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 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 sorts, 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 utopians 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.