Bin Laden is Dead, Do We Get to Celebrate?

Late last night, the news that many Americans have been praying for nearly ten years to hear was finally heard: Osama bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist in the world, is dead. In an address to the nation, President Obama reported that, at his direction, a small team of American Navy SEALS took out bin Laden in a targeted attack in Abbottabad, Pakistan yesterday. This mass murderer of 3,000 men, women, and children in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, died a violent death when he was shot in the head.  A fitting death, as Christ says, “all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

In response to the news, thousands  flooded the streets in front of Ground Zero in New York. and the White House. Being only a 20 minute walk away from downtown D.C., I seriously considered joining friends who were talking about going. Watching the crowds celebrating on T.V., singing the national anthem, chanting USA!, and saying “we’re all family tonight,” I was overcome with emotion: pride in President Obama’s leadership and our military’s action, and relief that bin Laden’s evil had been contained at last.

But, I have to admit that I was surprised to see so many negative responses to people celebrating in the very cities where bin Laden had claimed his victory over us just 10 years ago.  On Twitter, the celebrators were attacked as everything from “selfish,” to “arrogant,”  to unChristian for turning the streets that once ran wet with tears over loved ones lost, into scenes of jubilation. People compared the celebrators to those around the world who cheered at the news of America’s suffering in 2001. I just cannot agree.

For one, bin Laden is directly responsible for the slaughtering of three thousand Americans. Americans found him and brought him to justice for those specific crimes. Those people around the world who cheered on 9/11 rejoiced in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilian Americans for actions they believed the U.S. military engaged in — information these civilians (and certainly the children and teen victims) would likely be none the wiser about, let alone have any direct influence over.  And secondly, claims that it is arrogant to “throw this victory in the face” of bin Laden’s supporters without fear of retaliation are just naive. Those who support bin Laden and hate America supported him and hated us before his death and our celebration, and have been planning at every turn to find a new way to take us down. Americans breathing is enough to incite retaliation in some of our enemies, and to suggest that without celebration over this news, America, her embassies, and her citizens located all over the world would somehow be safer is just ridiculous. They’ve been coming, they’ve been trying, and their zeal has never mellowed.

ABC News reported that top military officials in Afghanistan have muted military response to the killing of bin Laden on bases throughout the Middle East. This makes perfect sense; cheering an American victory in countries clearly hostile to America would blatantly incite violence against our troops.  And undoubtedly, celebration in America is premature; we are still engaged in several wars in the Middle East, the Al-Qaida network is far from disbanded, and we are on heightened alert, bracing for retaliatory attacks.But in our own country, can we who’s world was halted on September 2001 take a few hours to be thankful that this man can no longer hurt another soul–irrespective of the others who remain and are determined to take his infamous place?

As Donna Brazile reminded us via Twitter, Proverbs 24:17 implores us not to “gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.” And I pray for those who found joy in his death and needed it to move on. Holding on to anger and hurt for 10 years is no way to live and makes bin Laden and his minions victorious when they can imprison people in that kind of hate.  But we ought to feel free to praise God for being a God who loves justice, and for allowing us to witness this justice come to pass. We ought to find joy in this reminder that God is faithful, and in the end, whether we witness it in this life or the next, He will get the ultimate victory over all evil.  And we ought to be allowed to feel relief at the fact that yesterday, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, justice rolled down like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream.  And yesterday, just like on 9/11, we were one nation, under God, indivisible. We ought to celebrate that.

What do you think: were the celebrations wrong?

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  • T Ware Sr.

    Proverbs 24:17 NLT

    Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall;

    don’t be happy when they stumble.

  • Osama Bin Laden was an awful person… I get that but is it right to rejoice at the death of a fellow human being? I don’t think so. This situation reminds me of when the D.C sniper was executed. People were up all night waiting for the second when this man would be pronounced dead. The media was posted outside of the jail where this man, a human being was being executed. I just don’t feel right about rejoicing over someone else’s misfortune, whether they deserved it or not isn’t my place to say. All human life is valuable, who knows if given more time these men would have eventually reconciled their heart’s and given their life to God?

    I hope the families who have had their lives put on hold because of Osama’s actions can finally find peace. I also hope a day comes where we don’t see enemies of the state as “insurgents” or “targets” but as people. This ability to objectify and devalue the life of a human being could very well have dangerous consequences.

    Let’s not forget what Jesus says in Mark 12:31. “…Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

  • Let’s just be real with ourselves. For about 3/4 of a second I was tempted to go out into the streets and celebrate at the White House. Largely, because you’re right; it was a moment we waited for for a long time. However, something in my spirit just didn’t feel right about celebrating his death; especially at a time when I know it just means it will encourage others to rebel. Sure, they’re gonna rebel anyway, but I’m not sure I want my face plastered on Middle Eastern television in celebration.

    as Proverbs 24:17 commands us to do, “Don’t gloat when your enemy falls.” And besides the fact that the Metro doesn’t run super late, I just didn’t see any point in going down there. None.

    At the end of the day, you gotta ask yourself, WWJD? Do we really think Jesus would have been amongst the crowd of college students and tourists celebrating, climbing trees and what not? If you’re being honest with yourself, the answer is no.

    Thanks for this post; I think it’s best to see from all sides!

