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Local religious leaders react to the death of Osama bin Laden

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Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 12:11 pm | Updated: 12:13 pm, Tue May 3, 2011.

Bishop Stephen Blaire Stockton Catholic Diocese

Bishop Blaire supports the following statement issued from the Vatican regarding the death of Osama bin Laden:

“Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose.

“In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”

Blaire added, “The violent terrorism perpetrated by Osama bin Laden has come to an end in his death. Every human being must render an account to God for his life. It is God who is the ultimate judge.”

Helen Mansfield, pastor

Galt United Methodist Church

“Scripture is pretty mixed on the subject of killing someone like Osama bin Laden. At the same time scripture is pretty clear about celebrating anyone’s death.

“Proberbs 24:17 says, ‘Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.’ Jesus said we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

“It is understandable that we would feel relief that someone like bin Laden will no longer be able to lead people to harm others, but celebrating is another thing.”

Mark Price, pastor

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lodi

“The death of Osama bin Laden is a military victory for our nation. Our response, however, is tempered by the sadness of human imperfection and the tragedy of warfare.

“The best celebrations would be those accompanied by prayers for peace, remembrances of those who have died, remembrances of the innocent and those who are serving, and a willingness to bring peace to bear on our daily lives.

“The best conversations in the Christian community with regard to the death of bin Laden are ones carried out against the backdrop of Jesus’ teachings about peace.

“Peace is foundational to Christian faith and practice. These teachings are expressed in scriptures such as in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:35, when Jesus taught love for one’s enemies. In Luke 23:24, He prayed for his enemies while Himself being rejected on the cross.

“In our daily lives, we must constantly discern the way of peace. Just war thinking is the classic theological framework in which most Christians discern their participation in warfare or other acts of violence. It was first developed in the fourth century by St. Augustine and then expanded further by Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and many others over the centuries. 

“Just war argues that warfare and other acts of violence can only be engaged in if it is called by a duly elected, appointed or chosen government, or if there is ‘just cause.’ In other words, war can’t be engaged in for reasons of vengeance, oppression, economic gain, power or when there is no prospect of victory, among others. War can be engaged in only if it is the course of ‘last resort.’

“War is to be carried out with respect for and protection of the non-combatant and the innocent. The arms used must be proportionate to the evil rendered. In other words, don’t use a bazooka to kill a mosquito.

“Finally, warfare is entered into under these guidelines only if it will in the end ensure a more lasting peace.

“Evil sometimes can be disguised as love, especially when love of nation becomes jingoistic nationalism, which is a kind of chauvinistic patriotism. This kind of false patriotism, or evil disguised as love, can undermine peace so we are on guard against it. 

“If we want the miracle of peace in the world, and thus to avert the tragedy of more warfare, we can begin by working to bring peace to our home, our workplace, our community, our nation and the world.”

Jon Kibler-McCabe, pastor

Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Galt

“Romans 13:4 states that the government is ‘God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment to the evildoer.’ God has ordained that specific duties to specific people, and those duties belong to those people only. 

“The government’s duty is to protect its nation against attack from her enemies who are directly and overtly attacking her. The soldiers who carried out the attack against Osama bin Laden, therefore, were performing their God-given duty to protect our country against her enemies and those who threaten her security and therefore the security of all her citizens. 

“It is, therefore, good for our country that bin Laden is dead, because his death eliminates one more threat to our nation’s security. However, there are also two dangers that arise from bin Laden’s death.

“First, by making Osama bin Laden a martyr at the hands of American forces, Islamic extremist militants now have a greater excuse than ever to attack America with greater fervency and ferocity. I would, therefore, disagree that the world is a safer place, as our president has asserted, but rather we now need to be on higher alert than ever before, at least for the time being. 

“We all need to be aware of our surroundings in public places and, in protecting our communities against crime in general, report everything suspicious we notice to the proper authorities.

“Secondly, it is always important for all Christians to make a distinction between such men as Osama bin Laden and Muslims in general, especially our Muslim friends and neighbors. The danger comes when we lump all people together in one category, which leads to discrimination, injustice and oppression, and goes against everything we stand for as Americans. The internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War is a clear case in point of when hysteria and paranoia are the dominant policy. 

“Muslims who have no ill will toward Christians or America are not to be targeted in the same way as the militants like bin Laden that our forces are currently targeting. Fear and hatred of our Muslims friends is unacceptable, and does not serve the cause of Jesus Christ to ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’

“Through our witness through love, we hope Muslims will seek to experience the true love of God by experiencing the love of His Son, accepting Him as their personal Lord and Savior. Many, in fact, already have, and we pray that many more will.”

David Hill, pastor

Grace Presbyterian Church, Lodi

“Bin Laden’s focus has been the destruction of the United States and other countries. What happened (in Pakistan) is probably what would have happened eventually with the path he was taking.

“We speak in the Old Testament about ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ The idea is a limiting factor, then you walk away and don’t escalate into a bigger thing. It’s a term of justice to retain peace. People don’t understand that’s a limiting factor.

“What had to be done had to be done. But you don’t know what the retaliation factor is.

“It’s a difficult subject.”

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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