Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Laden and the Problem of Hate

What does it mean to create a compassionate world? What does it mean to live as children of God, as Christ followers who do not celebrate the destruction of the enemy, but instead strive to live in love? What does it mean when Jesus says, “Love your enemies”?

Like so many others I was disturbed by the public celebration of Osama Bin Laden’s death. It’s not that Bin Laden fit anyone’s idea of a good person. It’s not that I don’t recognize the evil that he wrought in the world. But his killing once again marks our failure to convert war into peace, anger into compassion, and hate into love. It’s not cause for celebration. It’s cause for sorrow.

Yes, one person can do much evil in the world. Like Hitler, like Pol Pot, Bin Laden fomented hate and destruction. But no one acts alone. Destroying the one does not solve the problem of hate, nor should it mask our inability to maintain true peace in the world. Killing spirals into more killing, creating an ongoing cycle of destruction that eventually seems normal, so much so that it infiltrates our movies, stories and games, and becomes our structure for understanding the world. Ask any media savvy teen.

Hate caused Bin Laden and his followers to mindlessly destroy people he’d never met, who became no more than tokens in his war against the West. Hate propelled the West to retaliate, to kill more innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, regardless of the cost both in terms of money and humanity. Hate works with violence and greed to decimate the weak, the poor, the mourners, in short the beatitude people that Jesus names and blesses in the Sermon on the Mount. Hate dehumanizes the other until their face no longer matters, their dreams have no value, and the innocence with which they were born becomes an irrelevant and forgotten part of a life that retains no dignity.

Hate produced 911, and hate was on display at the many celebrations that were held in the wake of the announcement of Bin Laden’s death. That feeling, juxtaposed behind the flags, the chants and the songs, is not lost on those of us who live outside of the US. Nor is it lost on so many American citizens, many of whom lost relatives and friends in 911, who cannot understand why these strangers, their fellow citizens, would think that the death of Bin Laden would somehow create restitution for the death of their loved one, who remains dead, lost, out of reach, gone.

I am heartened by the many, many Americans who have spoken up to criticize the celebrations. The death of Bin Laden is not some extreme Super Bowl celebration. It is one more piece of a tragedy that continues to encompass our world, one founded in hate, dehumanization, and nothing any religion should recognize as Godly.

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