I just read that Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan, ending a nearly ten year long manhunt. I was just coming to faith in the time of the 9/11 attacks. My going to church was not a response to that, as my conversion was already underway. But I do wonder now how my formation has been shaped by that day and by the wars that were unleashed in its wake. I also wonder how the church's response or non-response has shaped my thinking onthe role of the church in the world. At the height of the 2004 election campaign, it was hard to tell some Sundays whether I was going to hear the Word of God or a Democratic party campaign address. At the same time, I have prayed on many Sundays for the loved ones of parishoners who were serving in the various wars, that they might come home safely and for those who did not. And still, the service around July 4th almost always makes me cry, and I choke up singing; unable to give voice to the words because of the emotions within.
A long time ago, in a world where we worried about Soviet communism, I myself sat cocooned within a submarine, somewhere in the Atlantic ocean, ready to rain nuclear death upon nameless millions on behalf of my country. We never did of course, and many will argue that it was because we were prepared to do so that it never happened. They may be right, but I'm no longer so sure. I've met lots of people from the formerly soviet Eastern Europe and Russia, and none yet have seemed deserving of death by nuclear weapons. I know they were willing to do the same to me, and yet from the perspective of today it is hard to see why we should have been so willing to spend so much of our time, treasure and talent on such an endeavor. I am pretty sure that we should have prayed the prayer for our enemies more often (it's on p816 of the Book of Common Prayer), it goes like this;
For our Enemies
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge;
and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Over the past few months, the people of the Middle East have risen up in several countries and demanded release from the oppression of their governments. Many, too many, suggest these folks are in some way not capable of democratic and republican forms of government. Mostly such comments seem to me to be the manifestation of an irrational fear of Islam. It seems ironic that people who argue for a greater inclusion of their own religous beliefs in the political realm would argue against other peoples desire for the same. People are driven to violence because of the brokenness and sinfulness of human nature, not because of the inherent tendencies of their religion. There's a story about a guy named Jesus who was executed at the behest of his religous authorities that speaks well to this.
In some ways, Osama Bin Laden is already a figure of the past. his death will not end the long American wars in Southwest Asia. But in the uprisings of the Arab Spring, it seems the Islamic people have already rejected his vision. His way is really of the past, when, as always, the only available path is forward.