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No, thanks. I don’t want to see any pictures of Osama bin Laden’s body. I’ll take the President’s word for it that he’s dead and gone. If someone else needs proof, however, that’s fine. They can file a FOIA request for the photographs and study them all they want, but I don’t want to see them.

I’ve been wrestling with how to feel ever since my Twitter feed (shameless plug: I’m @JenniferLarson, if you want to follow me) told me on Sunday night that a special forces unit had managed to find and kill Osama bin Laden this past weekend. My initial reaction was just simple disbelief. “No way,” I thought. “We’ve had people looking for him for 10 years. Surely that’s a mistaken report.”

But the tweets kept on coming. And they started rolling in from reputable news agencies. It started to seem true after all. I called to my husband in another room, “Hey, I’m reading reports that they’ve killed bin Laden.” And he immediately got on his iPad and started reading, too. A half hour or so later, we watched President Obama’s speech to the nation on CNN.

“Wow,” I said. “I…can’t believe it.”

Part of me expected to feel relieved. And I did. No matter how you look at it, Osama bin Laden was the perpetrator of horrible, unspeakable evil. Our country, our people, have suffered great pain because of his actions. He masterminded and inflamed thousands of people to continue to perpetrate evil. He was inspired by hate. He inspired others to hate. He is not around any longer to do those things, and it’s a relief to not have to worry about how a military or civil trial would play out–and whether it could ever truly bring that man to justice.

Part of me expected to feel proud. And I did. As a former Navy wife, I was proud of the Navy SEALS team members who risked their lives to carry out such a dangerous mission. I’m proud of those men for caring so much about others that they would undertake a mission that could have easily resulted in their own deaths.

But part of me expected to feel joy upon hearing the news of his death. And I didn’t. I felt great sorrow that such a man had existed and done the things that he had. I felt sorrow that Osama bin Laden never repented from the evil that suffused his soul and his actions. And I also felt sorrow that even his death could not bring back all the people who died because of him. His death didn’t bring back the people who felt like they had no choice but to jump from the top stories of the World Trade Center buildings, or the firefighters who tried to save them, or the people working in the part of the Pentagon that got destroyed, or the people on any of the four airplanes that crashed on September 11, 2001.

And part of me also felt conflicted by the great, uncomplicated joy that some people seemed to be feeling. Jim Wallis of the Sojourners wrote a post on his God’s Politics blog yesterday titled “How Should We Respond to the Death of Osama bin Laden? Wallis, who referred to bin Laden as “an apostle of hate,” wrote the following:

“[It] is never a Christian response to celebrate the death of any human being, even one so given over to the face of evil. Violence is always an indication of our failure to resolve our conflicts by peaceful means, and is always an occasion for deeper reflection.”

And he quoted the Vatican’s official statement, which read in part:

“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.”

As a Christian, I cannot bring myself to shout and shriek and dance in the streets, even though I fully admit that I am very glad that bin Laden is gone. And I am glad. I just wish that what happened that brought us to that point hadn’t happened. I can’t rejoice in death.

Here’s another take on the situation by Andrew Zirschky titled “Bonhoeffer and Bin Laden: Why We Can’t Rejoice.”  In referring to theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by Hitler’s regime during World War II, he makes the point that we really shouldn’t rejoice in death, even death of a terrible person. Perhaps the killing of bin Laden was a matter of choosing the least evil, and I happen to think that’s the case. No one could possibly argue that it would have been a good idea to have bin Laden still floating around out there, wreaking havoc, and yet as Christians, can we really embrace the killing of another person?

Zirschky wrote:

“It is ethical arrogance that leads us to rejoice in death.  Whether you believe that responsible action should have led us to the murder of bin Laden, or whether you believe responsible action would have kept us from this, Bonhoeffer calls for a Christian response that is sober, even mournful, as it recognizes my guilt, our guilt, and the guilt of others.

Where Bonhoeffer leaves us is with ignorance at to the goodness of our actions, he calls us toward humility in those actions, ownership of both repentance and guilt in the midst of those actions, and utter dependence upon God’s grace to judge our actions. There is no room for rejoicing.”

I am praying for the people who lost loved ones because of Osama bin Laden. I am praying for the people he seduced into committing unspeakable acts. I am praying for all of us as we figure out how to respond, how to move forward, and how to discern what God wants us to do.

And so I don’t want to see any photographs of the body of bin Laden. I don’t need to see them to feel vindication or anything like that. I’ve had enough of him. Now I need to continue figuring out how to make myself right with God. Because it’s too late for bin Laden. But it’s not too late for the rest of us.

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Every year, the question comes up:  “What should I give up for Lent?”

It’s a common practice among Christians, giving up something for Lent. It goes along with the whole penitence aspect of the time period. You give up something. You sacrifice. At least theoretically, you are supposed to give up something that means something to you. It’s not really that meaningful to give up running if, in fact, you’re not a runner. It’s not that big a deal to give up chocolate if you rarely eat chocolate.

I fully admit that I almost never give something up and make it all the way through Lent. Some years, I cave halfway through Lent. Some years, I just don’t even try to give something up.

About 10 or 15 years ago, I decided to try something different. I decided to take up something good during Lent, rather than give up something. I tried to drink more milk. Yes, you may be laughing at me right now, but I was sincere. I knew I needed to drink more milk, and it seemed like as good an idea as any. It was still a sacrifice in some small way to drink a big glass of milk each night instead of the Coke that I really wanted.

Three years ago, my Disciple class decided to institute a class-wide Lenten discipline: we would all stop and pray at noon on Fridays during Lent. Even though we would not be together, we would find a sense of community in knowing that we were all praying at the same time.

It almost becomes an endurance test for some people. Or a point of honor for making it all the way through, like the people who power through those Couch to 5K programs. I know some people who fast at certain times during Lent. I know some people who commit to praying every single day for the period of Lent. I know some people who try to give up complaining, hitting the snooze bar, drinking wine, using Facebook or watching television. I have one friend right now who is deliberating whether she should give up Chick-fil-A or Coke this year.

As of yesterday, I still didn’t know what I was going to (try to) do this year.

But today, I had a few free minutes, and I was spending them browsing in a small gift shop called Obelisk, which is located in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville. Obelisk carries handmade jewelry by Freshie & Zero, one of my favorites. I spotted a modest silver cross necklace, and then it hit me. That’s what I needed. That cross necklace.

A number of people at my (very Presbyterian) church have been talking about ways to be more visible with our faith recently. One church friend wears a cross every day during Lent. She does it because it’s not something she might ordinarily do. Often we Presbyterians aren’t very outwardly demonstrative. We don’t want to offend. We aren’t happy-clappy. We don’t wear t-shirts from the Christian bookstore. We are often thoughtful, intellectual and restrained. We do things decently and in order. Those aren’t bad things, not at all. But they do often translate into a quieter, less visible faith.

And that is me, all over. I have friends who are not Christian, and I have never wanted them to feel uncomfortable around me because I am Christian. And part of that stems from the bad rap that some people who call themselves Christian have given the rest of us. I haven’t felt very comfortable wearing a cross because I haven’t wanted others to think that I’m one of those people, the ones who do not represent the Christ I believe in. 

Well, how else am I going to let others know that there are people like me who are Christian, if I don’t give them a sign? Even if–especially if–it makes me feel a little vulnerable and uncomfortable being that upfront?

So here’s my sign. I wore my cross necklace out of the store. I will be wearing it every day during Lent. And hopefully beyond.

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If you are Christian and you’re reading this, what are you doing to honor the observance of Lent? Please leave a comment!

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