The Killing of Bin Laden and the Myth of Progress

By this time blog pages have already hosted virtually every comment that can be conceived in the wake of Sunday night’s announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden. Is there really anything else to say that hasn’t been said numerous times already? Probably not. But after taking a hiatus since the end of the Lent season, the week’s news provides a good point for re-entry. So forgive me for jumping into the overcrowded pool. What I’d like to offer is a set of observations from the perspective of some ten days since the announcement.

One observation is that there isn’t all that much buzz remaining. Think of it–a ten-year mission finally successfully concluded after thousands of thousands of lives cut short, many more forever disrupted, billions of dollars, straining of international as well domestic relations and yet ten days later it is old news. After a few spontaneous celebrations and a bit of posturing and anti-posturing, it seems we have returned to the business at hand, which is finding ways to lower the price of government and gas, not necessarily in that order.

Another observation is that we seem to get it–even though the stated objective of all those lives and dollars was to “take out” the terrorist mastermind responsible for the 9/11 attacks, having done so does not make us feel so much safer after all. There are so many more waiting to take up bin Laden’s mantel, and still another generation who will be motivated to do the same out of revenge for his killing. If anything, we may have succeeded in thwarting some plans for mayhem in the short run, and perhaps will find information leading to the identification of other key figures in the organization. But the level of hostility has been raised, not lowered. One wonders whether mankind will ever learn that vengeance is never complete; and because it is not, there will indeed be wars and rumors of wars until the kingdom of our Lord comes in its fulness.

There are those who continue to be committed to the myth of progress. In spite of the ever increasing numbers of people being killed at the hands of others, secular thinkers in protected ivy covered buildings on pristine campuses, surrounded by upper middle class neighbors continue to spout off about how morality is a genetically based reality if it is anything, and that since evolution is always in a forward direction, we are getting better as a race. The thesis, when measured against real life, is laughable; yet it continues to find more and more life on the campus of virtually every institution of higher education because–well, because the alternative is to acknowledge that the true, the good, and the beautiful have a basis outside of randomly occurring carbon-based life forms. And for Dawkins, Dennett, Singer, and company, that will never do. The fact that our sophistication has to do only with the means we use to abuse one another is painfully obvious, not only in the world of terrorists and international espionage, but in the manner in which internet crime has become so widespread. This, folks, is not progress, no matter how much data our computers and phones (which is it?) may transmit and receive.

A final observation is with regard to Christians, who seem divided between rejoicing over bin Laden’s defeat and trying to respond with sadness over the passing of another soul into a Christless eternity. Inevitably, this involves the perpetual dilemma of living in two kingdoms simultaneously. We are citizens of a national entity which bears the sword for a reason, that being the protection of the citizens and their interests. Yes, we can and perhaps should engage in a discussion of just how widely those interests extend; but in a world of wars both real and rumored, the sword is there for occasions precisely like the one which resulted in the pursuit of bin Laden. But neither the United States nor any other nation is to be identified with the kingdom of God, which is where our “real” citizenship is located. That indicates to me that the kingdom not of this world–though present in it where Christ rules–has a higher claim on my allegiance. We would all like for the USA, or whatever nation we recognize as home, to be patterned more closely to the kingdom of God. Yet until the Lord of the universe returns, evil will continue threaten shores and stores; and the government must continue to offer its protection. And that means that those who do and intend to do harm must be dealt with; and it is cause for gratitude when it happens. But it isn’t progress; it is marking time while the true progress is that of the kingdom of God gaining its claim over more and more lives.

So much more could be said–but I’ll invite readers to say it.

Advertisements