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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

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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This morning, my elder son clamored at my arm, “Mommy, help! I need a can of vegetables!”

Yes, he does like vegetables more than the average kid, which is wonderful, but he wasn’t begging to eat a breakfast of cold canned green beans. He was reminding me that we are trying to get back on track with something that we used to do religiously* but have kind of slacked off on in recent months.

(*Er, you know what I mean.)

Until last summer, my son took a can of vegetables or fruit with him when we went to church. When we got to church, he placed the can in a shopping cart just inside the entryway at the side door. The shopping cart is our church’s collection bin for Second Harvest, a non-profit that collects food donations for its Food Bank, which then distributes the food to agencies that serve the needy in our region. 

The point was that my son took a can to church every single time he went to church. If we went to church twice in one week, we took two cans of food. If we went three times, then the shopping cart was three cans heavier, thanks to my son. The can of food was his offering. It was his visible reminder of how privileged we are to have plenty to eat and because we are so grateful, we want to share what we have with others who are less fortunate. It is our response to God’s grace.

A relevant Scriptural reference for this comes from the following passages in the book of Matthew:
  • Matthew 5: 35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
  • Matthew 5: 40: “The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  [Life Application Study Bible, New International Version.]

The food donation worked well, too, because every toddler and preschooler on the planet starts to grapple with the concept of sharing. Taking a can of food from our pantry and leaving it in the shopping cart was excellent practice in the art of sharing. My son understood 1) sharing is good, 2) there are hungry people out there, and 3) so we’ll share our food with them so they won’t be hungry.  And bless him, my son always liked to pick out his favorite food from the canned food stock in the pantry to share, not the stuff that he couldn’t care less about. Sometimes, I even let him pick out the cans at the grocery store so he could make sure to get some good stuff.

Then last summer, I broke my ankle. Yeah, no,  it wasn’t such a good time. There I was, with a new baby, a four-year-old and a bad wheel. Except for one committee meeting that required the entire committee to get me there, I didn’t make it to church for quite awhile. I was stuck in my house with a boot on my bruised-and-battered leg and a pair of crutches. By the time I did start going to church again, we were out of the canned food habit. I was lugging along an infant, his diaper bag, my purse, my elder son and his stuff, all on my wobbly ankle, while trying to gingerly navigate the long walk from the parking lot to the nursery where I could at least deposit some of that load. 

Oof. I’m having flashbacks, remembering.

It just seemed like I couldn’t manage a single additional thing, and unfortunately the can of food fell by the wayside. But occasionally, my elder son would walk by the shopping cart and say, “We really need to start bringing some food for the shopping cart again, Mommy. The cart’s almost empty.”

He was right. Second Harvest desperately needs food donations. You can probably guess how dire the need for food donations has been during the last few years, with the shaky economy and then the flood that demolished so many people’s homes last spring in Middle Tennessee. I fretted about how we fell away from our commitment to help.

So this morning, when my son reminded me that he needed a can of food, I resolved to stop letting things get in the way. He and I walked over to the pantry and studied the contents. I try to be mindful of the food bank’s actual needs–they like to get donations of beans, protein, peanut butter, canned tuna, veggies and fruits because those are the most nutritionally useful–so I’ve always tried to steer my son toward the healthy options.  We assessed the possibilities, ruling out the cans of chicken broth (why on earth do I have so many cans of chicken broth?) and the Chef Boy-R-Dee.

“How about diced tomatoes?” I suggested. “Or, hmmm, garbanzo beans? Those are good.”

Not sure what garbanzo beans were, he chose the tomatoes. And he was happy to have an offering to take to church again.

That’s it. We’re getting back on the wagon. We’re going to resume our good habit. People need us. God needs us to respond.

***

If you’re seeking a way to make giving relevant to your young child’s life, I highly recommend the food donation. My child loves the hands-on nature of thunking the can into the shopping cart. It’s tangible, and he remembers it afterward, which is even better.

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