Monday, May 2, 2011

What is Your Religion?

My religion is kindness. –The Dalai Lama

We begin a new month and a new topic, Step 5 – Make haste to be kind. The irony of this timing was not lost on me last night as I watched the news of the death of Osama bin Laden. No, I’m not going to dive into a discussion on national security or politics. I’ll leave that to others. Instead, I want to share my reaction to the news. I felt, I admit, some relief, but mostly I felt a deep sadness, not necessarily because he was dead, but because of all the senseless violence in the world, too often committed in the name of God.

I watched the spontaneous celebrations erupting in front of the White House and at Ground Zero in New York. I understood the emotions behind them, but I was uncomfortable at such jubilation over his death.

Today I read the responses of world leaders. Many expressed congratulations, but the response from the Vatican impressed me the most. I quote it here as it appeared on the CNN website.

Osama bin Laden, as we all know, had the very grave responsibility of spreading division and hatred amongst the people, causing the death of countless of people, and of instrumentalizing religion for this end. In front of the death of man, a Christian never rejoices but rather reflects on the grave responsibility of each one in front of God and men, and hopes and commits himself so that every moment not be an occasion for hatred to grow but for peace.

Reflection rather than rejoicing seems an appropriate response to this event. Will this news further divide us as people of different faiths and different cultures, in spite of the president’s assurance that we are not at war with Islam? I wondered if Muslims in our country would have felt safe joining in the raucous crowds, even if they shared the relief, as many do, that the man who had caused so much suffering was finally dead.

If there was ever a need for hasty kindness, now seems like a good time to reach out to those who might be the targets of thoughtless and even cruel words and actions. I emailed my two Muslim students this morning to wish them well and to caution them to be safe.

I hope that at this turning point in the story that began almost a decade ago, on September 11, 2001, we can show ourselves and the world what is best about our country. I believe it starts with all.

Life is short, and we have but little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this way with us. Oh, be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. –Henri Frederic Amiel


  1. Wow Galen, I'm so glad I stopped by. I left a comment on another blog earlier about being uncomfortable celebrating killing, but of course I wasn't able to express it so eloquently. It turns out, the next individual who commented was offended by my comment. So I deleted it. My intent was not to incite anger, my intent was to point out the irony of celebrating killing in any form.
    You on the other hand, make such a clear statement. Thank you.

  2. Galen -
    I so appreciate your thoughts on this--about thinking of those who may need to be reached out to at this time. Thanks, for that. As I wrote today, I agree that the celebrations made me uncomfortable, too. --Godspeed, Elizabeth

  3. PAMO--This is a sensitive topic and emotions are churned up right now. Like you, I'm not trying to incite anger, or make this a right/wrong discussion. I felt cautious about writing anything about this at all, but I felt strongly that we need to be mindful of the effect our reaction has on others. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    Elizabeth--I so appreciated what you expressed on your blog today, too. Thank you for your comment.

  4. I felt the same when I hear the news and when I heard that people were celebrating his death. I understand it, but it makes me feel bit uncomfortable and sad. I hadn't heard of the Vatican's response. I think it was very appropriate, encouraging people to strive for peace.

  5. Sensitivity. For a culture that is so bent on political correctness most people are surprisingly insensitive. Even if a follower of Islam is not upset to see the end of Osama bin Laden, I can't imagine there wouldn't be a spark of hesitation to the rest of the community at large when they see such jubilant reactions to the death of someone from their cultural belief system. There will probably be some transference there and that won't make anyone of Islam feel safe. It really is quite sad.

    I absolutely agree with your sentiment of 'reflection rather than rejoicing'.

  6. Beliza and Haven--Thank you for your comments. It is a difficult balance, to be sure.

  7. We are walking the same thoughts out to the path today...yours feels kinder and gentler - mine as ever is intense kindness

  8. A courageous and honest post Galen... thank you :-) I felt uncomfortable as you did. And I felt a little heart sick as well... as I look to the north from here [to Indonesia] where the sleeping giant wakes.

  9. Hello Galen,
    I think the quote that Sandra posted on her website best describes my feelings.
    “I do not rejoice in the death of an enemy.”
    “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
    - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr"


  10. Definitely a touchy subject- I am really against killing, so I wouldn't say I'm joyful....

    I feel better that a "bad guy" will never inflict his evil again, but there's always another one waiting!

    Visiting from The Blogging Buddies Social Network week long blog hop.

  11. Patricia, Jean, Riley, Carolee--Thank you for your comments. Many of us have mixed feelings. Relief, anxiety, pride, hope, sadness, gratitude, compassion, and more.

    Riley, I like that quote very much. Thank you for sharing it.

  12. Hubs and I were vacationing in NYC and I reacted just like you did. It didn't sit well with me to see or participate in celebration. We all have a Osama bin Laden within. When we can except our own sense of self destruction and destruction of others in many ways...then we'll have something to celebrate! Thanks for writing about this.

  13. I'm glad you wrote too, Galen. I haven't known how to share my own thoughts about it, because I am a gentleman and don't like to disturb those around me by revealing too much darkness.

    I don't celebrate killing, though I allow that in rare cases it may be necessary. The whole psychology of war is based upon convincing vast numbers of people that a lot of killing IS necessary. And I know that humans are the most lethal killers, of beings, or the environment. We are both the supreme builders and destroyers. It's a hard truth to face.

    How can I look a war widow in the face and tell her honestly that her husband's sacrifice was in vain, because war itself solves nothing?

    I know the victims of the 9/11 attack were innocent individually, but we all share a corporate responsibility for our nation's greed, indifference and manipulation of the less-powerful nations of the Middle East. Our demand for their resources makes bin Ladens possible. We kill these monsters. We must face the fact that we also create them. It's one of the terrible costs of doing our dirty business.

  14. He without sin cast the first stone. None of us is in a position to judge others. That is taken care of by a higher power.

    Being glad he is dead because many lives may be saved is quite different from partying. Not only is it amazingly insensitive, but silly. If anyone thinks Osama's death will actually put an end to much of anything, he is sadly mistaken and ignoring reality.

  15. Tess, Mikey, and Bob--Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate how we can come together and share our different perspectives respectfully. I also appreciate how all of you focus on looking at our own hearts and actions, individually and corporately. Mikey--you are always a gentleman. Bob--I like your distinction between relief and partying.


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