Friday, May 6, 2011

The Death of Osama bin Laden

It's been four days since President Obama announced the death of the most wanted man in the world. Many of the bloggers I follow have already posted their thoughts and feelings. I have delayed discussing Osama bin Laden's death because, honestly, my feelings were extremely mixed. It has taken me several days to sort them out.

My first reaction, upon seeing the headline on the Yahoo homepage about ten minutes after the President's speech (I had been on the phone with my boyfriend, so I missed the live announcement) was shock. After ten long years, I had become skeptical that we would ever find bin Laden. Once the information sunk in though, I was unsure of what to feel.

Part of me wanted to be happy, to celebrate like those gathered outside the White House or at Ground Zero. I was merely 12 on 9/11, a child just out of elementary school. Osama bin Laden took away much of my innocence that day. Before that, major news stories meant little to me, the same as most children. But, even at my age, I knew instantly that 9/11 was different. I knew things would never be the same. For weeks, I watched the news with my parents and saw images of utter destruction and grieving families. Even today, the memory of those images brings up an intense anger at this man.

Osama bin Laden is one of those rare people who go beyond normal "badness". He's not grouped with the everyday bad guys. He's grouped with Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and Pol Pot. He was a mass murder who spilled the blood of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

Despite all that, I cannot forgot that Osama bin Laden was also a human being. He was a human being with thoughts and feelings, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, secrets and regrets, dreams and fears. He was a human being just like I am a human being. Just like you are a human being. I cannot forget this fact because, at the very core of my soul, I know it is wrong to rejoice in the death of another human being. 

In calling myself a universalist, I am saying that I deeply desire the redemption of all human beings and believe that a God who is love will eventually accomplish this task. One of the unexpected side-effects of my "conversion" was that I began to see people in a different light. Growing up in fundamentalist Christianity, I was taught that all people fit into one of two categories: the saved or the damned. The saved are good and the damned are bad. But when you begin to believe that all are saved, you cannot help to begin to see the good in every person.

Universalism has shown me that no person is entirely evil. There is always something worth saving in every soul, so every soul is worth saving. Even Hitler's. And even Osama bin Laden's.

I know there are many out there who would disagree with me. Some might even be disgusted that I would say such things about Hitler and Osama bin Laden, assuming it means that I am not sickened by their acts. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not trying to white-wash these men and others like them. They are mass murders. But they are also human. They are children of a God who is love. Just like me. Just like you. Just like all of us.

Yes, my feelings are mixed. Part of me still wants to celebrate. I cannot deny that. But that part is small in comparison to the part of me that grieves for a fellow human who became so twisted that he believed God wanted him to kill thousands of innocent people.

Osama bin Laden and those like him are far beyond the help of any other person. But I pray for their souls because I know they are not beyond the help of God. I don't know how long it will take or how it will be done, but I believe, at the very core of my soul, that the God who is love can, and will, save every last one of His children, including Osama bin Laden.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful post, Sammy! I loved this thought: "...part of me grieves for a fellow human who became so twisted that he believed God wanted him to kill thousands of innocent people." God loves the oppressor as well as the oppressed, I think because the oppressor has usually been the oppressed.

    Why did bin Laden become what he was? I don't know, but I do believe that we are all capable of the heights of goodness or the depths of evil. Thich Nhat Hahn says we all have all these seeds in us, and what we become depends on which seeds are watered.