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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