May 9, 2011

Bin Laden’s Death Discomfits Religious Left

Mark TooleyBy Mark Tooley
Institute on Religion & Democracy

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From the safety of his London palace, the Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury is questioning whether the U.S. Navy Seals’ killing of Osama Bin Laden exemplified “justice.”

“The killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done,” Rowan Williams told a press conference at Lambeth Palace. “I don’t know full details any more than anyone else does. But I do believe that in such circumstances when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a war criminal, in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be observed.”

Presumably, the Archbishop discerns “justice” in a decades-long captivity for Bin Laden, which may or may not have involved a billion dollar show trial, and endless controversy over the trial’s and the incarceration’s location, not to mention reams of endless global publicity for Bin Laden’s genocidal version of Islamism.

Williams’ concerns were echoed by fellow Anglican Bishop of Winchester Michael Scott-Joynt, who criticized Bin Laden’s killing as “an act of vengeance” that might provoke reprisals against Christians. When St. Paul wrote that civil “rulers” are the “ministers of God” who “beareth not the sword in vain” and who are a “revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil,” was the Apostle advocating “vengeance?” Of a sort, yes, since he declared that rulers, when performing properly, are divine instruments for God’s legitimate vengeance upon evil doing. But religious leftists are uncomfortable about talk of human evil, preferring to spin their utopian dreams from ecclesial palaces, seminary campuses, and insulated, endowed pulpits.

In some contrast to the British bishops, U.S., religious leftists, so far, mostly have demurred from directly criticizing the U.S. strike against the terrorist mastermind. Instead, they have fretted over the supposedly frightful crowds of young celebrants who rejoiced over Bin Laden’s demise outside the White House, in New York’s Times Square, and in Harvard Yard.

Himself visiting in Britain when Bin Laden died, Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren tut-tutted over disturbing scenes of “American college students reveling outside the White House, shouting, chanting ‘USA’ and spilling beer.” He shared his embarrassment as an American, since “this image does not reflect well on my country, especially in contrast to the images that have been so strong here in recent days … revelers celebrating a wedding.” And he further intoned: “Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?”

From the Religious/Evangelical Left’s pacifist perspective, a lawful government’s execution of a mass murderer who had slain thousands of its citizens only contributes to the “cycle of violence.” And presumably McLaren would have preferred that the college students who waved the flag for a few hours in the streets on Sunday evening should instead have penitently withdrawn into prayer closets, to lash themselves for complicity in American imperialism.

Evangelical Left activist and Sojourners chief Jim Wallis, who cherishes his ties to the Obama White House, was more careful in his public angst. “Pumping our fists in victory or celebrating in the streets is probably not the best Christian response to anyone’s death, even the death of a dangerous and violent enemy,” he wrote for CNN’s religion blog. “The chants of ‘USA, USA, USA’ are also not the best mantra for believers who should know that they are meant to be Christians first and Americans second.” So is any exuberant expression of patriotic joy by definition an idolatrous exaltation of nation over God? For religious leftists like Wallis, the answer is likely yes. Wallis also complained that U.S. Christians have valued innocent American lives “more than the innocents who were in the way of our wars in response to the attacks against us.” Certainly Christians esteem all human life as sacred to God. But just as parents have special responsibility for their own children, even while wishing well to everyone’s children, do not nations, especially governments, have a special responsibility for the people over which Providence has assigned them unique authority? This point eludes trans-nationalists like Wallis.

Also implying moral equivalence, Wallis decried that the “violence of terrorism, the violence of war, and even the violent reprisal against Osama bin Laden on Sunday should all push us to deeper reflection, and even repentance, for how we have allowed the seeds of such destruction to take root and grow in our hearts and in our world.” Wallis is a pacifist though he usually avoids full disclosure, lest he lose political viability. But ultimately, because he rejects all force, he cannot ethically distinguish between armed rescuers, armed victims, and armed victimizers, because all are somehow equally guilty of violating an imaginary pacifist ideal.

In a woeful vein similar to Wallis, United Church of Christ President Geoffery Black, in a typically detached fashion, lamented that “there were those in this country who felt a need for revenge that could only be satisfied by bringing bin Laden to justice, which in the minds of many meant killing him.” He further complained that while “many celebrate this event and feel that it has provided the nation with a fitting response to the horrific and brutal attack on citizens of the United States, there are others who see no reason to rejoice and instead feel a deep sense of disquiet and unease.” For more spiritually enlightened souls like the Rev. Black, “there is no joy in this moment for us, because first and foremost we understand ourselves to be the disciples of Jesus,” who “calls us in his teachings to do the difficult thing of loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.” Does “loving our enemies” demand allowing them to continue mass murder? Is it not a mercy, not only to future victims, but also even to the killers themselves, including Bin Laden, to destroy them before they murder again, for which they will be held accountable before God?

More opaquely than Rev. Black, the National Council of Churches declared: “Just as Christians must condemn the violence of terrorism, let us be clear that we do not celebrate loss of life under any circumstances,” since the “ultimate justice for this man’s soul — or any soul — is in the hands of God.” The NCC urged: “Let us turn to a future that embraces God’s call to be peacemakers, pursuers of justice and loving neighbors to all people.” There was nothing from the church council about the justice of ending Bin Laden’s decades of slaughter, which begs the question of what exactly these nearly two dozen bishops and other prelates who endorsed the church council’s declaration meant exactly by “love” and justice.”

The Religious Left disbelieves or is profoundly uncomfortable with the teachings of their own Jewish and Christian tradition, which declare that there is human evil and that God ordained civil governments to repress evil where possible in a fallen world. Commonly the Religious Left confuses the church’s role, which is to offer grace and forgiveness, with the role of temporal authorities, which is to punish and deter wrongdoing. Adding to its confusion, the Religious Left disapproves of national loyalties, especially to the hegemonic United States, and instead dreams of a utopian world government that supposedly would better model God’s Kingdom. Naturally, the Religious Left rejects any pleasure over evil’s defeat, however imperfect, despite countless biblical celebrations, such as Miriam’s joyful song over the drowning of Pharaoh’s army during their pursuit of escaping Hebrews. And finally, the Religious Left is smugly elitist and remarkably stews over even the fleeting patriotic display of mostly liberal college students in Washington, D.C., New York, and Cambridge.

Elitist obscurantists like the Archbishop of Canterbury will continue to count imagined angels on needle-heads. But Religious Leftists’ inability to confront even an obvious evil like Bin Laden illustrates their moral inconsequentiality.

Related Links

What does the Bible say about war? - Grace to You (John MacArthur)
Iraq's Qaeda pledges support to Zawahri, vows attacks - Reuters
Barack Obama under pressure to slash Pakistan aid - The Guardian
The killing of Osama Bin Laden: revenge or justice? - RenewAmerica (Robert Meyer)
Prophecy and Biblical Violence - BPB (Thomas Ice)