Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will repay.
In the days after 9/11, as we ramped up for war, I was haunted by these words from Scripture. Stopping evil, one thing. But revenge? No deal. Not our prerogative. But this led to a slippery slope of questions and dilemmas. How to discern what is what?
Then, of course, the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who did not condone violence or vengeance but did participate in a plot to assassinate Hitler - and was hung for it. He said he could not justify his actions morally but was obliged to stop a madman from killing others. Moral purity was a luxury he determined he could not afford.
That is a far reach, however, from the blood lust and hatred and gloating over the death of an enemy. Reading the wide range of reactions on the social media last night, and watching the celebrations, "We are the champions!" on television, I was troubled by the spirit of "Nah na na nah, hey, hey, good bye." This wasn't a game that ended, as one sign said, "Obama 1, Osama 0."
I can't even begin to tell you how powerful is the urge for revenge. In the days after I was violently attacked and left broken, and there was no recompense, no justice, not even a word of acknowledgement or regret --- from the bishop of the church, for god's sake, I was furious. The furies ruled.
And I kept these two Scripture texts together in my mind, "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay." (Romans 12: 19-20) along with a second one, that I put right after, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?' 'And I said, 'Here I am, send me!'"
I'll do it! I'll do it! Vengeance, you need help with that, Lord? I'm your girl. Let me at 'em. I'll take care of it. Like you've never seen. It will be done.
That was my joke, but I wasn't being entirely funny. I'd have done it. Well, the bravado said I'd do it.
Not an admission I'm particularly proud of. But there you are.
Taking matters into our own hands when they are best entrusted to wiser ones. I'm glad I've taken that route.
And now here we are with mucho mongo blood on our hands. Repaying evil for evil. One government analyst/official admitted as much this morning, "there was never any plan to take Osama alive. It was, from day one, to bring his head home in a box."
And we are the Christian nation.
When it suits us.
My daughter Annika went to Ground Zero last night, just a short distance from her dorm room at NYU. She went to pray, to reflect. She took the photo of all the kids flashing the peace signs. And she posted this,
"Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble do not let your heart rejoice" Proverbs 24:17 BUT there is much respect to be paid for those that unfairly lost their lives. It's a hard position to judge. Myself? I didn't go to ground zero to celebrate the death of one, but to observe perhaps what could be the beginning of peace.
11 hours ago · Like · 5 people
Vengeance is not safe in human hands. Ever. Ever.
Grief is, though. And so I'm sticking with that. Like many with personal connections to 9/11, who were too numb to cry for days and weeks after the actual loss, last night began and ended with weeping. And it goes on.
Grieving and comforting. I can do that. We can all do that.
We Were There: Photos from the Celebration at Ground Zero
For many, as students and Americans and New Yorkers, there was only one appropriate response to the news of Bin Laden's death-- a return to where it began