I was awake last Sunday when President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a ground operation conducted by the Navy Seals in Pakistan.
Like most Americans awake that night, I watched as our President walked down the long red carpet, stood behind the podium, and addressed the nation with the boldness and confidence that has made our country great. I listened as our president commended the military and the counter terrorism efforts that demonstrate that America can, and will, persist in her goals: even when those goals take much time, energy, and expense.
Following President Obama's speech, the media began to discuss his comments. As they spoke, the news programs highlighted different areas of our great country. Places where people, mostly young, many in college, had spontaneously gathered to celebrate the death of this evil man.
It was then that I realized how old I am.
In 1986 I was an airman in the United States Air Force, and was much like those college students. You will recall that in 1986, America had bombed Libya in response to a terrorist attack in a night club visited by American soldiers. In that terrorist attack two U.S. sergeants were killed and 79 other military personnel were wounded.
On hearing of the bombing of Libya, my fellow airmen and I cheered the destruction, repeatedly shouting "USA," and began singing songs like the National Anthem and Glad to be an American.
Some 25 years later, and closer to 50 than I like to think, I watched the young Americans on the television celebrate in the same way at the death of Bin Laden; however, this time, I didn't feel I could join in the jubilation.
My reason for not celebrating is not that I am a bad American or even that I am unhappy that bin Laden has met the ultimate justice before God. Instead, the reason I could not join in the celebration is the irony of the situation. Here were people, happily dancing and singing in the streets, because someone was dead.
As I ponder that thought, I recalled eerie similar celebrations occurring in Middle Eastern counties after the 9/11 attacks. I remembered news video of people dancing in the streets because 3,000 Americans lost their lives. I remembered thinking to myself what terrible people they were for the celebration of destruction.
Then I remembered my own celebration at the destruction of Libya. Could I be just as terrible?
When I heard about the death of Osama bin Laden there was no celebration in my heart. Instead of rejoicing, I found myself mourning the fallen world in which we live. I found myself sickened by the pervasive hatred among people. I found myself coming to the realization that even though the world had one less bin Laden, there are still thousands and thousands of evil people to fill the void he leaves.
I found myself dismayed that some of that evil will be overt, but most will be banal. I wondered what it now meant for bin Laden to suffer a Christ-less death. I found myself thinking of Jesus' words, "…for all who draw the sword die by the sword," and wondering where does it all end and who gets to celebrate next?
I guess I am old enough to know that celebrating the death of someone won't make the world a better place.
Pastor Kenneth Ogden
People's EC Church