Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Small Sips Stayed Up Really Late on Sunday Night

I Hate That You Did Something I Liked. If you're like me, then you were about to go to bed around 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night until you happened to log on to Twitter and saw that President Obama was scheduled to make an important late-night announcement but wouldn't say about what. Worried that a nuke was heading right for your house, you sat through 45 minutes of blathering and time filler by Wolf Blitzer, during which the announcement was somehow leaked through social media before the actual statement. You then continued to endure the CNN guys saying nothing in order to hear from Obama, out of principle if nothing else for sitting through Blitzer saying, "bin Laden is dead" no less than 500,000 times.

Anyway, my fellow "tweeps" (I guess that's what the kids say) were making all sorts of comments about what this would mean for Obama politically, and how his detractors couldn't help but give him credit.

Or not. Daily Kos compiles a few Republican reactions to his statement:
What a quandary for Republicans. On the one hand, the guy who President Bush told us, constantly, was an evil doer who hated America and freedom and couldn't even understand the joy of Chanukah is dead. On the other hand, the Kenyan socialist with the fake birth certificate is responsible. Most of the potential Republican presidential candidates couldn't even bring themselves to mention the president's name, let alone praise him for his victory. And as for the rest? Do they dare give the president credit for doing what Bush could not?
What follows are quotes from people accusing Obama of doing things like "strutting around like a peacock" and only doing it to increase his poll numbers.

Really? The political party that accused Obama of being soft on national defense is now condemning him for accomplishing arguably the #1 defense-related priority of the past decade, for doing the thing that Bush and Co. talked about constantly from September 12, 2001 until the last day of that administration? Who's really concerned about poll numbers and scoring cheap political points here?

The Bible Clearly Says So, Except Where It Doesn't. Greg at The Parish analyzes his Sunday night social media experience in terms of how his Christian friends reacted:
I should say immediately that I'm not going to take sides on which Christian tribe is more correct with their use of Scripture. I simply don't care at this point. As long as they aren't using it to keep gay people single, they can pretty much do what they want with the pacifists versus flag waving evangelicals versus violent fetishists versus the hippie Jesus camp. My intent here is to highlight what I said many times as I exited the faith: you can make that Book do anything once you decide what you believe. Two camps make this abundantly clear.

For my friends on the Christus Victor/pacifist/anabaptist side of the debate, the judgment was swift. No one should celebrate the death of another, even an evil other. Proof texts were supplied: "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked," and other verses did duty beyond their prophetic tradition. Rene Girard's name was quickly tossed out, along with an appeal to avoid scapegoating.[...]

There was a catharsis of sorts, though. Certainly for those who were directly affected by 9/11, the evening held what one friend who lost a brother in the attacks described as a bittersweet sense of justice. That sort of catharsis makes sense. The Christians tossing out imprecatory psalms as a form of theological justification and community catharsis was entirely bizarre. Again, proof texts were supplied. "But the wicked shall perish...," etc. It's a way of saying, "I know I'm supposed to love the enemy, but the Bible seems to indicate that I can whoop it up for a second before I pray for his soul."
I saw similar things happening on both Twitter and Facebook, and maybe you did as well. The sides were very similar to what Greg describes: one side cited Jesus' command to pray for one's enemies, the Ezekiel text quoted above, and a fake Martin Luther King quote (along with some real ones) talking about not taking pleasure in an enemy's death. The other side, while for me didn't explicitly name any texts, did reference hell quite often and with at least a hint of glee. For my own part, I just told everyone about the fake MLK quote and otherwise kept to myself.

But Greg's larger point is a familiar one: we easily make the Bible state what we want in order to justify our political opinions, emotions, and lifestyles. It's a well-known and dangerous game, and bin Laden's death provided yet another example of how this is done.

Life and Death. Thanks to Twitter, I've discovered a number of new bloggers, one of whom is Gene at Rucksack Revolution. He shares his own reaction to the news of bin Laden's death:
I thought today would be a day to recall death, in all it's terrible ramifications...a day of remembrance of those who died nearly 10 years ago...a day to consider the death of the man who was held responsible for all those deaths.

But that is not how today has turned out all.

As I write this blogpost, I am sitting in a hospital room with a woman I hardly know. She is homeless and 9 months pregnant. She is somewhat mentally challenged. She has no family in the area.

It appears she is going to give birth later this evening to a baby boy.

I brought her to the hospital from church and will be with her in the delivery room.

Today is a day of death...but it is also a day of life.
Gene's reflections (all of which you need to go read right now if you haven't already) captures the sort of conflicted feelings that I think many people felt when they first heard the news. Obviously his is grounded in particular and amazing experiences, both 10 years ago and the night of the announcement, but on a more general level I've seen many reactions from people, particularly Christians, who remember what 9/11 was like and who didn't like bin Laden, but also recognize that Jesus doesn't necessarily call us to join up with the singing and chanting mobs in front of the White House.

I myself am not grieving bin Laden. I admit to my own feelings of satisfaction and relief when I heard the news. As much as I'd like to present myself as a saintly disciple who felt no such things and whose first thoughts were of praying for my enemies, I am not that. I recall visiting Ground Zero in 2007 and being moved to silence the whole time we were there. I recall very well my feelings on that September morning. I also recall my disgust with the cycle of violence that has ensued in the decade since, my worry about the future of this planet as a result, my frustration with people whose fear and ignorance of all things Muslim has inspired an incredible amount of hateful words and actions. And today, I worry about revenge attacks; the cycle continuing no matter how much people insist that this was the end of something.

I, like Gene, pray for something good to come from this.