Yes, he was an evil person – as close to evil as I understand it to be. Yes, he was responsible for countless atrocities and deaths. Yes, the world is probably better off without him. Yet I cannot celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.
Listening to the news this morning, part of an interview with (ugh) Nancy Grace caught my ear. She was talking about the soon to start murder case of a young mother in Florida accused of killing her 3 year old daughter. The death took place in 2008, but is just now coming to trial. Ms. Grace noted how difficult it would be to find an impartial jury, further complicated by the probability that the prosecutors would seek the death penalty. Any prospective juror not willing to be open to imposing death would be ultimately rejected.
A person of faith could have difficulty with this one! “An eye for an eye.” “Turn the other cheek.” Scripture seems to offer conflicting mandates about such things. So we, who try our best to be both just and peaceful, find ourselves on the horns of a moral dilemma and we aren’t sure if it’s attached to an orchestra or a wild animal!
I don’t make light of this. Truly it is a very serious consideration for all people. As a New Testament kind of guy, I tend to find myself on the cheek-turning side of the equation. It is not the easiest thing to be compassionate, loving and forgiving but we must remember that justice need not be violent.
What would I have had done with bin Laden had I been in the position to decide his fate? Thank God I was not in that position and I honestly don’t know what I would have done. But I hope my reaction would have been in keeping with my embracing of the scripture I love and in the tenor of the following quote, coming from a man who knew injustice, violence and a different kind of terrorism than we might be fearing these days:
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiples hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.