The Relative Unimportance of bin Laden’s Death

America invests its resources into killing its enemies.  Got that.  I have no especial problem with that; that’s what nations do.  As St. Augustine observed, human governments cannot create true justice, only try to destroy the most destructive elements of society in pursuit of a relatively less unjust world.  Any claim of human justice is a pretension to divine justice.

What I do have a problem with is these governments claiming what they did was justice.  From an Augustinian perspective, killing Osama bin Laden is not justice, it is only an attempt to prevent further, worse injustices from occurring.

Also embedded in the President’s speech tonight was the notion that America can do whatever she sets her mind to.  This is not through our “wealth or strength alone, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  This is (as usual) an eschatalogical claim, a messianic claim.  We are the chosen people of God and we can do what we set our mind to (whether we consult God or not, it would seem).

And here Christians must object.  The United States is a nation, and nations can be more or less pagan, as Augustine affirmed.  But the only people of God are those who take in the body of God through communion and make up the body of Christ in the church.  To the degree that nations divide, rather than unite, the body of Christ, they are opposing themselves to the Kingdom of God.

Ultimately, what Osama bin Laden’s death is, is unimportant.  Of course, in a human sense it is as important as anyone else’s death.  It is a strong symbolic victory for the United States.  But it is not for that reason a symbolic loss for the church.  His death comes amidst a multitude of others: American, Afghan and Iraqi alike.  As Christians, we can call the nations we reside in to a more relatively just foreign policy, in an attempt to live peaceably with the world, though they often will not listen.

But at the center of our task as Christians, no nation matters.  We must only seek to exemplify as a body the self-sacrificial love of a God who would rather die for his enemies than to destroy them.


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