Monday, May 02, 2011

A Measured Response from The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good*

"Do not rejoice when your enemies fall"
Statement by David P. Gushee
on behalf of the New Evangelical Partnership
May 2, 2011

"Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble."
Proverbs 24:17

We feel compelled to respond today to the killing of Osama bin Laden by the United States and to the jubilant response across the nation.

A nation has a right to defend itself. From the perspective of the fundamental national security of the United States, this action is legitimately viewed as an expression of self-defense.

But as Christians, we believe that there can no celebrating, no dancing in the streets, no joy, in relation to the death of Osama bin Laden. In obedience to scripture, there can be no rejoicing when our enemies fall.

In that sense, President Obama's sober announcement was far preferable to the happy celebrations outside the White House, in New York, and around the country, however predictable and even cathartic they may be.

For those of us who embrace a version of the just war theory, honed carefully over the centuries of Christian tradition, our response is disciplined by belief that war itself is tragic and that all killing in war, even in self-defense, must be treated with sobriety and even mournfulness. War and all of its killing reflects the brokenness of our world. That is the proper spirit with which to greet this news.

This event does provide new opportunities for our nation.

President Obama's respectful treatment of Islam in his remarks, and his declaration that Osama bin Laden's body was treated with respect according to Islamic custom, offers all of us an opportunity to follow that example and turn away from the rising disrespect toward Muslims in our nation.

A second opportunity is for the United States to reconsider the questionable moves we have made in the name of the war on terror. From our perspective, this includes the indefinite detentions of scores of men at Guantanamo Bay, the failure to undertake an official investigation of detainee interrogation practices, the increase in Predator attacks in Pakistan, and the expansion rather than ending of the ten-year-old war in Afghanistan.

We also now have the opportunity for national reflection on how our broader military and foreign policies--including the placement of our troops throughout the largely Muslim Arab world, our posture on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our regular military interventions around the world, create a steady supply of new enemies.

There can never be any moral justification for terrorist attacks on innocent people, such as the terrible deeds of 9/11. But we must recognize that to the extent that our nation's policies routinely create enemies, we can kill a Bin Laden on May 1 and face ten more like him on May 2. Might it now be possible for us to have an honest national conversation about these issues?

May we learn the right lessons from the news of this day. For Jesus' sake.

*I don't know anything about this group; I just like the statement.

Thanks to Merrilly Mac for the tip.


  1. Thank you for posting this.

  2. Anonymous10:32 PM

    I'm trying to limit my intake of "news" but when I see some of the pictures and headlines around thos story I am struck by the hubris they contain. I guess many people don't believe in karma.

  3. Thanks for voicing my seemingly unpatriotic sentiments. I did not feel any joy at the death of Bin Laden. Why? Because I don't think killing someone who hates you a victory. A victory is loving someone who hates you and trying at every opportunity not to fan the hate.
    I know that sometimes unpeaceful things have to be done but if it involves killing someone, why celebrate?

  4. Well put, QE!

    Now it seems the politicians are trying to pin the blame on Pakistan for sheltering him, even though there is a nearby US air base. When will they learn.....?

  5. Anonymous11:10 AM

    There's something just stomach-churning about celebrating someone's death.

    It reminds me of the Passover story I learned in Hebrew school. When the pharoah sent the Egyptian soldiers after the Jews G-d parted the red sea for them and closed in on the Egyptians, drowning them.

    In the Jewish version of the story, G-d reprimands the angels for rejoycing, saying "My creatures are drowning, and you're singing songs!"

  6. Little things make huge impacts over time. We accept more and more. "This show/video game isn't that bad." Eventually we end up with our young minds playing games like Call Of Duty with its ever "improving" graphics.

    Fortunately the reverse is also true. The small changes I've made since I first picked up my "A.M./P.M. Yoga" video has lead me to discover the peace that was waiting to be recognized with in myself. 9 years later, it's hard to believe I lead the life style I did then.

    This gives me some hope. If I can implement those changes, so can others. I hope that by living my life from a place of love I will encourage others to do the same. And rather than be discouraged by the celebration of violence, I will be inspired by the number of people expressing the same views I am reading here.

    Om Shanti

  7. Your comments are inspiring. Thank you!

    (And I should have said, above, when will *we* learn, not "they.").

  8. @ CK your blog was a welcome break this morning from my job at the health policy factory. Thanks for posting! PS my family always spilled out some wine at Seder to represent the suffering of the Egyptians for the 10 plagues.

    @ Lorena I'm nowhere close to 9 yrs...I guess you will give me something to work towards.

  9. Anonymous10:32 PM

    saw this one on FB...
    " I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." —MLK

  10. Anonymous4:56 AM

  11. A true warrior never rejoices or celebrates the killing of his enemy-tao

  12. Last night on "60 Minutes," our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president said,

    "The one thing I didn't lose sleep over was the possibility of taking bin Laden out. Justice was served. Anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn't deserve what they got needs to have their head examined.“

  13. Anonymous2:39 PM

    I'll leave my body to science so they can examine my head at that time.