The killing of Bin Laden: violence the route to peace?

Just watching Hilary Clinton’s speech on BBC News 24. And these are just some immediate, fairly unprocessed thoughts and questions.

She closed with something along these lines (not verbatim) on the justice and positive outcomes that will flow from the assassination of Osama Bin Laden:

American will never waver. For those pursing peace there is a growing hope and a renewed faith in what is possible.

What do you make of this?

That one act of human violence will lead to a more stable, just and peaceful future? That it is through violence that justice is done and a right order can be re-created? That the killing of Bin Laden and his companions is a cause for celebration, joy and parties in the streets?

[And let’s not sanitise the violence – looking at the pictures of blood all over the floor and of reports of Bin Laden being executed with a shot to the head. His body was then apparently disposed of in haste, at sea. All violence is grim].

That the very idea of America has been vindicated? [I think this is a fair summary of what Hilary Clinton was saying].

This is what Walter Wink, following René Girard, called the myth of redemptive violence (and you don’t have to follow the theology all the way down to appreciate the argument).

Is there any cause to believe that it will actually happen?

And what do we make of such a claim theologically?

The cross of Christ was an act of violence. It was redemptive. But it was God in Jesus freely and lovingly confronting and absorbing human violence and the forces of evil out of  self-giving love. It was the only truly innocent and sinless man, Jesus Christ, dying our death, in our place. It was a unique salvific event.

So when humans try to apply redemptive outcomes to their violence against their enemies I start look for the underlying narrative – and it is always self-justifying.

Violence is painted as a morally uncomplicated choice with obviously good outcomes. The enemy is wholly and totally evil. ‘Our’ own violence is justified since we are part of forces for good. ‘Our’ injustices (eg the killing of innocent civilians and others in years of bloody conflict) are erased from the narrative.

Any good nationalist narrative will tell a similiar black & white tale. We’ve had our fair share of such narratives in Ireland (and continue to do so).

I’m not for a minute suggesting that alternative reactions to 9/11 were easy or obvious or saying that those that engage in mass murder should not be brought to justice.

But I am suggesting that Christians should be asking hard questions of such narratives.

As followers of the one true Lord, they belong to a different ‘world order’, the kingdom of God. Their citizenship is in heaven, they follow the Prince of Peace, wherever it leads and whatever it costs.

Comments, as ever, welcome


3 thoughts on “The killing of Bin Laden: violence the route to peace?

  1. As violent as Bin Laden has been, I found hard to celebrate or to empathize with those who are celebrating. I can understand that for those who have been affected, his death might bring some comfort but I very much doubt that it will bring peace. Ghandi used to say:” an eye for an eye, so that the whole world will be blind”, I totally agree with him. The killing has not lead to any dialogue but has fuelled more anger and I do agree with you, the killing is viewed as the “winning” of a nation or of western culture as if we in the west are above others, as those who do not practice any act of violence.

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