Respecting grim satisfaction

Osama Bin Laden is dead, and there seems to be rejoicing at that fact, a sort of ‘ha, he got what was coming to him!’ I can understand the idea that this is not Christian – the rejoicing in the death of any human being seems incompatible with Christianity. Yet I don’t see an incompatibility between accepting that and also accepting that the death of OBL was something to be pursued. It ties in with the wider pacifism/ Christendom arguments, on which topic I am someone who accepts the theology of ‘just war’ (and accept that this is a language that has often been abused to justify the unjustifiable). The core issue, for me, is about how to live in a fallen world. I accept the need for some to witness to the higher truth of pacifism as a specific calling (eg the Quakers), but for the general order of humanity I don’t see a problem in accepting violence, in specific contexts, as a lesser sin than the alternative. In a fallen world there are situations where no right choice is possible, as with Sophie’s Choice. As my ethics tutor at university so memorably put it ‘Hitler had to be stopped’. Quite so. Grim satisfaction seems the appropriate response.

The most important thing for a Christian, as I see it, is not to become persuaded of ‘righteous violence’, in other words, to still see the resort to violence as sin and in need of forgiveness and redemption. The tightrope might appear absurd, but it really is possible to walk on it.

One thought on “Respecting grim satisfaction

  1. I find the ‘celebrations’ pretty distasteful… but, yes, a sort of justice has been done.

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