I ran across an interesting coincidence this morning. After the news that bin Laden had been killed last night, followed by pictures of New Yorkers dancing in the streets, I read this morning’s canticle from Daily Prayer, which includes the following strophes:
Come to our aid, O God of the universe / and put all the nations in dread of you! / Raise your hand against the heathen, / that they may realize your power.
As you have used us to show them your holiness, / so now use them to show us your glory. / Thus they will know, as you know, / that there is no God but you. (Sirach 36:1ff)
Now let me be clear that there is no equivalency between the ancient poet’s sentiments and modern America. I think it safe to say that both the government and military were only interested in American glory and not God’s glory.
It is not comparison I am interested in; I am far more fascinated by the contrast of the two story lines. The ancient poet saw the Hebrew military as a mere instrument of divine power. The modern media views the military as the embodiment of military might. There’s nothing penultimate about the Navy Seals. To them go the glory (along with a big “Thank You!” to whoever decided not to give the job to the Army Rangers).
The wise man who wrote Proverbs 24 said, “Do not rejoice when your enemies fail, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.” Why the odd advice? Because we rejoice at victory, and the defeat of one’s enemy is not the same thing as victory. Defeat is the removal of a bad thing. Victory is the transformation of myself (or my nation) into a better thing. To put it into a Christian context, I praise God when a spiritual enemy is defeated. I will finally rejoice when I move beyond the enemy and become more mature and am one step farther in my transformation “from glory to glory.”
Applying that to America, we ought not rejoice merely because the terrorist is dead, rather we should hold at least some of our rejoicing for the moment when the political and bureaucratic machinery that promotes terror-mongering is dismantled now that the terrorist is dead. Unfortunately, I think shooting Osama in the head will be far easier than cutting the head off the Beast we know as Homeland Security.
And so, a big “Hurrah!” to the CIA, the Navy Seals, and all the others responsible for the raid, but I’ll save my dancing in the streets for the time when our American terror-mongering apparatus is finally dismantled, and we will be free (remember “freedom”?) to dance in the streets without fear that it will be perceived as a security threat, and when we can get to the streets without having a background check and then passing through a metal detector followed by a pat down.