I have heard many Christians quote catch phrases such as: “All sin is the same in the eyes of God;” “Hate the sin, love the sinner;” or “There’s no sin that Jesus didn’t die for.” All such sayings are theological in nature, commenting on the nature of sin and evil and how it relates to human beings. Osama Bin Laden, however, is not getting the luxury of such statements. Some even claim Bin Laden as the Devil himself, among other religious rhetoric, cheering his death as a symbol of victory over evil. But are we being theologically consistent? It seems to me that such talk is used with little thought or considerations to its theological implications, so I’d like to explore for a second my view of evil from a theological perspective and how I think Bin Laden fits into that belief.
THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!
Evil is a supernatural force, but it is also a tangible reality. It is something experienced by all people on a personal and social level. We find evil’s strong presence in our inward battles with sin. We find evil in the world, where its manifestations affect humankind in spiritual and physical ways. Such is the case with the victims of 9/11, caught up in the affects of evil manifested in the form of a terrorist campaign. Where does this evil come from? Many would see such evil in humankind and believe that the evil originates in a human being, but my faith experience teaches me that human beings are sufferers of a larger spiritual force. Ephesians 6:12 teaches, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” But hold on if you think I’m advocating “the devil made me do it” mindsets.
“DEAR SIRS, I AM”
As a theological concept, we are all sufferers, but we are also contributors to evil. Is it so hard to conceptualize? We’re all often tempted to do what we know to be wrong, but then we make the conscience decision to give in. Our mistakes have affected people; and we’ve all caused hurt. And in that sense all human beings are alike…yes, even you. Osama was a contributor to evil by conscience choice, I don’t think too many people would debate that. But I also believe he was a sufferer of evil as well. No, I’m not saying he was possessed (although as a spiritual person I guess I need to leave myself open for that possibility). But clearly he was indoctrinated into a worldview that convinced him that he must take up a terrorist campaign against America. Who knows what that indoctrination composed of (my guess is that America might have contributed at least in some way. Not saying we deserved it; I’m just saying we probably had a hand in making Osama who he is). The point is that Osama, you, and me have all been born into a world that leads to corruption in some way, and we all have contributed to that corruption as well. After being asked by letter to write an essay on what’s wrong with the world, G.K. Chesterton simply replied: “Dir Sirs, I am.” I’m not surprised that Bin Laden is dead…he certainly chose that fate. But for me, Bin Laden’s death is a not so much a symbol of victory over evil, but a symbol that reminds us that we live in a world that makes such men and such tragedy. That we live in a world in need of saving from the evil that lurks around…and in…us.
One more thing, because I don’t want to end this on a downer. The tangible evil we see in the world allows us to more clearly see the good and the hopeful as well. In some strange way, Osama’s death has inspired me to continue to radically be an instrument of peace in the world. After all, the light shines brightest in the darkest places. It begins with how I treat others around me, and what I stand for. It continues with how I handle conflict; and how much I let things bother me. And it’s an inner peace as much as it is an outer peace; fighting the evil within to fight it with-out. That’s a start anyways. I have been a contributor to evil; but I can be a powerful instrument for peace.