- "Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you." ---Jesus of Nazareth
- "Sometimes you just have to put your religion in the drawer and fry the bastards." --- a person speaking in a church forum on the death penalty
- "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord.--the prophet Isaiah
- "Justice was done." President Barack Obama
He was killed with precision in a covert mission by Navy Seals.
Upon the President's announcement there was dancing in the streets. Literally.
At the White House, Ground Zero, on college campuses, military academies....
A palpable sense of national pride matched with relief rose up. Curiosity of the who, what, where, when and how gave way to bewilderment coming from the realization that something we never thought would happen, did.
The word "justice" was spoken. "Closure" was uttered.
And within me there was relief...gladness...pride in the courage and valor of those who do things in real life that I only watch dramatized on TV. The gathering of people celebrating across political lines was wonderful to observe because I'm so fatigued of rank partisanship.
Yeah, I felt those things, too.
And yet, as a Companion of Jesus, I found it a feeling hardly satisfying. For like it was almost 10 years ago, I found myself placed in a position of having to grapple with what it means to be a citizen of a country, and citizen of the Realm of God. And what do I do if those two things seems to be, at least for me, on divergent trajectories?
Too much of our country's civil religion co-opts Christianity as impetus to justify any action taken. This is not new. It's just manifest destiny of another kind. There's "cover" in that belief system. It's the cover and justification that comes from believing that your country can do no wrong and that to execute "justice" in this world, as we understand it, or at least as that which benefits us, is doing "God's work."
We talk about "God and country." Reality shows that the way too many Christians live with the order reversed.
We allow ourselves to believe that to live under the banner of the Christian flag (a strange thing that's been around only for about 100 years created by a Sunday School Superintendent) is to live under the banner of the American flag. The two take prominent place in many of our sanctuaries (whether or not there should be flags in our sanctuaries is a conversation for another time, but the short answer is no, I don't think there should be....the narthex? maybe, but the sanctuary? not so much).
As citizen of a country, one attacked...one that suffered mightily as a result of that attack, one that lives every day with new realities we must attend because of what happened then, the feeling of making a horrific wrong right seems more than justified. Geopolitically speaking, it is the only response that makes sense.
But is it the response that would make the One I call "Lord," inclined to say "well done, good and faithful servant?"
Does Jesus say to us, "You killed a guy. Great job!"
Does the One who comforts us in our grief, celebrate with us in our vengeance realized?
Do we really not know the answer to that question?
While it is our joy to proclaim Jesus as Lord....it is another thing altogether to let him be the Lord of who we are, what we do, what we think, and how we respond when the other things to which we pledge allegiance at least gives us pause to reflect upon whether or not the two things square.
I'm not one who can react to what has happened without a tug of war in my spirit. That this story is one of such global import places it in high relief. But the truth is there's something everyday that challenges the priority of the varied citizenships we hold.
Bin Laden's death is but one of the daily challenges for we who are people of faith. And it is far better to live into the tension of inner conflict than the blind certainty that there is none whatsoever.
But there's this unavoidable truth to which we must all come to some resolution---in the end, there's room for only one loyalty above all.
- "Choose this day whom you will serve." Joshua
- "You're gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody." -- Bob Dylan
- "The Lord our God is one, and you shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." -- the Shema