The Death of Osama bin Laden


A Time to Exhale, Not Celebrate.

 Bin Laden - Eyes of a Madman

In the early hours of Monday, I was awakened by the sound of my cell phone chirping on my nightstand.   Half asleep and in the darkness of the morning, I learned what the rest of the world was also in the process of discovering:  “Osama bin Laden was killed at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan”. 

As I lay there, my mind raced.    In all frankness, I would have wagered that bin Laden had quietly died long ago; in some darkened cave in the middle of nowhere.   I was surprised, because I was positive that his name would forever be shrouded in legend and his final whereabouts would never be known.    Yet there in the glow of my iPhone, I learned otherwise.   I was wrong, they had caught him.  

I looked over at my wife, sound asleep by my side, and I wanted to wake her and let her know the news.   Instead, I decided that the peace of sleep was a more appropriate choice.   I closed my eyes and drifted back to a couple hours of sleep.   They caught him.

This morning as I awoke, the story was justifiably all over the news.    In the few minutes of coverage that I saw, I found  the peace replaced with something else.   I found myself shaking my head.   In those few moments of video feed, I found myself heartbroken.   I found myself wondering how we as a people got to where we are and how, if ever, we could return to some better place.

The video feeds on virtually every channel showed people dancing in the street and on top of cars.   There was laughter and drinking as if some local sports team won a much awaited championship.   There were joyous celebrations at Citizens Bank Park during the Mets/Phillies game.    It was a party in the streets.

In those video feeds I realized that somewhere along the way we broke.

I am a proud American.    I love the story of this country.   I love its promise.    I love the fact that we live in a place where our freedoms are protected at every cost.   I love the promise that any person can rise and achieve incredible things despite where we were born or how many times we have fallen.    I am proud to be a citizen of a country where I am free to speak (and blog) my mind, without fear of arrest or imprisonment.   I love this country and all it stands for.

At the same time, I am too frequently disgusted by our American culture.   I am sickened by our belief that happiness and peace can be purchased by the highest bidder.    I am saddened by the belief that our material possessions drive our self worth.   I am heartbroken over how we make God wear a red, white and blue robe.  I am grieved by the countless masses who claim we are a Christian nation, and preach a faith that is a million miles away from the faith that Jesus preached.   I am heartbroken over our repeated shortsightedness.  I am saddened when we miss the point.

Proverbs 24:17 puts it very simply when it tells us; “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.”

Osama bin Laden was the face of evil for this generation and his acts were disgusting and vile.

Yet we cannot and should not be a people who dance in the street when any life is lost.  We do not honor the 2,823 people who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center by giving high fives to a stranger on the street.   Can we claim the higher ground when we do a two step on the hood of a Honda when we hear the news of bin Laden’s fate?  Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, reminded his readers this morning of the rebuke from God found in the Talmud.  It was given to the Israelites as they sang and danced when the Red Sea collapsed on their pursuing Egyptian captors.  God in disbelief asks the people:   

“My creatures are drowning in the sea, and you have decided to sing about it?!”

I also find myself reminded of the story of Jonah.   Jonah having warned the Ninehvites , takes pause on a cliff anxiously awaiting the destruction of the people who have failed to listen to the preaching of Jonah and the message of God.   As he waits, God provides a tree to cast shade on Jonah, but overtime it dies.   Jonah awaiting the destruction of a people, curses God when the tree dies.  God calls out his hypocrisy.

Someone needs to call out our hypocrisy as well.    I have written in prior posts and sermon messages that it is acceptable and at times appropriate for people of faith to hate.   We are at times called to hate and we must be cautious and deliberate as we walk through those times.   Hate is not, however, reason to dance.

In the end, I wholeheartedly believe that we do not celebrate the lives lost on 9/11 as we jump for joy.   Instead, we need to offer our thanksgiving to God.   We need to offer our thanksgiving that more lives were not lost.   We need to offer our thanksgiving for the thousands of men and women (some barely out of childhood) who devoted their very lives to tracking down this mad man.   We should offer our thanksgiving to those who never stopped searching.

We must remember that we truly honor the “empty chairs” at dinner tables across this country when we work as people to insure that disease of hate of terror never spawns another bin Laden.      We honor the lives lost when we figure out a way to destroy the breeding grounds of violence and terror.   We remember the lives that were lost and honor them when we see in them the reminder that all life should be valued as priceless;   in the end that is exactly what Osama bin Laden refused to do.

Today, I will most certainly offer my thanksgiving that there is a collective exhale that Osama bin Laden is no more.  I will offer my thanksgiving that we are all a bit safer with this man no longer around.   There is even some degree of celebration that can be had that his death brings the eventual return home of countless American soldiers one day closer to a reality.   Yet, I will not dance in the street over any life lost…no matter how vile that life was.     In the end that only belittles the value of my own.  

Today is a day when we each should take a moment and remember, and find a way to honor.

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