Worshippers face moral questions over Bin Laden death


by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News and Associated Press


Posted on August 22, 2011 at 12:03 PM

SEATTLE -- In the first Sunday services since the death of Osama bin Laden, churches across the region reflected on questions of morality: How does one reconcile "love thy enemies" with killing Public Enemy No. 1?

"I think every one of the religions of the world supports life and not hate," said Father Paul Magnano of Christ Our Hope Church in downtown Seattle. "It's continuing his legacy if all we do is rejoice in his hatred, his death."

Deacon Larry McDonald said it concerned him to see images around the U.S. of people cheering "like it was some kind of athletic triumph," but he added that it is all right as long as people were cheering over the protection of innocent lives, as opposed to the death of a human being.

"I decided that evening as I watched that that I was going to talk about the sacredness of human life," said McDonald.  "As Americans should we really be celebrating? Because I think we're better than that."

For those of the cloth, it seems to come down to celebrating relief versus revenge.  While none of the clergy or churchgoers we spoke with deny that Bin Laden committed serious crimes, they also said their focus was on praying for peace.

It's not just Christian leaders.

"There is no doubt that this man was a thug, he was a murderer," Imam Hassan al-Qazwini told worshipers at the Islamic Center of America in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. "His hands were stained by the blood of thousands of innocent people — Muslims and non-Muslims alike."

But while the imam said Bin Laden was "responsible for tarnishing the image of Islam in this country," he discouraged them from showing jubilation over the death.

On Tuesday, the Dalai Lama said though bin Laden may have deserved compassion as a human being, it's sometimes necessary to take counter-measures.

Reform Rabbi Eric Wisnia, of Princeton, N.J.'s Congregation Beth Chaim, said the human impulse to rejoice when an evil criminal is brought to justice is understandable, with one important caveat: "Had he been captured, I would have hoped we would have had the same celebration."

At Quest Church in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood, Pastor Eugene Cho noticed similar discussions brewing from his members, in prayer services and on Facebook.

"It grieves me a little bit personally to see Christians particularly using words like 'I'm so happy' and 'I'm rejoicing' that we've killed bin Laden," he said. "We have to encourage people in our church... to think in more nuanced ways about the complexities of our world."

"We long for peace.  We pray for peace.  But we also can acknowledge that we live in a broken world where there is war and strife and tension," he added.

"I'm still processing a lot of what's been going on this last week," said churchgoer Vanessa Lee. "Whenever somebody in some entity is labeled as the other and as the enemy, I think it's just overly simplified."

"You definitely are excited and hope for a safer world," said Jake Buter, "There's mixed emotions and reactions."

Ultimately, Cho acknowledges the burden of faith may be having to forgive, even if you never forget.

"To love our enemies," he told his congregation, "I don't know if that's easy for you, but it's hard for me. To love our enemies."