Sunday night found me fixed to my computer. A friend’s email tipped me off to breaking news, so, naturally, I turned to the authority in up-to-the-minute news: Facebook.
A few hints of Osama bin Laden’s death had already leaked, and a Google search confirmed the rumor by sheer magnitude even before I landed on something reputable. When I finally came to the live stream at whitehouse.gov and waited for the President to speak on the matter, I pondered what this means to our country – a symbol of terror and extremism finally put to rest.
Later, as I watched celebrations unfold in major cities across the country and on Facebook profiles around the globe, I quickly began to search for a place of deeper understanding in light of mixed emotions.
My faith teaches me to love my enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.
The death of Osama Bin Laden is certainly a significant development in the global war on terror. It is an incident that was long ago deemed necessary by those responsible for making such decisions, a task for which I thank God I am not responsible. But we must not allow ourselves to believe that another murder is going to solve the problem. There was no victory on May 1, 2011.
Destruction of our enemy, although perhaps necessary to quell the threat of terrorism in the present day, will only motivate a violent response and serve as fuel for the voices of evil that teach young children to kill others out of national pride or religion. It will not prevent terrorism in the future.
If we want to destroy terrorism, our fight does not involve a gun or a missile. It involves relationships. I have often mentioned Terry Jones, a Florida “pastor” who put the Koran on trial. And often I ask — what if he had a Muslim friend? How would his actions be different?
The same must be granted Osama bin Laden. What if he had lived in a world where no one is portrayed as the “other,” where all are granted respect by default, where bigotry and prejudice did not exist? What if he had a friend who could put a face, a name, a personality, or a life to the populations he has dedicated his life to destroying? For a man who had become so evil, it would have had to begin early – before the ideology of extremism claimed him.
If you cut off the head, another will take its place. But if you teach a generation the language of cooperation, the technique of service, and the power of love, then you train an army that will change our world to a more peaceful place.
As a Christian, I believe that the love Christ demonstrated is the key to bringing peace to the world. And in Jesus that love manifested as compassionate service, was communicated through a story, and ultimately, profoundly demonstrated in personal sacrifice. So let’s start in the same way – with acts of service, with compassion, with stories. Let’s reach across faith lines and show the disciples of extremism that the differences which led them to destroy can inspire us to work together.