Osama bin Laden’s Death, and Doctor Who

May 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden has been killed. I first saw it on Twitter. Then the statuses of my Facebook friends lit up. There was much rejoicing.

But not from me.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying justice is not served. So many, so many have died or suffered from bin Laden’s campaign of terror. What a wicked man.

But what does God say about wicked people?

“I take no pleasure from the death of the wicked. I want the wicked to change their ways and live.”
— Ezekiel 33:11


…You know, I never watched Dr. Who in college. Back in those days, the Doctor was played by Tom Baker. The few times I happened across the show, I mostly laughed at how cheaply it was made, with aluminum or rubber monsters.

But with the show’s revival after a sixteen-year hiatus, I’ve become a fan. And one of the striking things is the manner in which the Doctor (at least, as played by David Tennant) treats his enemies.

So instead of WWJD, let me ask… What Would the Doctor Do, WWDD?

He would reach out towards his enemy, who was about to perish, and plead: “Come with me. I can help you.”

The Tenth Doctor

Maybe part of the show’s appeal is that this is Jesus’s invitation to each of us. Even the most wicked.

How did you react to the news? How do you reconcile your reaction with the Way of Jesus?

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

26 responses to Osama bin Laden’s Death, and Doctor Who

  1. So what do we do when the outstretched hand is slapped away, or even viciously sliced? As much as we would rather mercy and repentance, the fact remains that true evil refuses such overtures. Bin Laden is one of these. Regrettably, real life is not as neat and tidy as television, where everything is resolved within one hour. I reconcile it by thinking that individual Christ-followers are agents of salvation, not nations.

    • Then you ignore the passage from Ezekiel that has been quoted. The reality of it, the only time in the Bible that God is happy over death is at the death of His saints (Psalm 116).
      Unfortunately, even I, harbor anger towards those people who have done so much harm to the United States and have taken many innocent and civilian lives. I have to work on forgiveness (Jesus said “The sins that you forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven.”)
      My prayer (after all we are to pray for our enemies) is that God would grant those members of the terrorist organizations peace and rest so that they no longer feel the need to express their personal and national oppression through violence.

    • If an outstretched hand is slapped away, shouldn’t we as Christians simply extend the other hand? You also assume that OBL is true evil and I have a real hard time believing that. i don’t doubt that he did incredibly evil things and that he has been judged for these things, but he was still human and he was still a child of God. In this case, in the instance of reconciling evil men and restoring them to goodness, i think Dr. Who has it right and that yes, it is that simple. It’s really really really hard, but at the end of the day it’s that simple, otherwise what’s the point of the cross?

    • Hi Andrea! Thanks for countering idealism with pragmatism. Even on the TV show, more often than not, the Doctor’s final plea doesn’t work. But when the next baddie comes along, he tries again. (If he fails to, his traveling companion is the one who asks him to show mercy.)
      Let me focus the discussion. I’m not asking about what nations should do. I’m asking how we should react. That last line read, “What do you think? How do you reconcile the news with the Way of Jesus?” I’ve rewritten that.

  2. Tom Baker was awesome! And you know he played Puddleglum in the horrible BBC adaptations of the Chronicles of Narnia, yes?
    But yes, I’m right with you. It is good justice that Bin Laden has been killed, but it is also regrettable. God’s Amazing Grace was offered to Bin Laden just as much as to me, and now he no longer has (so far as we know) any more opportunity to receive God’s salvation. What if Bin Laden, like Paul, had turned to Christ? What if Paul, like Bin Laden, had been put to death (which he deserved) before turning to Christ?

    • No, I didn’t know that about Tom Baker. His face fits, certainly. 🙂
      You pose a fascinating question. It actually ties in, I think, to the LOTR quote below. Read on…

  3. I’m still thinking this through but have questions. Didn’t the Israelites rejoice when they won a battle? Didn’t they rejoice when David killed Goliath?
    Thanks for your post! It’s really making me stop and think. 🙂

    • Missy,
      Of course they did! It’s a natural, understandable reaction. But I think we’re called to a different Way.
      Also, let’s be careful not to take anything “people did in the Bible” and use that as justification within our own contexts. For example, I’m not about to take a second wife. 🙂

      • Hey Jon, Good Point! :)) My initial reaction to the Osama news was to go into processing mode. I didn’t really have a reaction except to think the Seals were pretty bad a**! But after having time to think it through I realize I feel relieved. I’m not rejoicing that a man was shot in the head but rather I feel a sense of relief that we put a dent in terrorism. Osama declared war on the world and he knew the consequences for his actions if he were caught. Obviously, terrorism would only grow bolder with Osama getting away with murder year after year. However, I’m not rejoicing that he was killed and no one can say where he stood with God. He could be in Heaven for all I know. Jesus gave the man on the cross that chance. However, Jesus was resurrected and the man on the cross was still killed. Forgiven, but killed. Maybe he would have continued a life of crime without ever calling out to God if had not faced that death sentence. Who knows. Like I said, I feel good that we were able to put a dent in terrorism. At the same time, I hope Osama is in Heaven with the Father of Grace. I also applaud the Seals for putting their life on the line for our freedom. Considering they could have bombed the building killing everyone, I think the strategic mission showed mercy.