    • Thanks all for reading and commenting!! I really am conflicted about this because I don’t know the driving factor behind each person’s celebration. Jesus would not rejoice in a person’s death, but He does love justice. That is a common theme throughout the Bible, God’s unadulterated love of justice. Though He balances it with His love of people and grants us mercy, He allowed His own Son to be brutally tortured, mocked, and murdered because He loves justice, and if we weren’t going to pay for our own sins, someone had to pay for them. Since He loves justice as much as He loves people, He found a way to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable differences. In the same way, we ought to be able to rejoice in justice while mourning whatever evil befell this man that made him the awful, heartless man that he became.

  • I understand where you’re coming from, but I have to disagree. I get that this is justice for America, but I don’t necessarily feel as tho this is justice for humanity. I don’t share all of your religious beliefs, but I do feel as though Jesus cares more about all humans than he does those that are American.

    What I mean is, to imply that justice has been served for America is to imply that America is innocent. And although I agree that those that died and the families that have suffered were innocent, that is not to suggest that this country is. At the same time Osama bin Laden was a ruthless individual, let’s not be naive and assume that America has always been at the right or just side of history. My guess is that you need to look back a hundred years, or ten years, one year, or even one week ago to find some injustice in the world where America shares culpability.

    I blogged about this as well but definitely appreciated your take.

  • Thanks Benjamin! I’ll definitely check out your post. Although I did refrain from saying “America is far from a blameless nation” in this post like I’d originally intended, it’s not because I do not believe that statement is true. We will all answer for our sins. Irrespective of that, bin Laden committed crimes that he ultimately paid for. In this specific case, for the lives of the 3,000 he murdered and the threat he posed to millions more in our country and the Muslim world, justice was served.

  • And I agree. But we ultimately can’t make that decision, can we? It seems like that responsibility belongs to God. I think the quandary I see with the celebrations is that we’re not celebrating as children of God, or as Christians, or as followers of whatever faith we believe. No, we’re celebrating as Americans. And so while I don’t question your intent as a Christian, I can’t necessarily attribute what I witnessed last night to that of Christian faith.

  • I would hope not!! From what I’m hearing (I honestly only saw people chanting USA! and singing God Bless America, with ONE ignorant fool bumrushing the camera on ABC) it sounds like too many of the people out there were a mess. Climbing trees and attacking a CNN reporter and all sorts of other foolishness. That should be embarrassing to us, and hopefully will not be attributed to Christians. It sounds like a bunch of drunk college kids, which it probably was.

    Since I didn’t see very many clips of celebrations in the street, I guess I was more so writing in regards to what I saw people writing on twitter and dealing with whether it was “ok” to feel relief that this man is dead. Can we make that decision? I don’t know. To say we do it everyday when we give people the death sentence in this country would be a cop-out. From a moral perspective, from a Christian perspective, can we make the decision on who lives or dies? We certainly have no authority over heaven and hell. I don’t know. I think we should love the things that God loves: justice and mercy. bin Laden died a quick and painless death, it seems, with two shots to the head. He wasn’t tortured in Guantanamo. Was that merciful of us? I suppose there are worse ways a man could die, like smoldering in a building, having your lungs collapse under smoke inhalation or having to jump to your own death to escape the pain. But I just don’t know the answers to these questions. God’s thoughts are sooooo far above our thoughts and His ways are so far beyond our ways. How can we understand Him and what He allows or why? I’d drive myself crazy if I needed to answer all of these questions, so instead I just trust and defer to Him.

    Maybe we aren’t any safer than before he was killed. Maybe things will only get worse. Surely there is so much more to this story that the American public as a whole can’t handle, and so we aren’t told at this point in history. So without knowing the mind of God or all the facts in this situation, my song of praise in the killing of bin Laden is that God is still in control. He watches over fools and babies. And He grants us more mercy than we deserve.

  • James Young

    I pondered what to write for a little and agree with FREEMEEX. To add on to that, as a military service member, I know my job is not over just because one man died. I know that nearly of decade of service (i signed up a week prior to 9/11) has been spent protecting people, searching for clues, and taking care of problems. The problem was never one man!! And sometimes, just because you cut the head of the serpent doesn’t mean it is dead. People are rejoicing, but for what? A life has been taken, but let’s look at the reality of life. Everyone wants to immediately talk about the 9/11 victims and rightly they should. However let’s not forget about the people that felt the effects of the aftermath (i.e. cancer patients, relatives, rescuers) as well as the lives of the military men and women that gave all to the task at hand. We fight against terrorism, that which is an ideology. And we must be careful because we can fall into that very same category. Remember people all over the world felt joy and excitement when those towers fell. Not because of some religious following, but because the target of their frustrations were focused on the U.S. Whether we accept it or not, life is precious because it is fleeting. This was a victory, YES!! But death and war are not glamorous.

  • Ted

    The fact is yes, the monster Bin laden is gone, but in the abscence of his leadership, the threat of terror remains and it may proliferate even more in the face of his assassination.

    None of these “celebrations” will bring our loved ones back.

  • Excellent post, and I think your thoughts echo those of many of my close friends. I’ve had many a debate in the last week about how I should feel. Did humanity suffer with his passing? Doubtful. It’s a week later, and I’m still conflicted about how I feel. I enjoyed reading your commenters’ thoughts as well.

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