I awoke a little after midnight on the couch where I had fallen asleep to sounds of cheering in Times Square, and the scene was eerily reminiscent of many of my New Year’s. I watched on the T.V. as Americans rejoiced in our capital and in the city which housed such tragedy near ten years ago, and I felt nothing. Or maybe I felt everything. I went to bed that night not knowing how to feel after learning that we killed Osama Bin Laden, and I spent most of the day yesterday trying to process my thoughts.

I read my share of Facebook status updates rejoicing in the death of one of the most miserable human beings my generation has known and those quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. reminding us to turn from hatred. I read blogs reminding me that this man got what he deserved, and I read articles from pastors urging Christians to respond with love. And I didn’t know what to feel.

Two nights ago, I was proud of our military. What an elite group of men who entered an extremely dangerous situation, lost a helicopter, but didn’t lose one American life! What a group of men who took out the target and then got out–I have such respect for all our military and their bravery.

I was proud of our Commander-In-Chief for allowing the military to do its job, for giving the order to finally get this man who brought such tragedy to our country, who destroyed thousands of lives and disrupted our way of life forever.

But I found myself not able to cheer.

I’d like to say that I felt sadness for a soul who, based on my beliefs, is spending an eternity burning in hell for his deeds. But I don’t. Bin Laden got what he deserved. I can honestly say that while he was alive, I did pray for him–I’m not sure I even believed my own prayers–but I did pray that the miraculous would occur, that he would repent and turn to the God who has grace and love for anyone who would accept it. But now that he has died, this coward who recruited others to kill themselves in order to advance his mission of hate, this man who grabbed and used one of his own wives as a shield in a desperate attempt to save himself; I feel disgust for him. And I feel nothing.

Yet, I am very sad. I know this man mattered to God and was created in His image. What a tragedy of a life wasted, a life that refused to see the value in others, a life who allowed his soul to turn as black as the hell in which he is now residing.

My mind waffles back and forth as I wrestle with my own political beliefs and spiritual instructions. I don’t believe a nation can turn the other cheek when attacked, yet I know a Christian can’t embrace the love of Jesus and rejoice over the death of anyone who lived a life apart from God.

I want to celebrate that the good guys won, but I think of the thousands of lives lost on September 11th and the thousands more in pursuit of justice. I think of the military families who have endured years of separation and those who broke apart under the weight of the burden. I think of a nation divided over Guantanamo Bay and whether or not we should be involved in a War on Terror. And I think of the time I placed my shoes in a bin at airport security and had to check if bottled breast milk could come on board.

I want to cheer for the good guys. I want to celebrate a victory.

But I fear there are no winners–

only a soul who was lost and a way of life that we will never get back.

9 thoughts on “Ambivalence

  1. I so agree with this and you said it so much better than I could have. I have no idea how to feel about it. Part of me is sad to relive 9/11 again. Part of me is glad he's dead. Part of me is relieved that this part of the story is over. Part of me is scared that this is nowhere near the end.


  2. I have found myself at a loss of words. I have read lots of things, yours included, that have given voice to my thoughts in some ways. I have been both proud of our military and profoundly disappointed at my friends who have publically rejoiced over this death when we are called to somberly grieve for any soul that is lost to God, no matter whose. Christ died for this man just as he died for me. It should be a moment of deep sorrow that he died without knowing or accepting this. Christ paid the ultimate price to give Bin Laden eternal hope and I cannot imagine he is rejoicing that one of his sheep has been lost forever.
    Thank you for putting some words to this and calling us to think.


    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Gaby. I've really had to wrestle with my feelings over the last few days, knowing how I shouldn't feel but not quite knowing how I should, if that makes sense. Again, I just come back to the sentiment of sadness–over all of it.


  3. As a military wife who has spent the better part of three years apart from my husband because of the war on terror, I appreciate your gratitude. Many Americans simply don't consider the sacrifices others have made and continue to make in order to secure our safety. That said, I do not rejoice in this death (or any other). I think it is far too easy to simplify this very complex situation and to believe that bin Laden's death somehow rights a wrong that was done to us as a Nation. The reality is nothing can make right what happened. And the removal of one insurgent leader will not undermine the insurgency as a whole. People who are committed to the cause will pick up where he left off. This, I fear, is but one small event in a much larger, longer conflict. We need to remember that.


    1. Exactly. Bin Laden may have received the punishment that was due him, but I fear that this war will never end.


  4. I'm with you 100%, I feel relief, but not joy. I'm a little disappointed that young people were celebrating as if it were a sporting event. People lost their lives trying to defend ours, trying to send a message, mess with us and we'll never stop until justice is served. But it's not our justice, it's God's… I would have liked to have seen the majority of our citizens bowing giving thanks to God and building a monument for the remembrance of what is ultimately God's will. I would that this country come back to the center of God's will as we let the world know… Our GOD will not be mocked!


  5. This was deep and stirring. It does feel weird rejoicing a death, but relief is more what I felt. Still, there is surely another horrid man to fill his shoes and our guard should never drop. It's like cutting off the head of a snake that can just grow another.


  6. I think you have perfectly captured the exact tension I have felt this week. I kept trying to come down on one side or the other and finally gave up, realizing that both things are true–this IS a great victory, and it IS a great tragedy. So while I won't celebrate in the streets, neither will I shed a tear, except for the waste of a life that could have been otherwise.


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