Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A time to reflect

I confess I have conflicting feelings about the death of Osama bin Laden. On the one hand, bin Laden was responsible for far more than just the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He was also responsible for terrorist attacks around the world as far back as 1992. Bin Laden funded the Luxor Massacre in 1997. In 1998, the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed by Al Qaeda operatives. In 2000, Al Qaeda was behind the bombing of the USS Cole - an attack which killed Seaman Apprentice Craig B. Wibberley, a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church where I serve.

I confess I am relieved that Osama bin Laden's money and charisma will no longer be directly funneled into Al Qaeda. But I am reminded of one of my ethics professors in seminary who was involved in international affairs who shared with us a letter written by Osama bin Laden - a letter never published in the United States. In that "open letter to the American people," bin Laden leveled the accusation that the United States really only cares about using other countries to satisfy their selfish needs for oil and money. He pointed out how the U.S. has propped up the Saudi royal family (of which bin Laden was a member) and ignored how the vast majority of Saudis live in poverty with little education. You could hear in his letter the anger over how the United States fails to live up to the ideals we espouse of "liberty and justice for all" when it comes to dealing with other countries.

When I heard this letter read, I was struck by the fact that bin Laden was not completely wrong in his accusations. I disagree with his premise that the best way to confront injustice was to carry out terrorist actions, but I did not completely disagree with his accusations of our country's selfish ambitions.

The shadow of Osama bin Laden has loomed large over the lives of our young people - including my two daughters who were just 3 and 6 at the time of the attacks. I understand the exuberance of youth wanting to express their relief; but rather than celebrate, I find myself a bit more introspective about judging what is "good" and what is "evil." As Jesus said, the wheat and the tares will grow up together and it is only at the end when God will rightly judge which is which.