Bin Laden: Rethinking the Victory Celebration


The reactions of many Christians (and others who have been influenced by Christian beliefs) to Bin Laden’s demise has been a bit shocking and a lot eye-opening for me. All over the Internet—Facebook, Twitter, and blogs—you hear a cacophony of Christians rejoicing and doing a happy dance over the death of a terrorist:

“Welcome to hell, bin Laden.” Mike Huckabee

“Forgive Bin Laden? No way in hell.” Charles Lewis

“Osama Bin Laden Now in Hell” Joel C. Rosenberg

“Rot in Hell” New York Daily News

Do we realize what we are saying? Is this the statement we really want to make to the world? Is this attitude a reflection of the true Father’s heart? Are we to live with a fatalistic fear of evil, put limits on God’s mercy for the worst of sinners, and then rejoice at the catastrophic loss of others?

First of all, I want to clarify that this post does not pertain to secular justice, or military efforts fighting for freedom and human rights, or in general the expectation of the “unbelieving world,” but is dealing directly and exclusively with the attitude of Christians—Christ followers—in response to terrorism and violence. I fully recognize and understand the need for moral justice and order in our world.

Secondly, I want you to know that I hate injustice. I hate murder. I hate what was done on 9/11. I long for justice, and for the world to be turned upside down to follow a new, uncorrupted order, where the weak are honored, the poor are blessed, and the humble are heroes. I also fully believe God hates injustice, and that He has kept a record of every wrong suffered for a future day in Heaven’s Court. But that is God’s Court, which sometimes we forget isn’t our court or patterned after the ways of men.

Thirdly, I believe that Christians have a moral obligation to be light in this world, and that includes “fighting” for justice and human rights. But what does this look like for Christ-followers? According to Jesus, it is done by taking the higher road, becoming and example of true justice through loving kindness, meekness, and gentleness, while meeting the needs of the poor and afflicted; not repaying evil for evil. Living in the way of peace and grace.

What I think I’m witnessing is that many Christians are donning a terrorist mentality. In celebrating death and the destruction of their enemies, and feeling rightly justified in such, they are beginning to emulate the very thing they stand against. They have forgotten that this world is not our home, that this age is not the age of vengeance, and that justice is not ours to decide. Let me ask…

  • If you believe in a literal hell—burning over hot coals forever and ever—should you really be happy that anyone went there, even the most cold-blooded killer?
  • Isn’t that killer ultimately a child of God, created in His image?
  • Do we not consider what might have gone wrong in that person’s life that led him to fear and hate, and to ultimately live a sorry, empty life?
  • And if you are happy at the terrorizing destruction of others, does that reveal a terrorist mentality in you?

One more question: Did it bring God happiness to bring a terrorist to death?

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? …As I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!” (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11).

In the discussion of Bin Laden the last couple days, many Christians have adamantly expressed to me that if someone came into their home and threatened their family, they would have no trouble killing that person and being happy about it. Many Christians feel that same way about terrorists—they would delight in destroying them. But is this the way of Jesus? Can you imagine Jesus hunting down Osama with guns and bombs, and then taking him out at the first opportunity? Is this what Jesus did with the Roman soldiers who put Him on a cross for being innocent?

“You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matt. 5:38–39)

It is the easy road to take vengeance into our own hands in this lifetime, but that is only if we are living for the wrong story, following the ways of this world and this system. We have a greater calling—to demonstrate the way of love and peace to the world, just as Jesus did, and to wait for the future age when justice and judgment will have the last say.

Though ironic in light of history, I close with a sentiment to this week’s events by the Vatican: “Christians do not rejoice over death.”

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  • cadoah
  • Thanks for sharing, Julie. I think this notion of "Hell" is being chipped away and with every person that has the courage to say, "Damnit! No more!" it gives others the courage to speak what they already believe in their heart but are too afraid to say. Fear from what people, family, churches will say, and worst, fear of the very hell they no longer believe in. Thanks for being that voice.

    Here is my voice:

  • Tom Sanders

    The first part of your post makes sense — we shouldn't "rejoice" over anyone's death, although we may have satisfaction that someone who did evil acts is no longer able to perform then.

    The second part of the post doesn't make as much sense to me. There isn't a Christian nation on earth, and foreign policy shouldn't be made on the basis of religious precepts. Jesus himself had little to say over how a state should be governed, and was very clear that his was not a political creed. (Try to find a political statement, even when he was egged on!)

