Love Kindness. Do Justice. Change the World ... Right Now!
Love Kindness. Do Justice. Change the World ... Right Now!
Following public jubilation at news that a U.S. special operations team had killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, religious leaders across America issued sober reflections on the spiritual significance of the military action and public response.
The following excerpts come from statements and columns issues by religious leaders and journalists.
The May 1 death of Osama Bin Laden does not "eradicate the scourge of terrorism," but it should stimulate the churches to commit themselves "to moving forward together as witnesses for God's love and peace," the national ecumenical organization said in a statement released on behalf of NCC members by its New York City headquarters. The statement says, in part:
"The National Council of Churches deplores and condemns the extremism he personified, the twisted illusions that wrought years of violence and evil in the world. … [In November 2001 the NCC said] It is time for us as an ecumenical community to make a renewed commitment to a ministry of peace with justice, and to make real in these days the call of Jesus, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
"Osama Bin Laden is dead. Just as Christians must condemn the violence of terrorism, let us be clear that we do not celebrate loss of life under any circumstances. The NCC's 37 member communions believe the ultimate justice for this man's soul -- or any soul -- is in the hands of God. In this historic moment, let us turn to a future that embraces God's call to be peacemakers, pursuers of justice and loving neighbors to all people."
By Nicole Neroulis, Beliefnet
President Obama's televised address to the jubilant nation included an important sentiment for Islamophobes and Muslims alike:
"As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. I've made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."
A few hours later, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued the following statement:
"We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of American military personnel. As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and Al Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide. We also reiterate President Obama's clear statement tonight that the United States is not at war with Islam."
And the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) "greeted the news of the death of Osama bin Laden with an immense sense of relief. This is a time when our country must stand together, and turn the page on a decade of terror led by bin Laden and Al-Qaeda." From the group's press release:
"We hope this is a turning point away from the dark period of the last decade, in which bin Laden symbolized the evil face of global terrorism," said MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati. "His actions and those of Al-Qaeda have violated the sacred Islamic teachings upholding the sanctity of all human life. His acts of senseless terror have been met with moral outrage by Muslims worldwide at every turn in the past decade."
By James Martin, S.J., America Magazine
As someone who worked at Ground Zero in the days and weeks following 9/11 I rejoiced to hear that Osama Bin Laden's long reign of terror, which had dealt death, destruction and untold misery to millions across the world, had finally come to an end. As a Christian, though, I cannot rejoice at the death of a human being, no matter how monstrous he was.
...I am not blind to the death and destruction caused by Osama bin Laden.
Yet Christians are in the midst of the Easter Season, when Jesus, the innocent one, not only triumphantly rose from the dead but, in his earthly life, forgave his executioners from the cross, in the midst of excruciating pain. Forgiveness is the hardest of all Christian acts. (Love, by comparison, is easier.) It is also, according to Jesus, something that is meant to have no limit. No boundaries. Peter once asked him how often he was supposed to forgive. Seven times? "Not seven times," answered Jesus, "but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." In other words, times without number. "Forgive your brother or sister from your heart," he said. Judgment and punishment, says Jesus, is up to God.
By David Gushee, Huffington Post
"Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble." -- Proverbs 24:17
We feel compelled to respond today to the killing of Osama bin Laden by the United States and to the jubilant response across the nation.
A nation has a right to defend itself. From the perspective of the fundamental national security of the United States, this action is legitimately viewed as an expression of self-defense.
But as Christians, we believe that there can be no celebrating, no dancing in the streets, no joy, in relation to the death of Osama bin Laden. In obedience to scripture, there can be no rejoicing when our enemies fall.
In that sense, President Obama's sober announcement was far preferable to the happy celebrations outside the White House, in New York, and around the country, however predictable and even cathartic they may be.
For those of us who embrace a version of the just war theory, honed carefully over the centuries of Christian tradition, our response is disciplined by belief that war itself is tragic and that all killing in war, even in self-defense, must be treated with sobriety and even mournfulness. War and all of its killing reflects the brokenness of our world. That is the proper spirit with which to greet this news.
This event does provide new opportunities for our nation.
President Obama's respectful treatment of Islam in his remarks, and his declaration that Osama bin Laden's body was treated with respect according to Islamic custom, offers all of us an opportunity to follow that example and turn away from the rising disrespect toward Muslims in our nation.
By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach - Huffington Post
A few moments after hearing that the United States military had killed Osama bin Laden, I quickly tweeted congratulations to President Obama, the American military, and the American people for having neutralized this monster. I added a second tweet that quoted the Bible, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles" (Proverbs 24:17). I mentioned that Bin Laden's death was not a cause for celebration or parades but rather a time for thanks and gratitude to G-d that evil had been rooted out and that innocents had been protected via the elimination of a cold-blooded killer intent on murdering the defenseless.
Within minutes my close friend Rosie O'Donnell tweeted to her followers, "Do rabbis condone violence -- war -- murder?"
The exchange between me and Rosie sparked a huge debate over Twitter. It's an important debate and I want to clarify my position as well as offer the Jewish values take on bin Laden's death.
Judaism stands alone as a world religion in its commandment to hate evil. Exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible and God declares His detestation of those who visit cruelty on His children. Psalm 97 is emphatic: "You who love G-d must hate evil." Proverbs 8 declares, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." Amos 5 demands, "Hate the evil and love the good." And Isaiah 5 warns, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil." And concerning the wicked King David declares unequivocally, "I have hated them with a perfect hatred. They are become enemies to me." (Psalm 139) Hatred is a valid emotion, the appropriate moral response, to the human encounter with inhuman cruelty. Mass murderers most elicit our deepest hatred and contempt.
On the other hand, the Bible also says that we are not to celebrate our enemy's demise. We do not dance over the body of a murderer like Osama bin Laden. Indeed, at the Passover Seder we Jews, upon mentioning the Ten Plagues, poor wine out of our glasses ten separate times to demonstrate that we will not raise a glass to the suffering of the Egyptians, even though they were engaged in genocide. Likewise, after the Red Sea split and drowned the Egyptians, Moses and the Jewish people sang 'The Song of the Sea.' Yet, the Talmud says that G-d himself rebuked the Israelites: 'My creatures are drowning in the sea, yet you have now decided to sing about it?'
We wish there never was evil in the world. It would have been far better for there never to have to been a Pharaoh, a Hitler, or an Osama bin Laden. When Hitler blows his brains out in a Berlin bunker we give thanks to G-d that his unspeakable evil has finally come to an end. But who could possibly rejoice after so many innocents have died?
The same is true of 9/11. Three thousand people died. Are we now going to jump for joy that their killer has been brought to justice? No. This is a time to give thanks to G-d and show gratitude. But who can celebrate? Their families are still bereft. They are still missing. American soldiers continue to die in Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not gloat over the triumph over evil because its very existence must forever be mourned.