SEATTLE -- In the first Sunday services since the death of Osama bin Laden, churches across the region reflected on questions of morality: How does one reconcile "love thy enemies" with killing Public Enemy #1?
"I think every one of the religions of the world supports life and not hate," said Father Paul Magnano of Christ Our Hope Church in downtown Seattle. "It's continuing his legacy if all we do is rejoice in his hatred, his death."
Deacon Larry McDonald said it concerned him to see images around the U.S. of people cheering "like it was some kind of athletic triumph," but he added that it is all right as long as people were cheering over the protection of innocent lives, as opposed to the death of a human being.
"I decided that evening as I watched that that I was going to talk about the sacredness of human life," said McDonald. "As Americans should we really be celebrating, because I think we're better than that?"
For those of the cloth, it seems to come down to celebrating relief versus revenge. While none of the clergy or churchgoers we spoke with deny that Bin Laden committed serious crimes, they also said their focus was on praying for peace.
It's not just Christian leaders.
"There is no doubt that this man was a thug, he was a murderer," Imam Hassan al-Qazwini told worshipers at the Islamic Center of America in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. "His hands were stained by the blood of thousands of innocent people — Muslims and non-Muslims alike."
But while the imam said Bin Laden was "responsible for tarnishing the image of Islam in this country," he discouraged them from showing jubilation over the death.
On Tuesday, the Dalai Lama said though bin Laden may have deserved compassion as a human being, it's sometimes necessary to take counter-measures.
Reform Rabbi Eric Wisnia, of Princeton, N.J.'s Congregation Beth Chaim, said the human impulse to rejoice when an evil criminal is brought to justice is understandable, with one important caveat: "Had he been captured, I would have hoped we would have had the same celebration."
At Quest Church in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood, Pastor Eugene Cho noticed similar discussions brewing from his members, in prayer services and on Facebook.
"It grieves me a little bit personally to see Christians particularly using words like 'I'm so happy' and 'I'm rejoicing' that we've killed bin Laden," he said. "We have to encourage people in our church... to think in more nuanced ways about the complexities of our world."
"We long for peace. We pray for peace. But we also can acknowledge that we live in a broken world where there is war and strife and tension," he added.
"I'm still processing a lot of what's been going on this last week," said churchgoer Vanessa Lee. "Whenever somebody in some entity is labeled as the other and as the enemy, I think it's just overly simplified."
"You definitely are excited and hope for a safer world," said Jake Buter, "There's mixed emotions and reactions."
Ultimately, Cho acknowledges the burden of faith may be having to forgive, even if you never forget.
"To love our enemies," he told his congregation, "I don't know if that's easy for you, but it's hard for me. To love our enemies."
Here is how the Church I work for is handling it. From the ministers' weekly email:
Dr. King said the foundation for this method will be love. So when I hear voices echoing Jesus' directive to love our enemies in addition to our neighbors and selves, I feel hopeful. Day by day, those voices seem to be growing stronger. I'm choosing to direct my thoughts and prayer energy toward the expression of a paradigm sourced in a love that seeks to understand; a love that, if unable to forgive here and now, is willing to be willing.
Our Movement's mission declares, "Unity stands for peace in the presence of conflict." Some would say our history suggests a tendency to sit on the sidelines. Others would say giving attention to conflict perpetuates it.
While I believe it's true that energy flows where attention goes, I also believe there's an important distinction to be made between maintaining a consciousness of peace and remaining in the world but not of it. Mastering that balance is the act I believe Spirit is calling us to perform, individually and as a spiritual community.
For finding our community's balance between prayer and moving our feet, I invite you to participate in three events May 14 and 15:
1) An offsite seminar to strengthen bonds with our Arab, Moslem and Sikh neighbors. 2) Sunday's service featuring my lesson on using divine power to raise global consciousness. 3) A Global Peace Forum & Meditation after service.
As for honing your own balance between "being" and "doing," here's an affirmation: "I bless the sacredness of life's unfolding, and I wield the transformative power of God within to shape it perfectly, as only I can."
I don't expect to see clergy in the US celebrating, and most will be calling for something similar to the above.
Posts: 40999 From: Southern MN Registered: May 2007
To me this is not difficult. Justice is biblical. This is justice. Carried out by our government which was doing its job. The people quoted in the OP are taking a few verses and looking at them out of context of the Bible, God not only offers forgiveness, he is just.
As for santity of life here is a perspective: ."If one person murders another person, the just penalty is to end the life of the murderer. This actually upholds the value of life. Anyone who violates life in premeditated murder should be put to death – proclaiming clear support for the value of life. The same can be true with war. War, while never a pleasant choice, in the right “just war” circumstances, actually preserves more life than it ends. Sometimes the best way to uphold the value of life is to end the lives of those seeking to destroy life. In summary, it is entirely consistent for Christians to be pro-life when it comes to abortion and at the same time to support the death penalty and wars that are clearly just."
Originally posted by 2.5: I guess you'd have to tell me how setting out to kill innocent people could be just.
He claimed the U.S. was invading his country, trying to change his peoples religion, and imprisoning & killing innocents, becouse of it. He felt justified in his "retallliation".
As a country in previous wars, we too have killed innocent civilians and felt justified in doing so. So the word "just" is just not good enough as a reason to kill. One mans "just" is another mans "injust".....
P.S. Before someone accuses me of supporting Osama, terrorists, or the percieved "truth" behind any of anyones motivations, don't. Becouse I do not.
Originally posted by 2.5: I believe in right and wrong.
Doesn't everyone? It's just usually their own brand of it, which is the problem.
[This message has been edited by Boondawg (edited 05-09-2011).]
Posts: 40999 From: Southern MN Registered: May 2007
No, just that claiming something is "just" is of no real value. Not if it can be used by both by bad men & good men with equal belief.
Hence relativism I suppose. In insert the word "right" where "just" is, not much changes. You could even insert "for the good of all" and be left with interpretation of what is "good". Everything can be taken in a relative way. There needs to be a standard. To me, there is.