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Osama, "Pro-Lifers," and the "Christian" Response

Thomas Whitley

As the world takes in the news of the death of Osama bin Laden the reactions have been numerous and extremely varied. My initial reaction was that his death likely doesn’t change much in the way of making our country safer from terrorists. I then began to see video of people celebrating in the streets and my Twitter stream and Facebook News Feed began to fill up with jokes about his death, praise to God for his murder, and words of caution to those who were celebrating. Many Christians responded with joy while many others responded solemnly. The intra-Christian debates began to rage with many arguing why there point was more “christian” than someone else’s. I have no problem admitting that I think it is extremely distasteful and inappropriate to celebrate anyone’s death and that this view is largely influenced by my view of humanity and my relationship with and understanding of God.

So, now, as I’ve had some 48 hours to process my thoughts and the thoughts of others about this situation I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.

  1. “Pro-life” doesn’t really mean pro-life. I have long taken issue with people who claim to be “pro-life” and yet do not support social programs that help keep people alive and also fully support capital punishment, for I see a great disconnect between these two positions. This sad truth has been borne out over the past few days as many who I know see themselves as “pro-life” are cheering for death. It is confusing and seems to me to be rather disingenuous as well. (For the record, I consider myself to be pro-life though my definition is quite different than that given by many others)
  2. ROT IN HELL! That was the cover of more than a handful of newspapers on Monday morning and it was a sentiment echoed by many Christians within my social circle. Again, I am confused by those who claim to believe so fervently in hell being so ready, willing, and excited about consigning someone there. Additionally, in true Rob Bell fashion, I have to ask if these same Christians give any second thought to their claims that Osama bin Laden is in the same place as Gandhi and Mother Theresa.
  3. Allah vs. God. As many of you probably know my soteriology is rather inclusivistic, meaning that I think God is bigger than an Americanized for of Christianity and that God can and indeed does work outside of Christianity. I fully believe that many Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. have an understanding of God that is not entirely different from out own (and especially that of the ancient Israelites) and that I am in absolutely no place to say whose understanding is “right” and whose is “wrong.” Further, as I thought more about this it hit me that while I may personally think that Osama bin Laden’s understanding of God was perverted I also feel the same way about the ancient Israelites’ view of God as it is presented to us in the Hebrew Bible. Moreover, their respective views of God were actually quite similar. They both believed that they were gaining God’s favor by killing their enemies (who were, of course, also the enemies of God). In their understandings of God, God not only accepted mass killings, but encouraged it. Yet, at the end of the day, while I do not accept these views of God as my own I also am not willing to say that the ancient Israelites did not know God and thus, I should not be willing to say that Osama bin Laden did not, in some way, know God. Logically, those who fully accept that God did actually issue the commands in Exodus, Joshua, etc. that the Israelites kill entire towns of innocent people should not really have a problem with someone else whose understanding of God commands the same thing.

These are a few of the places I have landed after taking time to process the murder of Osama bin Laden and the varied reactions. I also want to hear your take, so please share.