        • Missy, I certainly don’t question the bad-assness of the Navy SEALs who pulled this off. It’s certainly a victory — and when I put it that way, I can understand a little better why so many reacted with celebration.
          Interesting perspective on “Osama in Heaven”! And I thought I was out there. 😉

  4. I think it’s one of many confusing and mysterious things in the Bible and our faith. Yes, I agree that bin Laden was human, therefore was loved by God. And of course God would want him to turn from his evil ways instead of death. But then on the other hand, how do you reconcile the many times that God destroyed evil cities in the Old Testament. Or the verses like Proverbs 21:15 – “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” I find it hard to mesh the two, and so I think that I don’t try.
    I don’t think we should be rejoicing loudly over his death. But instead mournful and sad that it had to come to this point. And all the more loudly loving our neighbors, next door and across the oceans.

    • Brandi, it is confusing. Where is the line between judgement and mercy? But then, just to confuse things further, the line is wrapped up somehow on the cross. Go figure. I think there’s a place for not trying, as you describe, and just relaxing into the mystery.

  5. I can’t rejoice because I think it will do little to change things. I’m sure there are many ready to fill his shoes. I can’t feel jubilant. I’m not exactly sad. He invited evil in and acted upon it, and we do have a responsibility to stop evil if possible, to lift its oppression. But really, he was only a small part of the problem. I suppose I feel a little grim and apprehensive.

    • Al Qaeda has certainly redefined the possibilities of what organizations do. What if we could turn some of those ideas of decentralization around, and use them for radical good instead of radical evil?

  6. I’m glad a lot of my FB friends are attaching some sobriety to the post-Osama thing. Then again, I’m in Canada. There’s wisdom in the “MLK” quote (http://mashable.com/2011/05/03/altered-mlk-quote/) as well as the LOTR one: “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
    Gandalf discussing Gollum with Frodo, in The Lord of the Rings

  7. Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth
    Proverbs 24:17 (King James Version)
    I know, I am not one to quote the Bible, but I have been known to appreciate words of wisdom, regardless of their source.

    • Nice quote, Tim, and a good counter to the common reaction.
      But King Jim? Dude, I can point you to a number of translations that are easier than all those “thine”s.

  8. I know when I’m faced in my self-talk with someone that has really wronged me in my own eyes; Thankfully, I find it impossible to pray for curses to befall them. I instead find my self-talk turning to a discussion with the Lord. And that is definitely a place of Blessing even in the midst of weeping.
    Once I’ve dealt with my own heart, my own failings, and my own longings before the Lord. I can then turn and think about the other person. And I don’t pray for their destruction, I pray they would come to the Lord’s Understanding of the situation and live out His Will, for I know the Lord works out everything for my good.
    So any joy with the confirmation of bin Laden’s passing was quickly tempered with aren’t I deserving of death and may the Lord treat me always ever with His Mercy and Grace for aren’t we all one thief or the other on the cross on either side of our Lord. And we each need His Path to Salvation not our own. Therefore, may He turn to you and say: Today we will be together paradise.
    And while my heart is still very small and cannot fathom bin Laden receiving the Lord’s forgiveness, I have to leave open the idea that sometime in the days leading up to this event he could have been humbled before Christ, for do we know any man or woman who has committed the unforgivable sin that we cannot pray for them.
    I say we best double check our inventory of planks in our own eyes before dishing out the Lord’s work of no more grace for you. And don’t we really only ever get those planks out of our eyes when we let the Lord hold the tweezers? God be gentle, but Your Will not mine.

  9. I keep coming back to the phrase “I do not rejoice” which if I recall correctly was your own statement after Saddam’s hanging. Those were the words that then, as now, best reflected my own feelings.
    This feels so much like then to me. And as before, I have to admit that even if I don’t rejoice, I don’t find myself weeping either — even when I feel like maybe I ought to.

  10. I felt sadness and relief. I too thought of Ezk 33:11 when I saw the rejoicing in the streets. This is not a video game we won; it is a sad…sad war. A war of ignorance and greed and world views. As Christians we are not entirely guiltless in this war. However, I am relieved this ugly chapter is closing. There may be new battle fronts but this one is resolved. I hope we can become as resolute in waging peace and building bridges to the Arab peoples.
    Jon, I am glad you’re posting again. I missed your voice.

    • Thanks as always for your calm perspective.
      And this post was just a brief foray. But now, half a year later, I feel like I’ve finally regained my voice.