We normally hesitate to comment on political matters. Fortunately, the reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden goes beyond those parameters. Paul Walker, rector of Christ Church here in Charlottesville and main speaker at our Fall conference in Birmingham (10/28-29), has the following wise words:
“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles” Proverbs 24:17
There is a deep irony in America’s unqualified jubilation over Osama Bin Laden’s assassination. Bin Laden’s death comes right on the heels of Holy Week. The hamster wheel of retributive justice was finally broken by God meeting violence, not with violence, but with acquiescence.
The closed circle of the Law – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth– was finally broken wide open. The Stone of the Law that sealed the tomb of humanity, a humanity formerly consigned to the drudgery of quid pro quo, was rolled away to let the sunrise of grace and mercy and forgiveness shine in. “Let the sunshine in.” The warmth of that graceful sun raises us to life – new life. We are now people sent out into the world in love. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
So, for me, the pictures of young men right out of college, raising their beers and their flags around the Capitol, are portraits of people back in the darkness of the tomb. The message of Holy Week is without nuance: Might will never make right, and those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.
This week last year Paul preached an inspired and courageous sermon somewhat along these lines to the undergraduates of The University of Virginia, “A Sermon for George and Yeardley.” A couple of other worthy responses to bin Laden’s death come from David Sessions over at Patrol Mag, writing about the “celebrations” in NYC, “Frat Party in the USA,” and Andrew Sullivan on The Daily Beast who had the cajones (and great compassion) to write:
I pray tonight for the souls of the departed who died that awful day, and all their family members and friends. I pray for the souls of those great Americans who resisted on Flight 93. I pray for all those who have died in the two wars that followed this atrocity. As a Christian, I am also required to pray for the soul of Osama bin Laden. Yes, even him.