On May 1, 2011 President Barack Obama announced that the elusive and deadly Osama bin Laden had been killed. Osama bin Laden was known as the mastermind of the unimaginable September 11, 2001 attacks against the US. In addition to the professional news media outlets, word travelled quickly on Twitter, FB, and throughout the blogosphere. Osama bin Laden’s death is called a “watershed event in the global war on terror” and “a symbolic victory.” To be sure Mr. Laden took terrorism to a new level and to unexpected venues, yet still some persons struggle with how much rejoicing over his death is warranted and pleasing to God.
Understandably in New York and around the White House crowds quickly formed and celebrated a victory for the U.S. They sang the U.S. anthem and waved American flags and lights in the air as they chanted the end of Osama bin Laden and expressed a hope for the end of terrorism. This is a shared hope.
At the same time Americans reflected on and raised the question about the appropriateness of people of the Book or people of God rejoicing at the death of our enemies or a fellow human being. The Bible warns against rejoicing over the downfall of our enemies (Prov 24:17). But it also contains hymns or victory songs that seem to do just that; Biblical hymns, for example, celebrate the death of Pharaoh’s armies who drowned in the reed sea (Ex 15) and the brutal death of Sisera, Captain of Jabin’s armies, whom the brave woman Jael beheaded with a hammer and a nail (Judges 6:26). Of course, just because the songs of war and the wars themselves are inscribed in the Bible does not mean that God condones or anoints either the song or the war. People on all sides of war believe that God is on their side. And when victory is won, we believe it is because of God. So rejoicing in the victory expresses a belief that the war was necessary and gratitude belongs to God. Whether or not God sees it the way we see it, I believe the jury is still out. But I do believe God understands, sees, feels the pain of the oppressed and victimized and seeks to relieve, liberate and redress. And God does work through humans to accomplish God’s deeds~persons we would not always choose to do so. At the same time, God continually attempts to redeem the oppressor regardless of the oppressors’ ethnicity or religious affiliation ~ after all we create religion and not God. God does not need religion to be God.
I think in the end we must continually attempt to align our consciousness with God’s will, justice, love, and compassion so that more and more these are our motives. We have to be sure, in as much as we can be, that we act on the best truth we can unearth and construct at the time so that if we feel we must, as a country, go after somebody, we are going after the right person for the right reason, and in a just way. Many countries and religions (including the US and Christianity) have shed innocent blood, knowingly and unknowingly. For example, the blood of Africans fertilized the soil of America’s sugar cane and cotton fields and graves are filled with black Americans on whose backs massive structures were erected and inventions born.
So I choose with a sense of sadness and a belief in justice served to sing the song of victory with my fellow humans (Americans and foreigners; Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others). And I sing with the families (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and nonreligious) whose loved ones were maimed and killed on 9/11. And I’m proud as an African American female of our first black President, Prez Barack Obama, and the way that he functioned as Commander in Chief and delivered the news to us. We are not and never have been at war with Islam. Yet I do not rejoice in the pain of any mother, father, brother, son, daughter, grandson/daughter who lost a son on yesterday either.
President Obama's announcement: