Obliged to think about... Osama

Big events should make us think, and as someone said, “I think as I write and I write as I think.” So this week I’m going to try to think and right about three seemingly big things that lots of Christians are writing about and some are thinking about: the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Royal Wedding, and Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins.

Despite globalisation, despite Britain’s past and present involvement in the Middle East, despite even the attacks of 7/7 and other attempts in the UK, Osama bin Laden has always felt like America’s scourge, not ours. This was his rhetoric, and became theirs, with Britain no more than the Great Satan’s Mini-me. This assessment of our adjusted status in the world is mirrored by what is now considered a quintessentially British attitude of coolly ironic detachment. It comes from losing history’s largest Empire whilst watching our errant offspring take the mantle of world leader, and leads us to regard the chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” with patronising outrage whilst forgetting that our own era of global hegemony brought forth such humble anthems as:
When Britain first, at Heaven's command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”
From a Christian perspective, the potent brew of personified evil, death, judgement and God’s sovereignty has led to a battle of the Bible verses on Twitter and elsewhere. This is what happens when the truth is found somewhere between two popular extremes. John Piper spells this out: “God approves and disapproves the death of Osama bin Laden.” You can fit that in a Tweet, but not the explanation it requires. You certainly can’t fit it into a careless thought and you shouldn’t try.

The Lead Article writer for The Times on Tuesday made an interesting choice in their opening statement: “When evil goes unpunished, justice, peace and reconciliation remain blighted in its shadow.” The sense of justice that seems to exist naturally within us, that wrong acts cannot be allowed to exist without response, comes throbbing to the fore at moments such as 9/11, or whenever you suffer loss at the hands of another. This is not the extrapolation of instinctive self-preservation within a society, I believe we know this because we bear the likeness of a just Maker. God has appointed two places where His ultimate justice is reckoned: the cross on which Jesus died, and Hell. (I’ll probably write more about this when discussing Love Wins.) So Christians must promote justice as one of the many ways in which we herald the coming of Jesus’ Kingdom. That’s a more complicated task than coming up with a quote or a Bible verse to post on the Internet so let’s see how many of us rise to that challenge.