bin laden with questions

12 05 2011

The world we live in is flat, was created in 7 days and morality is as black & white as a zebra. There are no further questions.

The thing is, the world appears to be a sphere. Genesis appears not to be attempting to be a construction manual. And the closer you look at a zebra, the more the black and the white hairs seem to be a mixed-up and blended in.

It is important to me that our faith in the resurrected Christ impacts on all areas of our life. And those lives are all mixed up. Which is why sometimes I write about my own faith journey, sometimes about politics, sometimes about music. Because there is no place in which Jesus is not. As Rob Bell said, everything is spiritual. There is no sacred/secular divide. 

Which brings us to the death of Osama bin Laden. Immediately I heard the news, I was concerned about the language that was used. ‘Taken out’, ‘eliminated’, and all kinds of other euphemisms. I was concerned about the celebrations that were taking place in America, though thankfully it would seem only in America. People from Pakistan were killed on 9/11 too, though that is easily forgotten. 

But what difference does me being concerned make? Am I just being pious, do I live in a cloud-cuckoo-land where a fair and just trial for bin Laden would cause more problems than there already were? Maybe. But I think we are right to think about these things. We are right to ask difficult questions to those who act on our behalf. There may well be good answers. But we must ask the questions. Because the Jesus I know was not afraid to ask them. The Jesus I know sought justice for the oppressed and he also sought integrity from the powerful.

Richard Littledale notes how mixed-up those things are in posting this picture:


Many have commented on bin Laden’s death so I won’t repeat what has been said, but provide some links to those discussions. 

Tom Wright caused a bit of a storm by comparing the execution to America’s obsession with ‘exceptionalism’, based on the Wild West model of being beyond the law, writing in the Guardian and quoted by Ian Paul; Will Cookson has offered a response to that and to the question of whether Bishops have anything to say on global political issues. Journalists often criticize them for speaking out,  whilst at the same time reporting what they say. 

Nick Baines responds to the accusations of Bishop’s ‘hand-wringing’ with this example:

For example, my own involvement in Zimbabwe led me to believe that unless and until the rule of law is established there, little else can happen to sort the place out. What should Robert Mugabe learn from the killing of Bin Laden? Either the rule of law is fundamental or it isn’t.

These questions are important. We must be uncomfortable, even if we decide that the situation could be no other way. The moment we stop being uncomfortable, the moment we don’t allow ourselves to be deeply concerned, is the moment we are no longer being ambassadors of the radical, life-changing, transformative and very very resurrected Jesus. Because life is not simple. And Jesus is not on our side.




9 responses

12 05 2011

I too was uncomfortable when I heard the news, and somewhat relieved when I saw the Archbishop’s comments and also Bishop Tom Wright.

Feeling that I should share my uncomfortableness in order to contribute to the public debate I wrote to the Daily Telegraph and also got involved in a debate on its website. All but one of the letters published were, in the interests of balance, anti the Archbishop in an agressive way.

The responses on the web site made me feel even more uncomfortable than I had been. The saw no reason to do anything other than applaud the murder of Bin Laden and wondered what it had to do with the Church. They could not see that we have descended to the level of the terrorists and were not prepared to countenance debate.

What has become of this country when we condone terrorism and murder and allow terrorists to take away our own freedoms in the name of protecting society. Surely society is about our ethics and our freedom of action and speech. In supoporting the murder, rather than bringing to a fair trial, of an unarmed and sick man, by invading foreigners who had no permission to be there, we have surrendered the moral high ground.

We need more people to feel uncomfortable and to speak up.

12 05 2011
faith rowbury

Like the zebra stripes – life is intermingled – intermingled with good and bad;happy and sad;up and down;left and right;the right decision and the wrong decisions, forgiving and unforgiving,passion and anger, changing and unchanging and there right in the centre of it all is our Lord Jesus Christ – the Holy one sent to teach,forgive,love,inspire,enrich,to die for us. And he is there right at the centre of the all the waves of intermingling going on around us and him.

At the centre of our lives, those who have searched found him here waiting, with open arms. Those who just accepted him, no questions asked, found him here waiting,with open arms too.

Jesus is here, the centre of everything – in the person who smiled at you today when you felt sad, in the cuddle,in the love,when you needed help,the person who forgave you, in all the things that we love and adore.

And Jesus is here, at the centre of everything – when we cry,when we mourn,when we make the wrong decision,when we’re hurting,when we hurt others,in all the things that make us sad and all the things we do when we muck up – even big style muck ups.

