Friday, May 6, 2011


Many Americans claim the United States is a nation founded upon Christian principles. A Christian principle is a tenet or belief with which Jesus of Nazareth would agree. Regressive Catholics excoriate their progressive colleagues for picking and choosing which moral precepts they will follow or ignore. These "orthodox" believers derisively refer to these dissenters as "cafeteria Catholics". I wonder how many other Christians find themselves picking up trays in the same cafeteria these days.

This country has seen celebrations crop up all over the land and celebrating the killing of Osama Bin Laden. So, I now ask the question...if pressed, would Jesus have approved of the decision to find Bin Laden and kill him?

Scripture couldn't be clearer on the subject. Jesus demanded his followers love their enemies...turn the other cheek...forgive an infinite number of times...He declared the dictum " eye for an eye", outmoded, to be supplanted by a new God with all your heart and all your soul and your neighbor as yourself. When Peter cut off the ear of one of the men sent to seize Jesus in the Garden He rebuked Peter. He forgave the soldiers who crucified Him and envisioned a world where peacemakers are blessed and the meek inherit the earth. His title is Prince of Peace and yet the actions of the U.S. Seal team on Sunday were anything but peaceful.

President Obama claimed Bin Laden had been "...brought to justice." A columnist for the Wall Street Journal bristled at such a suggestion. According to him, this was an act of revenge, plain and simple and Americans should be proud of a President committed to avenging the attacks of September 11th. Where do you think the majority of Americans come down on this question? Where do Christians stand on this? Was it justice or revenge?

Play this in your own mind. Walk with Jesus as he eats with tax collectors, takes water from a Samaritan woman, refused to condemn the adulteress to death, and calls on His apostles and disciples to let go of the beliefs of the past and embrace a philosophy of total love and compassion. Get His attention and ask him, "...Rabbi is it proper to seek out Osama Bin Laden and kill him?" What would He say?

If we had taken Bin Laden in to custody and gave him a life sentence without the possibility of parole, how many Americans would have been shouting, "...USA, USA" and gathering all over the nations to celebrate? How many "Christians" would have demanded the death penalty?

No one has to be a Christian. However, if you are going to call yourself one, and then ignore the most fundamental tenets of the founder, what does that say about you? What would Jesus say about a nation, which invades another, lies about its motives, kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people and does so in His Mother's name? As our drones assassinate at will and we torture and devastate claiming the end justifies the means, how would Jesus react? So many of the same "Christians" who want to claim special status for this nations's founding principles, are thrilled today with the death of Bin Laden.

What about church leaders? What has the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury or the National Conference of Catholic Bishops have to say about the killing of Bin Laden? What about the head of the Southern Baptist Conference or the United Methodist Church, have you heard from them? From Catholics to evangelicals, Lutherans to Baptists, the silence is deafening.

If you are honest and sincere in your understanding of the little Jewish carpenter, you know he would condemn the actions of the Seal team just as He would condemn Bin Laden’s actions as well. To claim otherwise is to bastardize the life and death and resurrection of this man. Those who want to claim this is a Christian nation have no problem ignoring most of what Jesus taught and have folded, spindled and mutilated His simple philosophy into something unrecognizable today.

So, lets admit a few truths. I too felt elation when I heard the President's announcement. It was an act of revenge. Americans would have been disappointed had he been captured and to killed and would have demanded his death anyway. I consider myself a Christian, but I am flawed and sinful. Sin is a Greek archery term which means, " miss the mark." I miss the mark frequently. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't missed the mark badly. However, I can ask for forgiveness and promise not to do it again. I can try to implement as much of Jesus' philosophy as possible. I can strive to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit those in prison. I can have a goal of doing the most for the least of my brothers and sisters. I will still sin, but also continue to draw myself closer to God and feel Her closer to me as I struggle to live the best way I know how.

The question today is this the way most "Christians" approach life or are we a nation of cultural "Christians" who jettison Jesus anytime He becomes a hindrance to what they really want to do anyway?

You are walking with Him and ask Him, "...Master was it right to kill Bin Laden?" What would He say and how would you react?


  1. Bernie, Yes, when I was growing up we had the same argument going, mostly in Roman Catholic circles, about whether it would have been sinful or virtuous to have killed Hitler if we had the chance.
    Jesus was clear when he rebuked Peter for acting in self-defense and put the cop's ear back on.
    "This is a hard saying and who can listen to it?"
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  2. My initial response was relief. Jim Wallis of Sojourners writes that violence is always a problem. Three United Methodist bishops have already signed on to a statement by the National Council of Churches affirming the worth of each person and urging churches to be witnesses for God's love and peacemaking. Thankfully there are several more responses now from faith leaders, and I expect more will be forthcoming.

  3. I think the response from The Man would have been more complex than an outright rejection of what has transpired, complex in the same way people of faith can rightfully reject an act of violence while simultaneously feeling some relief that this has been done in an effort to rid the world of a disease-ridden influence.

    While Jesus does seek to identify the goodness of every person, he was none too calm about egregious, institutional sin. He was capable of both lovingly ministering to a prostitute and creating considerable, even violent, havoc in the temple among the moneychangers.

    There was also some Biblical commentary about "rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." It would appear that Jesus drew some distinction between the behavior of a state and that of an individual, though his ministry was very much limited to the spiritual well-being of the latter. Had he lived more than three years during which he made his mark on the planet, we may have learned more of his nuanced internal self, but we did not. The Dalai Lama has required a very long life to make known his opinions of the relationship between person and state, so we should be careful to hold Jesus to such a narrow set of stated principles, applying to all situations the limited context and intent of his ministry.

    The whole idea of WWJD is a difficult one for me, and to expect to know the answer to that question requires to much of a stretch for any single imagination. To be always present, available to the sacred and to love one's neighbor requires a careful nuanced response when the entire planet is faced with weighing its response to a sociopath. Some answers we (and our leaders) need to find within ourselves without reference to biblical authority, but consequent to careful, collective, and prayerful reflection.