Osama Bin Laden and Our Culture of Death
I might be the only person on Earth besides a terrorist to feel sad when I found out Osama Bin Laden was dead.
It wasn’t because I liked the guy. It was because I woke up at around 1am last night to shouting, chanting, and even some illegal fireworks outside my window. Groggy and annoyed, my husband and I wondered what it was about and then went back to sleep (we were REALLY tired).
When we got up in the morning, we found out the celebration was because a man had been shot in the face.
I lived in post 9/11 New York City, and I hate what happened that day. Like many people, the images from that morning are still off-limits for me because of the emotion they bring up. Osama bin Laden was a hate-filled man who did horrible things, and it’s very good news that he is no longer a threat to anyone.
But mass celebrations in the street over death is just weird to me. It’s unnatural, no matter how evil the person. If terrorism had been defeated, that’s one thing. But terrorism lives on, and is arguably just as threatening now as it’s ever been. No, what happened was a man was shot in the face. A man who Christianity claims was made in the very image of God – and yet our “Christian nation” wanders the streets in jubilee along with everyone else. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you is void, on-hold, forgotten for a moment’s guilty pleasure of chanting “USA” with the crowd.
My friend Josh wrote on Facebook:
“When I eventually have a three-year-old, I hope I can explain complicated and difficult things such as why people are happy about Osama bin Laden’s death.”
A friend of his wrote back:
“Try explaining to him or her why someone like Bin Laden has killed so many innocent people, or why he has specifically targeted American troops.”
Explaining either sounds impossible, because children should never be capable of wrapping their minds around our culture of death, nor should we want them to. For a few fleeting years they don’t have to know what it’s like to revel in the idea of hell.
In my writers’ group last week we were talking about children having faith crises. A friend of mine told a story about how, when he first found out about hell, he would lie in bed at night and pray that God would take him instead of all of those people who didn’t know.
If that’s how a child deals with hell, Lord, make me a kid again.
I’m afraid that the only real winner here is the Devil.
I’m afraid that in our glorying we are revealing a side of ourselves that is twisted and rotting. We have lost all sense of justice when we – a people in the middle of 3 undeclared wars in nations not our own – ask God to shoot fireballs from heaven on our enemies and don’t feel a little bit afraid for ourselves that God might not be too happy with us either right now.
We depend on death like a mother to its child. It follows us around like a close friend. Something has to die for every bite of food we eat, and something has to die for every piece of clothing we wear. We fill up our own news with drive-by shootings, domestic abuse, death tolls from recent storms, and obituaries, because that’s what’s happening and what people will watch. Internationally, we are plagued with multiple wars, rape as a weapon, mass grave discoveries, thousands dead from natural disasters.
The point is, death is our always present moment, and our always-enemy. Death is what makes Osama bin Ladens.
We are wrong to celebrate it, because celebrating death celebrates what makes us into a kill-or-be-killed human race.
May we become a people who light fireworks and flood the streets with chanting about radical life lived well.