Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
May 16th, 2011

Seeing Christ in bin Laden

The challenging implications of seeing Osama as a fellow child of God



When I learned of Osama bin Laden’s death, my immediate reaction was indifference. I didn’t share the jubilant response that seemed to be sweeping the nation, and I didn’t feel much of a sense of relief, either. Then, for a very superficial reason, I realized I was called to more than indifference: I looked at a picture of bin Laden and for a split second I thought, “Jesus Christ probably looked a little bit like that.” It doesn’t seem very spiritually meaningful, but this moment made me think about what it truly means to see Christ in everyone.

Jesus Christ suffered and died for everyone. He freely offers salvation for all who accept it. He shares in our joys and sufferings, and provides a channel for us to participate with God. Most relevantly, since Jesus’ purpose is to reconcile God and man, His sacrifice is made most profound by the presence of those most separated from God. Literally seeing the face of Christ in the face of Osama bin Laden forced me to accept that he too is entitled to the promise of reconciliation with God. Regardless of what bin Laden chose to do with what was given to him, I’m called to see Christ in him, and even working through him.

Seeing Christ in Osama bin Laden is pretty difficult since he committed atrocities that appear to be devoid of Christ. In fact Osama bin Laden provides us with an excellent example of what happens when you begin to say “no” to God. Those small “nos” turn into a chasm between you and God, which Christ ultimately offers to bridge. So, for one thing, bin Laden can serve as a reminder that we are all fallen.

Since Jesus’ purpose is to reconcile God and man, His sacrifice is made most profound by the presence of those most separated from God. Literally seeing the face of Christ in the face of Osama bin Laden forced me to accept that he too is entitled to the promise of reconciliation with God.

But since he is our brother in the human race — a fellow child of God — we actually have to hope that he found salvation. We can hope that he felt remorse for causing suffering, especially towards the end of his life, when much of his time was spent in hiding. We can hope that perhaps Osama bin Laden was mentally unstable, and that this prevented him from appreciating the effect of his actions, or even compelled him to behave in the way he did.

Regardless, we need to hope that bin Laden was afforded the same mercy we all pray for, and that he is in Heaven. The fulfillment of our humanness is reconciliation with God. God’s purpose for Osama bin Laden must also have been eventual reconciliation with God. God doesn’t will that anyone go to Hell, so we challenge God’s will if we express a wish that Osama bin Laden is in Hell. Our hope must be that God’s will be done.

Christ knows that he has betrayers. That’s part of the deal. Judas was essential to the salvation event. Christ’s words when Judas came to betray him are telling: “Friend, do what you are here to do.” (Matthew 26:50). Ultimately, Judas was, as the NIV puts it, “seized with remorse,” and took his own life (Matthew 27:3-4). Christ offers all of us his friendship, knowing that we will betray him. Let’s hope that Osama bin Laden was similarly seized with remorse and accepted that offer of friendship.

Originally published on May 16th, 2011.

The Author : Helen Lee
Helen is a former Busted Halo intern and recent graduate of Fordham University, where she studied Theology and Communications.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • http://www.facebook.com/softmonitoring Бахытжан Кудайбергенов

    Helen, you perfectly showed, how christians are blinded, they dont know even, how jesus look like

  • Michael

    just saying . it may be easier to see Christ in osama if this were true

  • Michael

    just wondering how your opinion on bin laden would change if you knew that 9/11 was an inside job. I mean i am in no way an osama bin laden supporter or anything but I’m just saying for sake of argument. truth is we may not know what we think we know and after doing some research on the subject ones world view may change and one may be inclined to start question everything. There is actually footage of detonation charges going off in wtc 7 and over 60% of nyc police and fire dept and lay people agree that they would like to see the events that took place investigated further. just saying, it may not be righteous to jump to conclusions in rejoicing over someones death when you may have been lied to.

  • Tim DuBois

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but we are all called to be children of God, but the individual has the choice to embrace that love or refuse it. Often the persons choice to embrace or refuse that love is shown in their actions towards fellow men.

    We are in no position to judge other men and as such all we can do is pray for their salvation and pray especially for those who have been gravely hurt by their selfish actions.

  • Benedict

    Just what one would expect from a pious woman. Just why Helen should stick to writing about religion and leave the nasty business of crime and punishment to others.

  • Juan

    Are you all insane…Osama was a cold hearted killr, he wanted you dead and your children dead and all amwericans who did not belive what he did- Dead…you all have better open your eyes and dont fall for this, “I saw Jesus in him”, because he did not have Jesus in him…he denouced Jesus and all Christianity…are you people crazy….I did not celebrate, but God had his judgemnet already in place…there is nothing you or I could do…and if UBL did accept Christ as his personal Savior, then only God knows that…not you!! you people are crazy!!read your Bible’s he who is not with me, is against me…Matt. 12:30…he was no child of God, he was of the devil….

  • Moxie

    @Helen Lee, I am a Protestant belonging to a church with Western Orthodox leanings, following the liturgical calendar, receiving Holy Communion every Sunday(!), and solemnizing the worship service.