And Jesus is here, waiting for those of us who have not yet accepted his presence, accepted his power,accepted his Holiness,accepted his forgiveness, those who have not yet searched for his wisdom, or searched for the truth. He is here.

Go on, and ask Jesus the most important questions ever, and he will answer.


13 05 2011

But Kevin says Jesus is not on our side. I have asked him questions, he never answers. Kevin is right 😦

13 05 2011

Hi sam, thanks for this response… Alas when I said God is not on our side I meant in terms of the ‘war on terror’ and which humans are better or worse and can claim the moral high-ground… God is above taking sides, seeking only justice and mercy.

However, I have a feeling you knew that. Your honesty is appreciated. Many times we seek answers from God and he appears to be – or actually is – silent. That is hard. But as a person, loved and valued and created, I believe God is – and can be and will be – on your side.

13 05 2011

But how can I believe in something which gives me nothing. I have been an “atheist” for so long but I long to believe. This is the reason I became interested in your site, I started off looking at Jehovahs Witnesses (I’ve been through every religion) and ended up here. I don’t know anybody that wants to believe more than I do, but I keep getting knocked back. I’m more inclined to believe there is a devil (which means there must be a God!!) Would like to talk to someone, maybe you could suggest a church in my area (Lowestoft). Lost both my parents (why I don’t and do believe in God, if that makes sense) so would be nice to talk to someone, friends don’t count, too busy with own lives.

By the way, the killing of Osama, loved the quote from Martin Luther King, something along lines of I will grieve when thousands die but will not rejoice when one person dies even if they are my enemy. Just in case you were wondering!!!

13 05 2011
faith rowbury

Hi Sam – u know babe have u prayed for Jesus?For him to reveal himself to you?to lead you to the truth?for his love and help and guidance?maybe pray to him for these things – Jesus is here for you, for me,everyone babe – concentrate on him, rather than a particular ‘religion’m, and then the rest will come as and when.

I believe that Jesus has led you here to Kevin’s blog – Jesus is in you, he is everywhere x

Feel free to add me as friend if you want babe on facebook – Faith Rowbury – I am by no means an ‘expert’, but I do know that Jesus wants you to open up to him xxxx

13 05 2011

Sam, sometimes it can start with peace. Its so hard to believe in God when life gets tough. When i was 20 my best friend was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He died when we were both 24. he lived with it for four years. Before his diagnosis his faith was all over the place. He was gorgeous looking and had the pick of all the women. Within months of being 20 his hair had all fallen out his body was bigger due to the steroids and the women fell away. He learnt to stand up through the trial. He sought out the peace of God to get him through. He changed in amazing ways and became one of the most humble people i have ever known. The horrrible horrible trial of facing death developed an even more incredible human being. I wish he was still alive, i wish he had lived on, but i know that those 4 years made him extra-ordinary. When we face death right in the eyes it is really really hard to hold on to the hope that this crazy faith offers. I think peace can be a good place to start. theres this bit in a psalm that says i will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, i will guide you with my loving eyes. Psalm 32. Jesus goes on about ‘seeking him’ and you will ‘find him’. He knows your looking, keep going with the search.

14 05 2011

Good blog Kevin. What we believe inevitably defines our reality. For people who believe in war and God, it’s a short step to believing that God’s will is for them to fight. Personally, I believe that God says he will always be with us. So if I go to war, or into a killing arena, I think God has no option but to be dragged into the conflict with me. But he probably wouldn’t choose to be there.
Bono summed up this faith reality thing in another context when he sang Heaven has to be believed to be seen.
I was moved by Sam’s comment above. My parents died when I was a teenager. I would have been very angry with God if I wasn’t an atheist. How annoying! Much later, I was persuaded to try seeing by believing. Choosing to believe in God and seeing where that takes me has persuaded me many times since that God is real. My understanding of God though will inevitably be different from other peoples in some respects but for me that’s part of the journey of discovering what might be true and what isn’t. God doesn’t change. But what we believe about him is probably changing all the time.
We need to be careful about claiming that God supports our actions, whatever they might be. He may well be with us, but all the choices are ours and we should take responsibility for them. Bin Laden was a child of God too. He was entitled to a trial.

14 05 2011

Thanks guys for some amazingly personal stories. Funny really, write a blog on Osama bin Laden and you end up with bereavement, death, the absence of God and the presence of God. Edge, I think you’ve summed it up well. Thank you all.

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