The Things that Make for Peace

When a team of Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in May, most Americans felt a sense of relief. He was truly a dedicated purveyor of violence, a manipulator and distorter of religion for political purposes, and a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Nevertheless, it is never a Christian response to celebrate the death of any human being, as many did, even one so given over to evil. Violence is always an indication of our failure to resolve our conflicts by peaceful means and an occasion for deeper reflection.

The Bible takes evil seriously and clearly says that evildoers should be held accountable for their deeds, and that the state has the legitimate role of bringing to justice those who perpetrate terrible crimes. Osama bin Laden was perhaps the most recognizable face of terrorism in our time. But killing him has certainly not ended the threat of terrorism. And it also did not vindicate the decade of war, the tragic U.S. response to the attacks on 9/11 that has resulted in thousands of other innocent casualties in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

More innocent civilians have become the "collateral damage" of our wars on terrorism than those who suffered the direct assault on civilians by bin Laden’s al Qaeda assassins on Sept. 11. This fact is a grave moral failing by the standards of just war theory, which is at least given lip service in most churches.

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July 2011 Sojourners
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