This event has enormous symbolism world-wide. Exactly what the significance will be only future history will show. It feels like a landmark, but a landmark on the road to what?
I'm wondering why I feel so uneasy, particularly about statements and reactions coming from the USA.
I think my unease centres around 3 areas:
2. ATTEMPTS TO KILL IDEAS BY VIOLENCE
The problem with creating martyrs, whether deliberately or as 'collateral damage' is that it often inspires more people to be willing to die for what they believe to be a just cause. You cannot kill powerful ideas by suppression, book burning or murder, you just push the people who hold those ideas underground to emerge stronger. One thinks of the burning of Tyndale's English translation of the Bible a few centuries ago, because the authorities feared the revolutionary power of the Bible's ideas if people could hear it in their own tongue. That book-burning back fired in a big way. You can also see this in the history of the attempts to suppress Christianity in totalitarian states under communism. (Which to me also illustrates my belief that you can't kill God, even if you don't believe in God's existence).
3. DISTASTE ABOUT JOY AT THE DEATH BY VIOLENCE OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING
There is something about this that feels distateful and potentially dangerous. Later this morning I will meet with a family to prepare for their father's funeral, a person loved by God, as every person is loved by God - yes even Osama bin Laden. God's love is not restricted only to those who deserve it. Jesus demonstrates this in his dying words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".
As the news of Osama bin Laden's death reverberates around the world, should this be a cause for rejoicing? Or used as an occasion to reflect on the violent deaths of many others such as those who died in the Twin Towers, or in the London bombings, those dying in wars today including at the hands of their own unjust governments? And to reflect deeper on the underlying causes, that lead people to commit such atrocities? And a time for all who value human life, peace and justice to use every peaceful and just means available to work to create a world where no-one lives in want or fear, where every person is accorded the dignity and respect due to all persons made in the image of God. And a time to pray for renewal, so that all life flourishes in the way Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount - a picture of the 'kingdom of God' where God's love, peace and justice reigns.
"Our Father...your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven..."
Words about a man's death written by the 17th century English priest and poet John Donne come to mind. Usually quoted as a poem his original words were part of a prose meditation (Meditation 17: Devotions upon Emergent Occasions). Here they are with original spelling:
"No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy frineds or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee..."