNBC minor leagues. It’s not so much that I’m dying to hear what e.g. Rachel Maddow has to say about current events twice a day; it’s more that I can’t bear the dead part of the sports year between say the end of March Madness and the MLB All-Star break.

And so it was that I woke up a couple of days ago and heard in about thirty seconds Bill Press [link] giving the schematic version of the death of Osama bin Laden. To my ears Press rushed through the facts to get to the meaningful part: how this one act made the first term of the Obama Administration a success, how the “right-wingers” were going to commit some sort of treason by second-guessing the President, and some other political color that for the moment eludes me.

I don’t and can’t fault Press for interpreting the situation the way he did; after all, it is always the political season and everything is grist for the political mill, and Press is paid to think the way he does, etc. Beyond that I have to agree with him: I believe President Obama’s reelection is all but assured now.

Press, in case you don’t know, grew up Catholic, has a degree in theology, and will occasionally mention his days in seminary. He considers himself a Christian and occasionally frames his political statements in a way that suggests that his faith informs his political positions.

Tuesday morning he dealt with the question of whether it is appropriate for a Christian to be happy when someone is killed. He said “yes,” provided the person is sufficiently evil, or words to that effect. And I think this is a valid question and worthy of consideration.

As an American, of course, I’m glad to see that after long last the system more or less works, and it’s possible for our intelligence service to figure out when our allies are double-dealing, how to deal with a complicated and difficult mission like this, etc. It takes some of the sting out of a failure like Operation Eagle Claw [link], but only just.

But as a Christian I can’t bring myself to be happy about this. And it’s not just the easy stuff about pacifism, the redeemability of bin Laden’s soul, etc. I’m more concerned about whether easy explanations about evil and justice [link] and so forth have any meaning when there’s no rule of law, or whether modern concepts of jurisprudence and war crimes make any sense when faced with sufficiently complicated circumstances.

I used to have more moral clarity about war generally, but after voting for George W. Bush and seeing how he wielded the tools of war in response to 9/11 I lost a lot of that clarity. And I’m inclined to see the death of Osama bin Laden as just another step in the escalation of a physical, rather than a metaphorical, culture war.

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