Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden is dead.

Osama bin Laden is dead. That is clearly old news at this point, but to be quite frank I didn't care much about the fact that he was killed. Tens of thousands of people have died in our crusade to kill this one man. Their deaths collectively seem to merit more attention to me. (For example, more people should really be asking the question: is any man worth it?) We did, however, stay up the night it was announced to see what exactly the president had to say. When Geraldo broke the news to us that the announcement was about bin Laden's death, we went to sleep.

What interests me more than his death is the response that came in the wake of his death. Geraldo was positively giddy, delighted in a way that would have put any school girl to shame. In addition to seeming unprofessional, it struck me as inappropriate that anyone should be so very delighted about the death of another human being no matter how "evil" he may have been. Unfortunately, Geraldo was not alone. The whole country seemed to be elated at the idea that this one man had finally been killed, as if our whole national consciousness had no greater aim in the decade since the September, 11 attacks. It was unnerving. After weeks of believing that I was largely alone in my distaste of this shameless reveling in death, a poll has shown that a majority of American Christians (albeit a slim majority) believe that the response to bin Laden's death was inconsistent with biblical teachings:

Americans are more conflicted over whether Christian values are consistent with the raucous celebrations that broke out after bin Laden was killed. About 60 percent of respondents—ranging from seven in 10 minority Christians to just over half of white mainline Protestants—believe the Bible’s message, “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,” applies to the death of bin Laden.

I was relieved to find that so many others were uneasy, so many other recognized the blatantly inconsistency between the way Jesus tells us to treat our enemies and the way the American people reacted to bin Laden's death. That relief was, however, immediately met with a new round of disappointment when the same poll revealed that some eighty percent of Evangelicals believe that bin Laden is at this moment burning eternally in hell. Why are we bothering to take a stand on his eternal resting place at all? Are we in the judgement seat? I wonder if perhaps what this poll really reveals is that 80% of evangelicals are too concerned about the eternal disposition of the souls of others and not concerned enough about their own.

In other, even more disturbing, findings:

-- A slim majority (53 percent) of Americans say the U.S. should follow the Golden Rule and not use any methods on our enemies that we would not want used on our own soldiers—down from 2008, when 62 percent agreed.

Support for the Golden Rule principle was strongest among minority Christians, Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans (all with majorities above 52 percent), but less so among evangelicals (47 percent) and mainline Protestants (42 percent).

-- Younger Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 (69 percent) are more likely to believe the Bible passage about not celebrating “when your enemies fall” applies to bin Laden than do those age 65 and older (47 percent).

-- Religiously unaffiliated Americans (57 percent) are significantly more likely than Christians to say the use of torture against suspected terrorists can never be justified. Catholics, at 53 percent, are the Christian group most likely to say torture can never be justified.

-- Majorities of white evangelicals (54 percent) and minority Christians (51 percent) believe God had a hand in locating bin Laden, compared to only a third of white mainline Protestants and 42 percent of Catholics.

-- A slim majority (51 percent) of Americans believe God has granted America a special role in human history, led by two-thirds of evangelicals and nearly as many (63 percent) minority Christians, compared to 51 percent of Catholics and white mainline Protestants.

Prothero said he was most surprised by the Golden Rule responses, which indicate that half the country is willing to disregard Christianity’s most commonly expressed teaching—at least, when it comes to wartime.

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