Some Thoughts on the Death of Osama Bin Laden

Do the horrible events of 9/11 justify murderous retaliation? What is the Christian community to think?

“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” God, speaking through Ezekiel in Ezekiel 33.11 (HT Kurt Willems; for his full comments, go here)

“The necessary fruit of the love of God is the love of our neighbour, of every soul which God hath made; not excepting our enemies, not excepting those who are now despitefully using and persecuting us; a love whereby we love every man as ourselves-as we love our own souls.” John Wesley, “The Marks of the New Birth” (HT Doug Strong on FB)

“You have heard Jesus say… but we say unto you…” (Ian Packer on FB)

Why does the story of the terrorist-turned-apostle named Paul not give people pause in their lewd rejoicing? (Brian Gorman on FB)

And don’t forget: a son and several grandchildren were murdered in the failed attempt to kill another enemy of the state two days earlier. Apart from the question of morality, is a weekend of state killing the best way to prevent future deaths?

9 Responses to “Some Thoughts on the Death of Osama Bin Laden”

  1. Scott Kohler says:

    Hi Mike – it’s been a while, but since this morning when I heard the news, I’ve been waiting to see your thoughts on this. Do you think it’s natural (without placing any particular theological weight on that word) to have severely mixed feelings about this? I agree with your thoughts on the “weekend of state killing” and I found it disturbing to watch Obama’s address, but there’s certainly another side of me that isn’t sure how negatively to feel about the outcome, despite the fact that the means seems like anti-gospel dirty work.

    Hope you’re doing well.

  2. Scott Kohler says:

    A further thought after more reflection – am I the only one who finds it a sadder testimony to the depth of evil in the world to hear those who think they are the “good guys” applauding a killing than it it to think that “the bad guys” are out there doing their thing?

  3. [...] – Rodney Thomas, “Enemy Love and Usama bin Laden’s Death” [...]

  4. [...] Some Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden by Michael J. Gorman [...]

  5. Josh Rowley says:

    Thanks for posting these theological thoughts, Michael. We don’t get much (if any) theological reflection from the talking heads and mindless masses. I listened to NBC’s hawkish Brian Williams break the news last night; his thinly veiled delight disturbed me. Even more disturbing, though, was the “lewd rejoicing” that I saw on TV this morning.

    Don’t get me wrong: I don’t shed any tears for killed terrorists. But the lack even of what Scott has called “mixed feelings” by many Americans is at best unbecoming. The world is watching us. Given the fact that tens of thousands of people have been killed in the War in Afghanistan, soberness would seem a more appropriate response. To bring one killer to justice tens of thousands have been killed. It will be a sad story no matter how it ends.

  6. Joe Mangina says:


    Thanks for this. Up to this point I’d been gorging on the mainstream media response to all this, which has given hardly a thought to possible moral problems here. As one of the other posters said, the lack of even *ambivalence* in the popular response seems troubling. Crowds chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A”-bad taste, to say the least (an interesting genealogy of this chant on the Atlantic Monthly website). Anyway, I appreciate your thoughtful invocation of biblical passages, and your sobering reminder that more happened here than just “the bad guy got his.”


  7. MJG says:

    Scott, Josh, and Joe,

    Thanks for your comments. I don’t think anything I said was very profound or even insightful, but the comments of others assembled together seems to have been worthwhile. There have been a number of other excellent, longer posts, including Jeff Keuss’s (linked in the post) and James Howell, to name just two.

    Scott, I do think some mixed feelings are normal here. What I find abnormal and sub-Christian is the reaction of so many self-proclaimed Christians that this is, essentially, the work of God. The (alleged) apocalyptic battle between good (the USA) and evil (anyone who hates the USA) has experienced an iconic moment in which there is no room for self-criticism but plenty for gloating. Many Christians who even hesitate in their gloating seem almost afraid to admit it, even to fellow Christians, at the risk of sounding un-American. Since when should Christians worry more about sounding un-American than about sounding–or being unChristian? (Scott, you’ll have to translate this into Canadianese!)

    As for the media, I posted on FB last night as I watched CBS that I had to wonder, no matter what one felt or feels about the death of Osama bin Laden, whether exuberant cheerleading for the (supposed) victor was the most appropriate role for the media in a democracy. Not a theological point, but certainly an important question.

    Finally, to kill a terrorist in cold blood seems like a perfectly normal thing to do if one thinks that such an action will prevent further killing. But if I were an ethical consequentialist, I would at least want to raise the question, “What will the consequences of this action be?” And if I were someone who had even a little bit of suspicion about the U.S. and Americans, I would be wondering what kind of people dance in the street when their government kills other people. But perhaps I’m just strange for wondering such things.

  8. MJG says:

    For a list of several articulate Christian reactions to this news, go here:

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