US is not a Christian Nation
Shortly after the news of Osama Bin Laden's death and the Navy Seals were deservedly being congratulated on a job well done, there was a relatively rare moment when the country came together to celebrate the notion that justice had been done. And it wasn't just in the US alone that the same sentiment was found. Bin Laden's death was celebrated by many people in different counties.
US unanimous in its approval of Bin Laden's death
It seems almost incredulous that anyone would question that justice was not being served when Bin Laden was shot. Certainly some might make a case that international treaties and laws were broken by the raid on Bin Laden's compound, but there is still a sense that sometimes almost any lengths are justified to mete out justice in cases where men such as Bin Laden enjoy life free from any consequences for their murderous crimes. And I am one of those who cheered at the news and feel justice was indeed being served as the first Navy Seal's bullets struck their mark.
Even Republicans and Democrats all agreed that Bin Laden's execution was both justified and a good thing although, predictably, both parties argued as to who deserved most of the credit. And why would anyone question whether justice was being served?
What is the Christian view?
Some who are religious turn to the Pope, their priests, ministers or churches to see what view God has on such matters whereas others turn directly to the Bible to read an unfiltered view of things. Certainly the Old Testament is full of notions of justice that recommends revenge. But Christianity is based on Jesus' teaching that replaced the Ten Commandments with just two:
“[Jesus], which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." Matthew 22:36
And what about revenge, in particular?
“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” Matthew 5:39
Certainly Jesus doesn't recommend revenge as the best course to follow when we have been wronged. And to pretend that Jesus' words can be interpreted as an endorsement of the policy of revenge on either individuals or nations is torturing both his words and the clear intent of his teaching. Even a statement by the Pope essentially emphasized Bin Laden's evil deeds and hoped some good rather than hatred would come as a result of his death was not suggestive of a response that Christ might have given.
Revenge is only wrong to Christians – most of us recognize its role as part of justice
What made Jesus' teaching so remarkable was that it was radical in many ways. Traditionally, the Jews and most peoples then and since have felt that justice often demanded retaliatory action. The usual view follows notions found in the Old Testament rather than the New.
“Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” Deuteronomy 19:21
We rejoice when revenge is extracted on our enemies
When the Navy Seals struck at Bin Laden, they represented both the US and our values. They performed their duty admirably and were hailed for completing their mission well. We are a nation that believes in retaliation – the idea that no pity should be shown to its enemy – and there is a strong argument that it is both sensible and ethical. On hearing the news of Bin Laden's death, Americans spontaneously gathered to celebrate the news at Ground Zero and Times Square in New York, and outside the White House in Washington.
It seems disingenuous to continue to make the argument that the US is a Christian nation when the country almost universally celebrates the death of one of its enemies as a result of a mission. It is a good thing we have one less enemy and we should stop pretending that we are a Christian nation and acknowledge that often revenge is a built-in component of justice. To pretend we are a Christian nation is not to properly understand the Constitution, our history or the New Testament. Like all nations and most men, we rejoice when revenge is a component of justice and is extracted on our enemies.