    So the way that Jesus behaved towards Roman soldiers isn't a good parallel to the actions of the United States vis-a-vis terrorists. The United States was performing in its own interests and protecting the safety of its citizens. It's not the job of the United States to worry about souls =)

    • jferwerd

      Thanks for your reply Tom. None of my post is dealing with politics or secular governments or how they respond to war/terrorism. My only point is how Christians interact with the world. Jesus didn't retaliate against governments or terrorists, and neither should Christians.

  • jferwerd

    I see what you are saying, but I am not literalizing–just paralleling. Many Christians openly express that they could see themselves doing the same (hunting down terrorists to kill them), based on conversations I've had on Facebook. So here I'm not referring to the military, but to the attitude of certain Christians…does that make sense?

    • Tom Sanders

      Yes, thanks for the clarification

  • “Savior” Saves Own Butt—Shoots Roman Soldiers
    i'm sorry but this is a rather sick comparison. Comparing what Christ done to what an army is doing is a little …. ok a lot sickening to me. you are comparing apples to planets. while yes a soul any soul going to hell is a very bad thing. justice and loving justice is not a bad thing. God is God. Both the God of the old testament and the new testament. He did not change when the old testament was fulfilled. Only our relationship did. The Israelites where instructed on how to deal out justice. Imagine if all of the "good" people of the world never stopped evil. and all the "evil" people continued to be evil. Soon there would be no "good" people because all the "evil" people would of killed them all. Some one has to stand up and praise God for the Christians that do. Who better to administer justice and be in the military then Christians that can make good and ethical decisions?

    The bible instructs soldiers to remain soldiers and tax collectors to remain tax collectors could you imagine what would happen to those soldiers that started to live out what you're implying in this message? they would be imprisoned for not obeying orders. what a waste of a life even in the long term of it. Those soldiers could of made such an impact on those around them, if they were the best soldiers they could be and proclaimed Christ. And the old testament is full of men and women that did this.

    God loves Justice He is Justice both in this life and the next. by the way if you really read the scripture in exekiel that you quoted you would notice it's implying a spiritual death and spiritual life. Just as eating the fruit was a spiritual death with adam and eve. not physical as you used it in this context.

  • I'm with you on this, Julie. I blogged about it as well.

    Amazing how many people will quickly unite under the doctrine of hell and yet still reject Jesus.

  • Rich

    Julie, I am glad you and Tom persisted to an understanding – too seldom done in blogs, I think. And I am right there with you at almost every point but one. I dont' have a gun but I do have weapons that could kill a person, and if someone came into my home and I had a strong feeling that this someone intended to kill my wife or child, or me, then I would use whatever weapons I had available to disarm and/or kill the assailant. If successful, would I be happy about it? No, but I would be happy that I preserved the physical lives of persons I care deeply about. Thank you especially for the Ezekiel passage, it's right on target!

    • jferwerd

      Rich, I totally understand how you might feel this way, especially with the God-ordained role of being "protector" of your family. I even affirm that position for others. What is weird for me though is that I used to feel that way, and I used to own a gun, but at some point, FOR ME, God convicted me that even in the case of an intruder in my home, He wanted me to choose the way of peaceful resistance. Now, living in Wyoming, it is not that likely that I will ever be faced with such a terrible dilemma, not to mention that my children are now grown and that has a bearing too. I am certainly not saying it is wrong for anyone else to want to protect their families. My main point is just to reexamine how we feel about violence, and I know you are already there. Thanks for commenting!

      P.S. When I was in India, my group found ourselves in a dangerous situation with some decoits (violent robbers) on a dark road in the middle of nowhere when we had a broken down vehicle. God affirmed for me to choose the way of peace and intelligence, not force, and that He would be my protector in any situation. And even if we had been the victims of violence, I think I would have still felt okay about not retaliating. It's a good story that I might have to tell you about sometime. ;)

      • Steve Howatt

        It seems to me that there is a huge difference, taught in the scriptures, between defending the defenseless and defending oneself. I think Jesus' example always showed a willingness to "turn the other cheek" when He was the target (although, he skillfully avoided violence to himself when the Father's timing was not right and I wonder what all was involved when He "passed through their midst"), but He never to my knowledge spoke against the principle of defending those that are unable to defend themselves. Still, I agree, there is no joy to be had in bring harm to others, even when such harm is just.

  • jeff

    The post does make sense to me. It doesn't seem that the author is advocating that killers get to go free other than getting an opportunity to find eternal forgiveness in Christ. I totally believe that what happened to Bin Laden was coming to him, but does God want that for anyone? No way. I think it is a sobering thing when someone is destroyed because of their own actions. Live by the sword, die by the sword. It is terrible. I think people feel better that justice has been served. They feel a sense of closure. They should probably think twice before being so nonchalant about saying, "Welcome to hell, Osama. You are going to have a long stay." That is a terrible thing too. We should desire both justice and mercy. Those two things are hard to reconcile sometimes. All I can say is that I am not God nor is anyone else. We should all think about that for a moment.

