In Oct. 2001, we left church - it was a typical Sunday - and went to CiCi's Pizza. We were with another family and had 5 kids between us so as we entered the restaurant, the adults were intent on herding kids and figuring out which ones were full price and which were young enough to get a discount. It wasn't until the cash register stuff had been taken care of and I had my tray, that I noticed our young son staring up at a wild-eyed, bearded man on the television. It was Osama bin Laden and the television coverage was about our strikes against Afghanistan in retaliation for their support of the 9/11 attack.
Clearly, we were at war.
We directed the kids to a table away from the television and steered the conversation away from the on-going news. Soon, someone changed the channel. Our son never commented on what he had just seen so I gradually decided that it hadn't made much of an impression on him.
The next morning, on the way to school, our son was quiet until we had almost reached our destination. Then, out of nowhere, I heard his subdued voice say, "Mom, that guy on t.v. said that Americans would live in fear from now on and that we would never be safe again. Is that true?" It took me a minute to realize what he was referring to. But it only took seconds to pick up on the fear in his voice.
For the sake of all the children who "got" bin Laden's message on that particular day, I'm glad that the U.S. government sent a strong message of their own this week. As a mother and a teacher, I have no problems with the fact that our special forces took bin Laden out and I devoutly hope that someday men like him will just be a paragraph in a history book and that future generations will never know first-hand what terrorism is. When I say "future generations", I mean Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhists, etc. - that all children in years to come will be spared the spectacle of terrorism as well as any attempts to indoctrinate them into it.
From another perspective, as someone who comes from a family which has served for three generations in the military, I have no problem applauding the Navy Seals and in fact, all the men and women who worked for months to bring justice to bin Laden. To say they risked their lives is an understatement. While Osama was barricaded behind fortress-like walls topped with barbed wire, our men were dropping through the air from helicopters, risking everything. I'm grateful for every person in our military who is willing to put it all on the line for us and I don't mean that as a cliche.
From a third and final perspective, as a Christian, I had no problem praying for bin Laden - that his eyes would be opened, that false ideas would be removed from his mind, that his heart would be changed, and that he would enter into a relationship with God who truly is benevolent, merciful, and loving. To me, it is a tragedy that anyone could live their entire adult life believing that cold-blooded mass murder could ever be a direct path to the heart of God. I just can't fathom that.
And in spite of the fact that I am repulsed by what he did, I still hate to think that a person - any person - could live and die serving, even craving, such a blood-thirsty, uncaring deity. It's not his death that makes me shudder; it is his life. While victimization is not high on my list, I would far rather be a victim of such a person than to actually be that person.
In the final analysis, I think the U.S. sent the right message: bin Laden terrorized our citizens more than once, caused countless deaths, and bragged about it. Our country is built on justice and I believe the strike that ended bin Laden's life was just. And now, while the debate rages on about how this will affect terrorism (the hydra-headed monster will rock on; the death of one terrorist won't stop it.. and, yes, it will probably even get worse in the short-run as revenge rears it's head ....) - while this debate rocks on, I think the real debate centers on this:
Where is bin Laden standing right now.. and what will it take to reach potential bin Laden's before they unknowingly enter into a pact with the Devil?
The U.S. government, our military, our intelligentsia and our media don't have the answers to these questions. Christ talked about hell as a real place and I have no problem believing that bin Laden is, at this moment, facing a justice that makes anything we've done to him look like nothing at all. To put it bluntly, we are the least of his problems right now. He stands before a holy God and if that isn't a sobering thought, I don't know what is.
As to how we can prevent today's children from developing into full-grown bin Ladens tomorrow, the Bible says that God can do more than we can even imagine or think ... but it also basically says, as the Casting Crowns' song puts it, that we are His hands. So He works through us... through organizations like Samaritan's Purse, World Vision, Open Doors, Campus Crusade for Christ and countless other organizations that go into places where most of us are not able or comfortable going. If I can't go, I can pray and I can give and I will. Because ultimately the solution to this problem lies not in the government or the military but in the human heart.