Ten years after September 11th, 2001, we stand at a different precipice of the attacks of that day. We are on the other side. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Months ago, it was impossible to escape being informed of this pivotal American moment. I almost didn’t believe it once the news was confirmed, for in the days leading up to the event, I was already asking myself the same questions the rest of the nation would be asking after the news of Osama Bin Ladens death, I even felt as if I had been led to prepare some answers to the questions I would be faced with in the days of the announcement and the onslaught of American opinions. And at the heart of my struggle, I wondered: Did our nation act in the best interests of its citizens? Also, what does it mean to act with compassion?
The night before the announcement, I heard a curious discussion almost directly in relation to the dialogue that would begin after the death of Osama Bin Laden. During the discussion, a question about forgiveness was raised, and the results were very interesting. One person felt that our nation simply retaliated in anger when we declared war against Afghanistan in 2001, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. This person felt that our nation should have tried to negotiate before retaliating, and that we should have been “more forgiving.” To this person, our attack was a sign of our angry and unforgiving hearts; in addition, we had “pride in our hearts” and we had to “save” our pride after being attacked, so we in turn attacked those who had hurt us.
Afterwards, I spoke of what I had heard at the discussion with a friend. We talked about the issue of forgiveness and what we believed was our nation’s reason for the response to the attacks of September 11th, and how a Christian should approach this subject. At one point, we realized that it would be hard for Americans to begin to fathom how individuals like Osama Bin Laden would even aspire to such acts of terrorism. Some would say, “We must give men like Osama Bin Laden a chance. Our response should have been more compassionate.”
Looking back, it now seems I was being prepared for the news I was to receive on Sunday night about Osama Bin Laden. As you can see, I had already been marinated in questions and inner dialogues. I heard there was much rejoicing and singing in the streets that night as the news rang out across the country. And then there were others of a different opinion and mood, saying that this is not how the situation should have ended. I am paraphrasing, but I heard questions such as, “Were we supposed to pray for Osama Bin Laden’s death? Was this the right thing to hope for?” Some answered saying, “We should have prayed for repentance and reconciliation, and that this man would be changed, not killed.”
As I had already sorted out the discussion in my own mind, I would have to say that with respect, I disagree. Let’s say our form of forgiveness would be to let Osama Bin Laden live as he pleases and not try to impose any sort of justice or consequences for his actions upon him in hopes that he would eventually change. Is that compassion? Is it okay to passively let Osama Bin Laden find his path to peace and pray the best for him, despite the havoc that he may reap upon the innocent and the defenseless?
But then we must ask: What about justice? I am troubled if I say in my heart, “Let him go; he may hurt more people, but it’s okay. We’re just trying to let him find his soul; we’re loving him.” But are we neglecting the safety of others by “loving” Osama, and others like him? Yes, we should first pray for our enemies to repent and for reconciliation to occur before we take such drastic actions as we did, but what happens if repentance is not found? The Bible says: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” – (Isaiah 1:17) Are we defending the oppressed, the widows, and the fatherless by letting a man who is allowing himself to be a conduit of evil to roam the world freely? This man planned a highly sophisticated attack against innocent Americans living and working in New York City, and his partners even forced blameless travelers to be part of the destruction without a choice. He gave no warning and had no motivation for his actions other than hatred. Many children are now fatherless, and many wives are now widows due to the actions of Bin Laden. Were we going to plead their cases, or were we simply going to let him escape consequence?
I believe that our nation had to stop a man who weakened himself and allowed Satan to use him to bring destruction and heartache to the world, so that we could defend the oppressed. If we are not careful, I believe that a skewed concept of moral duty could place us in more danger than a terrorist attack and more than any successor of Bin Laden could ever dream of accomplishing. Our mission of defending the widow and orphan might be replaced by, “Are we showing enough compassion to those who don’t react to compassion?” What were we supposed to do? Do you stop a man who refuses to be stopped, or do you let him roam free and oppress the people? The peace we so strongly yearn for, especially within our recent war-weary years, cannot be achieved without actions to halt the destruction of terrorism. Planning acts of terrorism against innocent and defenseless individuals in the world is not promoting the ideal of the harmonious world that we wish to live in. In the last decade, we see that Afghanistan and America have now since been in a resulting turmoil due to the events of September 11th. If we would accept the responsibility to hold men like Bin Laden accountable for their actions against humanity, we would not have such exponential suffering within our world as a consequence.
Jesus Christ tells us the most important law we can keep is to love the Lord God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:26-28). If we neglect taking action against men who plan terrorist attacks against innocents, are we loving these victims by allowing such evil to be perpetrated? What will the result be? Edmund Burke has been famously quoted as saying, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Do we wish to do nothing to allow harm to come to those who cannot defend themselves?
It seems to me that the way that we had to stand up against those who allow evil and perform evil acts is the same as many brave predecessors of Christianity before us. What if Esther had not spoken out for her people, just for the sake of bestowing “compassion” upon Haman? She would have been disobeying God. She had to stand up. She had to be counted. Haman had to be stopped. Also, David had to stop Goliath. It was what he was called to do. What if he had stopped and said, “No, no, I’ll let him keep ravaging the Israelites and I’ll let him terrorize us, he needs love.” In the example of Jesus Christ, we see that He made a noticeable effort against the Pharisees taking advantage of the widows and the oppressed of His day (Mark 12:38-40, Luke 20:46-47). Those who had no defense were on His heart to be compassionate towards. Hear me out: There is a time to love with tenderness, and there is a time for compassion. There is also a time for holding others accountable for their actions, and there is a time where everyone—ourselves included—must suffer the consequences for our actions. Christ showed us forgiveness and He showed us how to love, but at times we see in the example of Christ speaking out against the Pharisees, and so we know there is a time in which compassion also translates to defense against those seeking to harm others. We must show love, but we must also remember to defend the oppressed at the same time.
There is one less proponent of evil in the world, but now I fear that our own misguided sense of compassion could be just as detrimental as the acts Osama Bin Laden perpetrated. I’m not left wondering who will take his place, that question will inevitably be answered with the emergence of a new conduit of injustice. I am left wondering who we will allow to reign on that throne by misguided compassion and ill-focused love? In loving our enemies, we must not neglect the oppressed. I believe this is a statement we must keep in mind –and prayerfully consider in our hearts– when dealing with the evil we see in the world today, especially when we face the new Osama Bin Ladens of the world.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9
Special thanks is due to Viki Stumbers of 2Viki Assistant Services for making this article as clear and concise as possible!