This weekend has been for me a wonderful opportunity to celebrate life.
As I commented in an earlier post, I drove down from Seattle to Hood River and then to Camas WA. I have never seen the mountains, covered in a clean white coat of fresh snow surrounded by budding new green growth of trees, look more beautiful. It was truly breathtaking. Signs of new life were everywhere on this day of celebration: buds turning into leaves, grass green and growing, new species of birds arriving from the South. We drank in the intoxicating views, breathed in the smells of spring time and celebrated the sense of a world made new. This is truly the Easter season when we celebrate life and resurrection in all its glory.
I arrived home last night to the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s death. The president spoke. The media poured over the first details. Americans gathered across the US and celebrated.
I was troubled. And I am not just grieved because of the huge cost and consequences of the wars that have now raged for almost ten years, killing over a million civilians and displacing many more, to find and destroy this man. Violence tends to beget violence and our spontaneous glee and casualness at the killing of this man, I suspect will beget more violence not less. I would love to see terrorism around the world come to an end, but I am concerned that this is not the way to accomplish peace of any kind.
The Book of Proverbs says, “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble, or else the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from them.” Our Lord told us, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” And of course “He who lives by the sword will also die by the sword.”
The Vatican released a statement today that echos much of what I feel and I must confess this did impress me as so few other Christian voices seem to be speaking out:
Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions to this end. In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.
From my twitter friends I also discovered and very much appreciated what Father James Martin says over at America Magazine:
Osama bin Laden was responsible for the murder thousands of men and women in the United States, for the deaths and misery of millions across the world, and for the death of many servicemen and women, who made the supreme sacrifice of their lives. I am glad he has left the world. And I pray that his departure may lead to peace.
But as a Christian, I am asked to pray for him and, at some point, forgive him. And that command comes to us from Jesus, a man who was beaten, tortured and killed. That command comes from a man who knows a great deal about suffering. It also comes from God.
Ultimately, as Martin points out, “All life is sacred because God created all life.” We are meant to be life givers, peace bringers, reconcilers, restorers of the breach. Until we come to accept these basic fact of our faith, and live their implications, violence will be firmly entrenched throughout the world. The violence of war. The violence of terrorism. The violence of crime. The violence of the death penalty. The violence of abortion. The violence against God’s creation.
All life is sacred! Celebrate life, not death! Violence, war, hatred, no more!