    • jferwerd

      Jeff, you reiterated my thoughts and intent perfectly. Justice is indeed very important. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  • thank you for changing the name of the post means a lot.

    • jferwerd

      Sure Zachary. Sorry if the first was offensive. Sometimes I get carried away. Thanks for thanking me ;).

      • hey i come off rough all the time so i totally understand. we should all be trying to sharpen each other and spur one another on. i love a good debate. If what you believe can't with stand the fire it's not worth believing.

  • Not an easy topic you covered, by any means. There are so many people in our country who were affected by this one man's capacity to execute his evil plans. But while lots of folks are singing, a la`, ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead…my kids have quietly come to me and asked why people are celebrating his death. My daughter understands the whole justice thing, but in her child-like heart, she can't reconcile the celebrating aspect of it. I agree with her, and thus, agree with the things you wrote in this post.

  • Deb H

    a similar celebration broke out years ago when Ted Bundy was executed. it was shortly after Dr Dobson's visit to him in prison which resulted in Bundy's confesison and conversion to Christianity. Dr Dobson (who was criticized for having anything to do with "that monster") commented in the wake of public celebrations over Bundy's death how grieved he was that people could celebrate. his heart echoed yours Julie. i think FORGIVENESS is one of the toughest battles we face in walking the Christian walk, and 7 x 70 times is tough, but it's what we're called to do. justice yes – and forgiveness too.

    • jferwerd

      I never heard that story Deb. Thanks for sharing!

  • Damian Masters

    What about if you happen to see someone in trouble, say being attacked by some crimnal, are you going to go over to them and say don't resist because god wants this for you. Are you not going to help them? When does comon sense enter the picture. This world has been left to satan until all things be under Christ's feet. Sure we rely on Gods protection but some things are put there for us to act.
    As for Gods judgment, What is judgment? Is it not correction, a learning situation, so you will know better in the future. God doesn't hold anything over our heads. Don't forget he is responsible for the good and evil in this world.

    • jferwerd

      You bring up a great question, Damian. I guess each situation we have to be "in the Spirit" to know what our proper response should be. Life is never black and white is it? There are always the many situations that don't fit the mold and so we must always be listening to know what our obligation of the moment is. I am positive I would fight for someone else being hurt, just don't think I would kill over it. Great thoughts.

  • Steve Howatt

    Thanks for the blog, Julie. I agree that the celebration is misplaced/wrong. (I did not read any jubilation in the posts of Joel Rosenberg that I have seen – just a perspective on what may be true without any specific knowledge of the closing moments of Bin Ladin's life).

    I stumbled on a couple of things, however – one being the comment "…justice is not ours to decide". While we certainly are not the ones do determine anyone's eternal fate, and are to be careful not to judge others motivations (lest we be judged in like manner), it seems to me that there are many things that God EXPECTS us to judge in this life, and to do so righteously. While it is wrong to lust after justice, we should seek it, as far as we are able. Vengeance is an entirely other matter, of course, and has little to do with justice, but is more about punishing or "paying back".

    • jferwerd

      Hey Steve, I agree that we are to do our best to bring justice to earth. Justice, according to the Law, is about restoring to the violated what was taken, and making a way to restore the violator to society. In a case like Bin Laden, death was the requirement because only God can adequately administer right justice in such a case where we cannot restore what was lost. I believe He will do this during the Judgment.

      For what it's worth, I do believe that I would "jump in the middle" to defend another.

      Thanks for your thoughtful input.

  • Harvey Seidel

    Julie, I too was disappointed in America's reaction. The celebrations, parties and general hilarity is a shame to our nation. Pro 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:

    • jferwerd

      Thanks Harvey!

  • David

    One thing you have to realize about hell is that if you don't know about God, you cannot go to hell. As an example, if you were mentally incompetent to know that murder is a sin according to God, and commits a murder, he is not responsible in God's eyes. Man has other ideas, but God is merciful. Three conditions of an action are required for it to be mortally sinful. It must be grave matter, it must be willful, and it must be known to be sinful.

    Regarding Bin Laden, I for one did not cheer him on to his final reward. I'm glad that governments can do things (sometimes) that religion doesn't condone. In fact, quite often and privately, I prayed for Osama Bin Laden, as I do for President Obama, another I feel is on the wrong path.

    Am I glad he's gone? Sure. Do I condone what the government did to get him? Nope. Do I believe in state sponsored targeting like what we did? No.