“Do Not Rejoice When Your Enemies Fall”

With all the rejoicing in the streets, some conservative religious figures are offering cautionary notes from the Bible. Both Michael Brendan Dougherty, who is Catholic, and David Gushee of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, cite Proverbs 24:17 (“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.”)

Dougherty, at his blog:

The media is making a lot of these spontaneous demonstrations this morning. I found them slightly unsettling. That kind of enthusiasm seems more appropriate for a cessation of hostilities, and the surrender of the enemy. But we don’t fight wars like that anymore. Perhaps this is the only event in the War on Terror that can be celebrated: better not to miss it. We’re desperate for good news, aren’t we?

Gushee, in a statement:

For those of us who embrace a version of the just war theory, honed carefully over the centuries of Christian tradition, our response is disciplined by belief that war itself is tragic and that all killing in war, even in self-defense, must be treated with sobriety and even mournfulness. War and all of its killing reflects the brokenness of our world. That is the proper spirit with which to greet this news.

And, in a move in which he unmistakably distances himself from the saber-rattling of many of his more apocalyptically-minded fellow evangelicals, Gushee goes on:

We also now have the opportunity for national reflection on how our broader military and foreign policies–including the placement of our troops throughout the largely Muslim Arab world, our posture on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our regular military interventions around the world, create a steady supply of new enemies.

There can never be any moral justification for terrorist attacks on innocent people, such as the terrible deeds of 9/11. But we must recognize that to the extent that our nation’s policies routinely create enemies, we can kill a Bin Laden on May 1 and face ten more like him on May 2. Might it now be possible for us to have an honest national conversation about these issues?

Over at the Christian Broadcasting Network, though, David Brody, who has been championing Donald Trump’s weird birther crusade, wonders why the president didn’t seem rejoice more last night:

I know President Obama understands that getting Bin Laden doesn’t mean an end to the war on terrorism but how about a smile? How about showing a little joy? How about a word or two saying something about how this is no doubt a happy or joyous occasion for Americans? We got nothing like that at all. Instead, we got Mr. Monotone. Mr. Bars and Tone. Mr. Non-Emotion.  President Obama missed an opportunity to connect with Americans last night.

So why did he announce the big news like he was reading the dictionary? You know the answer. It’s because his speech wasn’t so much aimed at Americans. He was being careful of how the “Arab Street” would interpret his remarks. Any hint of gloating or happiness might be rubbing it in the face of some of the crazies in the Arab World and heaven forbid we get them upset! How dare we Americans look like we’re celebrating his death! The travesty of it all! Give me a break. Isn’t it time to stop catering to thugs?

There’s your answer to Gushee’s last question.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email