as we all now know, yesterday, on may 1, 2011, osama bin laden was killed in the northeastern pakistani city of abbottabad.
mission accomplished, apparently.
nearly 10 years after 3,000 people died in the attacks on 9/11 and after hundreds of thousands (millions?) of american, iraqi and afghani (among many others) lives have been lost in the so-called “war on terror”, america’s public enemy #1 is no longer an enigmatic fugitive (now he’s more like a martyr to millions of disillusioned young people in the middle east…but that’s a whole other story…sorta…).
i’m not going to editorialize too much. it’s not worth it. not because i don’t have plenty of thoughts, but because other (smarter) people have already voiced opinions worth hearing much more than my own.
the timing of this is weird, considering that we just wrapped up our jesus for president (by shane claiborne and chris haw) book group at eikon this past week. without going into every detail in the book, one of the themes throughout the book is that our compliance/participation/approval of state-sanctioned violence violates the way of jesus. i’m certainly not doing justice with my 1-sentence summary, so i highly recommend reading the book (and thoughtfully engaging it and allowing yourself to wrestle through his points-of-view).
i could quote any number of pages or sections, but i instantly remembered one section where he proposes an overhaul in the department of homeland security, in light of the 9/11 tragedy (of which osama bin laden, supposedly, was the mastermind). claiborne says, very well, one of the many things that has been on my mind since hearing the news of bin laden’s death.
Do you remember how the Amish responded to the act of terror in their school, when a gunman killed five Amish children in 2006? Our friend Diana Butler Bass wrote an article pontificating what the world would look like if the Amish had led us after September 11. Consider their response to the murders, a response that fascinated the world. With the first week after the shootings, the Amish families who had suffered such terror responded in four ways that captured the world’s attention. First, some elders visited Marie Roberts, the wife of the murderer, to offer forgiveness. Then, the families of the slain girls invited the widow to their own children’s funerals. Next, they requested that all relief money intended for the Amish families be shared with Ms. Roberts and her children. And finally, in an astonishing act of reconciliation, dozens of Amish families attended the funeral of the killer.
Diana goes on to share that she talked with her husband about the spiritual power of these actions, commenting, “It is an amazing witness to the peace tradition.” And her husband looked at her and said passionately, “Witness? I don’t think so. This went well past witnessing. They weren’t witnessing to anything. They were actively making peace.” Her article ends with these words, as she reflected on that truth:
Their actions not only witness that the Christian God is a God of forgiveness, but they actively created the conditions in which forgiveness could happen. In the most straightforward way, they embarked on imitating Christ: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” In acting as Christ, they did not speculate on forgiveness. They forgave. And forgiveness is, as Christianity teaches, the prerequisite to peace. We forgive because God forgave us; in forgiving, we participate in God’s dream of reconciliation and shalom.
Then and odd thought occurred to me: What if the Amish were in charge of the war on terror? What it, on the evening of September 12, 2001, we had gone to Osama bin Laden’s house (metaphorically, of course, since we didn’t know where he lived!) and offered him forgiveness? What if we had invited the families of the hijackers to the funerals of the victims of 9/11? What if a portion of the September 11th Fun had been dedicated to relieving poverty in a Muslim country? What if we dignified the burial of their dead by our respectful grief? What if, instead of seeking vengeance, we had stood together in human pain, looking honestly at the shared sin and sadness we suffered? What if we had tried to make peace? So, here’s my modest proposal. We’re five years too late for an Amish response to 9/11. But maybe we should ask them to take over the Department of Homeland Security. After all, actively practicing forgiveness and making peace are the only real alternatives to perpetual fear and a multi-generational global religious war. I can’t imagine any other path to true security. And nobody else can figure out what to do to end this insane war. Why not try the Christian practice of forgiveness? If it worked in Lancaster, maybe it will work in Baghdad, too.
it’s my deep conviction that the world isn’t a better place because osama bin laden was killed.
it might well be a better place, though, if our amish brothers and sisters taught us all to engage our enemies with ridiculous forgiveness and unthinkable love.
i’d be remiss if i didn’t include one of my favorite songs of all time that is incredibly appropriate right now.
derek webb – my enemies are men like me: