Usama bin Laden has been sent to met his maker, and the meeting did not go all that well, either at the temporal or spiritual level.
Shortly thereafter, a quote began appearing on Facebook and Twitter:
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.”
Attributed to Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately for those wishing to cast a holier-than-thou shadow, Megan McArdle has done her homework and the shadow falls short. Somewhat.
The quote is a mishmash of the sentiments of Jessica Dovey, English teacher in Kobe, Japan, and a sermon excerpt of the assassinated reverend. Miss Dovey posted to her Facebook account the following:
I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.
So it seems clear (at least to me) that the mis-attribution came because people are generally illiterate and can’t parse English punctuation correctly. In their haste to fit within 140 characters, they picked the wrong person to attribute the quote to.
But what of the sentiment, and what of the quote? As the quote made its way around Facebook, I would comment that it is a “Nice sentiment, but fake quote” and link to the McArdle article. A typical response went something like “So? I agree with the quote, even if its fake!”
As a Christian, it is hard for me to disagree with Miss Dovey’s quote. I can’t rejoice in Usama’s death, since he died not knowing Christ. There’s nothing joyful in that, and the only joy that can be found is in the fact that his sin no longer harms others. Sadly, the end of his sin also came with the end of his life, instead of the beginning of his new life with Christ. So no, I do not rejoice at the death of an enemy.
But I can’t help but notice that Dr. King’s quote begs a question: if only love can drive out hate, what is the object of the love, and what is the object of the hate?
If a person is hated for their acts, but will not change from those acts, what constitutes love towards that person? Is it love of the person coupled with a hatred of their acts? If so, how and where does one draw the line between the person and the acts?
Personally, the mitigating factor of the necessity of ending Usama’s life was his refusal to change his ways. The blood of Jesus can cover a great many things, even the murder of innocents, but the sinner must be willing to repent. Usama would not do that, so to prevent him from murdering again he had to be killed. Prison would not be good enough, as the likelihood of his escape would increase with the length of his incarceration. But how does a Christian justify this? Luke 11:42 has an answer:
But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
Justice and love of God are put in equality here. For me, the balance comes at the fulcrum of repentance. If a person will repent, then apply mercy. If they won’t, then favor punishment. Either way, there is justice and love, because repentance earns mercy by the power of Jesus, the ultimate expression of love and the only completely fair applier of justice. Unrepentance earns punishment (the application of the crime to the criminal) because it the unrepentant one stands without the mercy offered by Jesus, and does not express a love of God because he is unrepentant of his sins.
So from where I see things, Usama received what he deserved, but we should not rejoice at his death. We should rejoice that justice was done, even though it cost a man his life.