The car radio was set to the BBC when I left work, and it was a few minutes before the announcer repeated the headline, "Osama bin Laden is dead." The news was so unexpected and shocking that I'm surprised I stayed on the road.
"Bittersweet" isn't quite the word to describe my reaction to the announcement.
I remember well that Tuesday morning. All of America shared in the horror of that dark day. But ten years later, this jubilation over one man's death disturbs me, too--even a man as hate-filled or destructive as Bin Laden.
Whooping crowds gathered outside the White House and at Ground Zero in New York chanting "USA! USA!" at the news. A friend on Facebook posted that Bin Laden's body should have been dragged in the streets. A morning news anchor wished that, rather than having been burial at sea, his body had been thrown off a high building.
This is not the Christian reaction. In fact, to me these celebrations are eerily reminiscent of the sight of Muslims shrieking with joy over the American deaths of 9/11.
Worse, this man’s death and the following elation came on the very day we celebrated the beatification of the great John Paul II who publicly forgave the man who tried to murder him. In these days when politicians and citizens are saying, "You don't pick a fight with America! We will hunt you down and bring you to justice! There is a sense of unity again!" perhaps it would be good for America to remember the blessed pope's words: "Do not think that courage and strength are proved by killing and destruction. True courage lies in working for peace."
There is only one man whose death we should rejoice over: the God-Man Jesus Christ. What would this world look like if, coming out of the Easter Octave, people were even half as exultant over the death and resurrection of the Savior of Heaven and Earth?
Scripture instructs me not to rejoice or be glad when my enemy falls (cf Prov 24:17). My Lord calls me to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me (cf Mt 5:44). This is a hard saying, but I must accept it. So this is why I am so uncomfortable with the reaction of my countrymen--many of whom insist America is a Christian nation--at the death of Osama Bin Laden.
May God have mercy on his soul.
May Christ's grace remake us all in His Image.