So Osama bin Laden finally got found and killed, in a major Pakistani urban area just a kilometre from a military academy. Bloody images of the room in which he was shot are broadcast around the world. Americans dance in the streets. Western leaders struggle to hide their glee behind serious faces. The world is a safer place, they say, now that bin Laden is no longer in it.
I'm not a fan of bin Laden. He was the figurehead of an organisation that promotes and plans terrorist attacks. He preached an extreme version of political Islam that oppresses everyone. Yet I find it hard to share the glee.
I'm not convinced that his death does make the world a safer place. He's been in hiding for ten years, his activity very limited. Al Qaeda is a network of more or less independent cells and they will continue with or without him. They will be angry. They have a new martyr.
I'm also a little dubious about the method of his killing. I would be interested to know if the soldiers involved made any serious attempt to arrest him and bring him to trial. Did they have to shoot him to save their own lives? Or was their mission to kill him? Somehow we have legitimated ex-judicial execution and undermined our own system of law. We have descended to his level.
Thirdly, I'm mindful of Jesus' saying in Matthew 5.
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Love is difficult, too hard for us when we are faced with the kind of evil bin Laden brought into the world. But that is the love Jesus asks of us. Islamists accuse the US and its allies (including us) of being crusaders, of waging a holy war against Islam. The lightning raid in the Pakistani night and the scenes in New York will only reinforce that view. For followers of Jesus there can be no holy wars.
My friend Lynn posted this quote from Martin Luther King on her Facebook page.
"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
Osama bin Laden's death, like the war he sought and inspired, leaves me with a profound sadness and a deepening fear for our future.