Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Justice Has Been Served for Who and How?

President Obama's statement on Sunday included these words : "Justice has been served." My initial response was "For who?" Whose injustices have been redeemed. Whose grief has been relieved? How has yet one more incident of capital punishment, however truly deserved, brought justice to anyone here in the United States or around the world.

Miroslav Volf states
this point much better than I could:

  • For the followers of Jesus Christ, no one's death is a cause for rejoicing. This applies to Osama bin Laden no less than to any other evildoer, large or small. Jesus Christ died for all; there are no irredeemable people. The path of repentance is open to anyone willing to walk on it, and no human being has the right to permanently close that path for anyone.
The ethical problem as I see it is one of utilitarianism. Bin Laden's long awaited death brings the most efficient solution to the greatest number of people. The problem though is that such an ethical and theological device is so self-serving and somewhat misaligned with Jesus' ethical standards as we know them: The Sermon on The Mount and Two Greatest Commandments.

The events of this week have left survivors of Sept. 11, 2001 feeling 9-11 Survivor"relieved, dumbstruck, bittersweet, and with other mixed emotions. I have followed and participated in many threads on Facebook and watched a great deal of cable news in an effort to more fully understand how my Christian faith influences my emotions regarding Osama Bin Laden's death. Some terms and emotions I have found myself praying about are: justice, peace, and blessing. I recall that the values that Jesus called blessed and indicative of God's reign included righteousness, mercy, humility, and mournful. These values are often contrary to secular values of power, revenge, pride, and lack of sincerity.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote :

All human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions.

History will reflect whether or not the sins of this nation's leaders or Osama Bin Laden and his followers will reap the greatest amounts of violence. Would all of this have been necessary if we had not intervened in Iraq and/or Afghanistan? Would all of this have been necessary if we had not supported Sadaam Hussein in the 1980s or the Pakistani government for the past decade.

Thousands upon thousands of people here in the United States and around the world have died. These numbers include thousands of Muslims and Christians alike. The moral issues surrounding and influencing their deaths and memories are both complex and conflictual. In that light, I would like to close with these two prayers:

A Muslim Prayer for Peace

"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Praise be to the Lord of the universe who has created us and made us tribes and nations, that we might know each other.
If the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust in God, for the Lord is the One that hears and knows all things.
And the servants of God, most gracious are those who walk on the Earth in humility,
And when we address them, we say PEACE."

Note: The prayer is a compilation from the Qur'an. It was one of the prayers for peace offered in Assisi, Italy, on the Day of Prayer for World Peace during the U.N. International Year of Peace, 1986.

A Christian response to war

Eternal God

Save us from weak resignation to violence

Teach us that restraint is the highest expression of power

That thoughtfulness and tenderness are marks of the strong.

Help us to love our enemies

Not by countenancing their sins,

But by remembering our own

And may we never for a moment forget

That they are fed by the same food,

Hurt by the same weapons,

Have children for whom they have the same high hopes as we do.

Grant us the ability

To find joy and strength not in the strident call to arms

but to grasp our fellow creatures

In the striving for justice and truth.


1991 NCC Australia & Australia Catholic relief.

Prepared by a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim (Aug. 1990)

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