Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On rejoicing at Bin Laden's death

After Navy Seals took out Bin Laden, some Christians criticized the American reaction, which was generally rejoicing--especially if Christians did it. I was thinking of that as I read these words recently:

Schadenfreude is a dangerous emotion only when injustice is celebrated, not when justice is served--as is the case in Israel's songs and in Woman Wisdom's sermon at the city gate (Prov. 1:20-33). John Portman, in his book When Bad Things Happen to Other People, argues that justice is a virtue and so is the feeling of pleasure when we see lawbreakers brought low: "And it's all to the good that we do, because this pleasure reflects our reverence for law.... Schadenfreude is a corollary of justice."*

And I agree.

The most frequently posted verse for those who objected was this: "Don't rejoice when your enemies fall; don't be happy when they stumble" (Prov 24:17). What they didn't quote was the following verses: "For the LORD will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them.  Don't fret because of evildoers; don't envy the wicked. For evil people have no future; the light of the wicked will be snuffed out" (Prov 24:18-20).

And what about the Bible's frequent imprecatory language in the mouth of the righteous?

   * Bruce K. Waltke, Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2006), 395; quoting John Portman, When Bad Things Happen to Other People (New York: Routledge, 1999), 200.


  1. Good observation. I was amazed at the syrupy emotion many Christians exhibited at the death of bin Laden as if we should feel sorry for the way this mass murderer was executed. His death was quick and painless and his burial FAR more respectful than he deserved. He was still "breathing out death and slaughter" when he was sent to his eternal reward. God has never seemed too concerned about justice, and death, for the wicked. It happens every day.

  2. Dan, I'm not sure what you mean by "God has never seemed too concerned about justice." I'm guessing you misspoke.

  3. Dale,

    I'm all for justice! But: There was a time when in democratic countries, serving justice was the task of the courts and everybody was supposed to have a fair trial. I find it very troubling that this definition of justice has given way to rambo-style military interventions.


  4. Thanks Dale, thought provoking. Bless you. Nice to see you post.