Let me start by saying that in the deepest part of my soul I am opposed to “capital punishment”. The hairs on my neck crawl when the State of Georgia injects killing poisons through the veins of anyone allegedly on my behalf. I take seriously the teaching of Jesus, which say the “one without sin” gets to cast the first stone.
However, I also know if at 2am someone breaks into my house and has gotten past CoCo and Koda (our dogs) and are coming up the stairs to my bedroom the phrase “Your soul had better be with God, because your ass is mine” comes to mind. I will do everything in my power to stop them up too and including killing them. With that I would probably spend the rest of my life in therapy trying to get rid of the nightmares of taking a human life.
Interestingly my husband who if faced with this situation, would simply shoot the intruder dead, go back to sleep and call the trash people in the morning. He would not feel an ounce of remorse because they were there to do him and his family harm.
Now it should be noted that neither of us would see ourselves as heroes nor would we throw a celebratory party with chants of “We got the bad guy”, we got the bad guy”. I know we would be embarrassed beyond all measure if police photos of the scene were made public.
The quandary for me is both scenarios have the same result…a human being dead.
However, it is the aftermath that is the spiritual dilemma. It is not even a question of whether the person deserved to die or not.
I would not be able to find fault in my husband for his lack of remorse or the fact that he killed this intruder. I also think my own hypocrisy is also understandable as well.
So the conundrum is about 2 different worldviews. In my case I make the choice to end another’s life. Right or wrong it is I who makes the choice. We all know there are consequences to choices we make.
In my husband’s view it is the criminal who made the choice and the consequence of that choice is death. However, we also both know and accept there is nothing to celebrate, nothing to be joyous about and most certainly nothing will be the same.
Our dogs would be dead and we would no longer feel safe and secure in our home.
So how does this all square this past week with the killing of Bin-Laden. Well had I come face to face with him I would have most assuredly killed him. There is no doubt my husband would have. However, 3,000 plus people in the United States would still be dead. The thousands of innocent Muslims who have been killed in the hunt for Bin-Laden would still be dead. We would still not feel safe or secure in our homeland.
So why the need to party? Why the chants of USA! USA! as if we have won a World soccer match? Why the chest beating for killing a monster that our foreign policy created?
Why do we need to see the bullet hole in his head? It seems to me President Obama had it right when he said, “there is no need to spike the football”.
Were we not as people of the United States mortified at the celebrations in the Middle East that took place after 9-11 by our enemies? Did we not think this made them especially bad? So is the killing of Bin-Laden and these celebrations the same thing that we say we abhorred on 9-11 but not on 5-11?
Lets deal with a raw truth…
From the moment Bin-Laden chose to come after the United States on her soil, he was a dead man…it is the way the United States and the world does business. However, as a person of deep faith in a loving God I am not sure this is something to be treated like a sporting event.
The real hard truth is killing our enemies will only succeed when everyone is dead. Please read that line again.
So maybe instead of thumping our chests, toasting the death of our enemies and then demanding to see the pictures that are the result of our lust for gore and death, we might find a moment to consider an alternative to killing everybody on the planet or at minimum glorifying the killing of everyone on the planet.
Maybe it is really time to begin to consider some alternatives. After all the current thinking doesn’t seem to be giving us a planet where love and peace are all the rage.
Jesus spent almost his entire time on earth telling us the way to peace was through forgiveness and the road to forgiveness was through the practice of agape (unconditional love). Of course we all know how that turned out. The powers of that day were not going to lose their ability to play God so they killed him.
Seems to me that today the extremists of any of these religious groups are playing God deciding who will live and who will die. Wow, are we slow to learn or what?
Yet we know ultimately in our heart of hearts what he taught was the best if not the only way to peace, security and safety.
So forgive me if I don’t join in the chant of USA, USA. Forgive me if I don’t raise a toast to the killing of an enemy of the state. Forgive me for saying that if the United States is going to lead the world to peace then it’s way of doing business in the world needs to change drastically.
It is time to give more then a fleeting thought to these ideas:
1) “Trying to keep in mind that how I respond to the death of my enemies says as much about me as it does about my enemies.” Author Rachel Held Evans
2) “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation”. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength To Love, 1963
3) “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix
If we can’t grasp that our security, safety, peace and prosperity can only be found when we are serious and intentional about practicing the afore mention ideas…then I fear somewhere in the universe we will not be remembered as a great people but rather a people who are extinct. God have mercy on us all.
Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church and Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He was called to Atlanta in 1994 to pastor All Saints MCC. Five years later he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He lives in Decatur with his husband Bill, who he met in 1982 while living and working in Ohio and legally married in 2015.