One of the senior instructors in the ethics department at the U.S. Naval Academy where I teach tells a story about the officers of a Navy warship, who were celebrating their successful cruise missile attack on an enemy target, giving each other high-fives in the wardroom when the chaplain spoke up: “Let’s keep in mind that we just killed a lot of people.” To which another officer replied, “What do you want me to do, feel bad about it?” It’s a good question. How should we feel about killing our enemies in wartime?
Across America citizens celebrated the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2 after the president announced that our military forces had killed the Al Qaeda leader in his hideout in Pakistan. Here in Annapolis the midshipmen swarmed into T-court, the quad in front of the main building Bancroft Hall. Late into the night they shouted “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!” The middies were celebrating as if their football team had won a national championship. Similar celebrations took place at West Point, in Times Square, and in our nation’s capital.
In a very thoughful editorial, David P. Gushee, Professor of Ethics at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, reminds us of a verse in proverbs, which says, “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall” (Prov. 24:17). At the risk of soundling like a clerical killjoy, I have to agree with Gushee . . . and Scripture. It’s not right to gloat over your enemies’ destruction.
While I am glad the leader of Al Qaeda is gone, I feel uncomfortable with the exuberance at his passing. Being pro-life means more to me than being anti-abortion. It means believing that the life of every human being sacred, even the life of an evil man like Bin Laden. What do you think?