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Commentary: Osama bin Laden Is Dead. Discuss

c. 2011 Religion News Service

(RNS) Late Sunday night, while perusing Facebook, a friend on Facebook updated her status to announce that Osama bin Laden was dead. It took a few seconds to confirm the news on CNN, and by the time I refreshed the screen, her status had changed once again.

This time, she posted a prayer.

“O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace,” she wrote. “Let the design of your great love shine on … the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

“Amen” indeed.


For hours, as the details of bin Laden’s death emerged, dozens and dozens of Facebook friends chimed in to share news and, moreover, their candid thoughts.

Relief. Satisfaction. Jubilation. Anger. Worry. And a certain mournfulness that left more than a few people struggling to find the “proper” context for what was happening.

Many people mentioned the names of loved ones who perished on 9/11 or in the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, in a sort of litany of remembrance.

There were also variations of “Got him!” “Good riddance!” “Hallelujah!” and “Payback’s a bitch!”

Soon after, though, more nuanced and thoughtful comments began appearing.


“God would not allow the angels to join in the song of the Children of Israel after they crossed the Red Sea saying, ‘My creatures are floating in the sea, and you want to sing?”‘ wrote a Lutheran minister. “Even the worst of the worst are children of God. Let us continue to pray for peace.”

A journalist added the first of many quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. that appeared in dozens of status updates in the hours and days following the news: “There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

And then came the Scripture references, some of them starkly conflicting.

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” Proverbs 24:17


“When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.” Proverbs 11:10

“As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!” Ezekiel 33:11

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: `I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”‘ 1 Samuel 15: 2-3

One person seemed to reflect the spiritual/existential conundrum that so many others are wrestling with in the wake of bin Laden’s death: “There is a fine line between rejoicing in the destruction of a human being, and celebrating victory and justice,” he said. “Where that line is … I have no idea.”


Is what we are feeling and thinking “right” in God’s eyes?

What would Jesus say or do? Would he celebrate the vanquishing of an evildoer, or would he mourn the death of a lost sheep?

Can God forgive bin Laden for the atrocities he committed on 9/11 and since? Should we? Can we?

As the world waited to see whether U.S. officials would release photographic evidence of bin Laden’s corpse, the spiritual grappling continued with little consensus.

One outcome, however, was imminently clear: There are many people who feel a renewed sense of community, the kind wrought by sharing a traumatic and historic experience together in a virtual place that somehow, at least occasionally, feels strangely like hallowed ground.


More than a shouting match or purely intellectual exchange of opinion about bin Laden’s demise, Facebook became a forum for authentic spiritual examination. It was fascinating — and heartening — to watch hearts and minds transform in real time as they responded to the shared thoughts of friends and acquaintances on Facebook.

For many of us, Facebook is a “Third Place,” a virtual gathering place where everyone knows our name and our story. It’s a place where we create, for better of for worse, an ongoing story together.

For people of faith, Facebook can be a very real sacred space, even — or perhaps most especially — in difficult times.

While we may feel uncomfortable or unjust thanking God for the death of a moral monster like bin Laden, surely we can give thanks for the grace that makes even a modicum of beauty out of ugly things.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment creedofcrusades

    I read that Bin Ladin specialized in forged documents back when he first began his organization. Birth and death certificates and passports for the anti-soviet fighters. Now isn’t that a handy skill? Especially the birth certificate part. A state level document falsification of birth certificates could come in quite handy. The only thing is, like the Mafia, sometimes after you provide one you get killed so you dont talk.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Well this started with a truly strange response.

    The Bible is so confused it’s no wonder people who claim to be following it are 180 degrees apart on so many things.

    This man was a power-hungry religious fanatic. He could never have come to power, but if he could have and did we’d be in a living hell. He differs from a few Christian fundamentalists mainly in his ability to get others to do terrible things for him at the cost of their lives.

    He could, however, have caused more death and destruction and he would have if he could. We are better off with him dead, as is the world. I think quiet celebration is in order.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    I think we should all throw up a few extra loud firecrackers this 4th of July. Then the politcally and religiously correct people living among us will never know the difference! LOL

    Actually this man caused his own demise, it’s a shame so many in his family and many of his countrymen had to pay with their lives because of this man, not to mention our own Service people,and the people in the Towers of 9-11.

    I’m so happy to know our President is not a coward, and he has the intellect to make great decisions.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    What’s to discuss? The man who was responsible for thousands of deaths is dead—due to the highly skilled Seal 6 team, with the OK/orders from President Obama. Forgive ObL? No. Be worried that I can’t “forgive” ObL? No. The man is dead—long live the Seal 6 team and the President of the USA! :o) ObL will kill no more.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Had another thought on the subject of the chase and killing the bad guy, I’ve never gone to any show or movie where the audiance moaned and cried for the killer when he was taken out! Never saw anyone walk out complaining about the poor misbegotten murderer, either. Has any one reading this ever wittnessed sympathy for the murderer? Yes, it’s a movie but movies are a play on life and what is going on in it.

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