    My immediate reaction to UBL’s death was one of deep, undeniable satisfaction, but not one of rejoicing. As I viewed the celebrations across our nation, I was uncomfortable.

    Perhaps in an earlier article in Busted Halo, or perhaps from another source, I was challenged to consider the Scriptures. “…pray for my enemies…” and had I done that even once during UBL’s life, since I learned of him? No, shamefully.

    Your article does go beyond my present understanding, but, nonetheless, you, too, have challenged me. For that, I thank you. Maybe someday you’ll contribute also to “First Things!”

    @Adela, Remember, “Life is in the blood,” according to Lev. 17:14, which is just one of several Scriptures telling us why blood is so vital, and why it is used for atonement of our sins. One must be careful not to disregard the numerous OT prophesies regarding the absolute need for a perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sins, once and for all (Hebrews 7:27). Moreover, consider Is 52:13-15 & Is 53:12. Jesus’ shed blood was absolutely necessary for our absolution. His earthly life was only half the story! Without His resurrection, we would have no God to worship!

    Just like Pharoah, Judas had a choice, but God knows the inner workings of the heart, and He does give some over to reprobation (Rom 1:2). And then there is the wrath and justice of God, which are all wrapped up in His love. How many times did God exhort Israel to erradicate evil from their camp? And, is that not what the state is for? To protect their citizens from harm? It can be argued whether Christians should be in the military, but it cannot be argued that the state does not have the imminent responsibilitiy to protect its own.

    Just some thoughts…

  • Adelle

    Hi, Helen, thanks for your reply, but I have to differ from you again. Jesus would had redeemed us by just being born because by becoming One of us He restored the Image and Likeness of God that man was created with and was lost because of the human sin. We affirm that Jesus redeemed us through his Death and it’s true. But, He redeemed us through his Death because his Life was perfect and that guaranteed his Resurrection. Death had no dominion over Him. Jesus beat death, not by his Death itself, but by his Resurrection. St. Paul says: “And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.”(1Cor 15,14) And He would had risen regardless the kind of death He had suffered because his way of Life guaranteed his Holy Resurrection. Let Himself be crucified was his way to show how much He loves us. His death on the Cross is the witness of his Love for us. If God’s Plan was that Jesus had to be betrayed, crowned with thorns, scourged, crucified, etc., then Judas, Pontius Pilate and all of them who took part in his Passion, were acting according to God Will and Jesus did not have to ask his Father to forgive them. Instead, Jesus said: “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born. Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, ‘Surely it is not I, Rabbi?’ He answered, ‘You have said so.'”(Mt 26, 24-25) My God is a God of Love, and his Message is that we love one another, how comes that He had wanted to save humanity with such a plan of violence? Who can think that violence generates peace, or generates love? That, perhaps, was the thinking of Bin Laden and of those who killed him, but not God’s. The cites you quote are not in conflict with what I am stating.
    Thanks for making me feel a bit more comfortable with my English. Actually, my real name is Adela.

  • Helen Lee

    Adelle, thank you for your comment, but I must disagree with you. Christ needed to be betrayed, suffer and die in order to save us completely. This is foretold in the Old Testament and reiterated in the Gospels. You can look at the Incarnation several ways. Very basically, Anselm explains it by saying that in order for our ransom to be paid, an innocent human needed to suffer punishment on behalf of all of us. However only God would be so generous as to do so (and only God would be able to encompass the vast quantity of sinfulness), and so our savior needed to be both God and Man. Athanasius explains it by saying that when Death claimed what was not rightly his, he was destroyed‚Äîthat by unjustly dying, Christ destroyed the power of death. Both views are compatible in my opinion, though Anselm’s is influenced by the post-Athanasian, Augustinian idea of Original Sin.

    Yes, he became one of us, but the reason he did that was so that he could suffer the punishment we all deserved, though not deserving of it himself. He suffered the punishment Osama bin Laden deserved. Osama bin Laden (and you and I) put Christ on that cross, and yet he continually offers us his friendship.

    By the way your English is very good!

  • Adelle

    Helen, I agree with most of your article. In Ezekiel 18, 23, God says: “Would I take pleasure in the death of the wicked — declares the Lord Yahweh — and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?” Nor does this mean I am judging Osama as a wicked – only God sees our hearts – but judging his actions. I do pray for his soul. However, I disagree with your statement: “Judas was essential to the salvation event”. Judas does not form part of God’s Salvation Plan. Jesus did not need to be betrayed, nor crucified to save us. Just by becoming One of us – and thus restoring the image of the man created by God in the beginning – would have been enough to save us. What is certain is that even though Jesus and his Father knew the kind of death Jesus would suffer, They accepted it all only because of their Love to us. But Jesus must have died like Virgin Mary and we had been saved. It happened the other way because of human wickedness. I agree with the rest of your article. Note: excuse my English because it is not my first language. Thank you.

  • Suzanne Dorsey Carlson

    @ MrOshun, I jus read your comment after I had already posted and Osama came from a very decent family and he was an outcast with apparent mental illness. Osama was the Anti-Christ as much as the Americans here are that go in and blow away innocent children in schools and malls. We should all know that mental illness is a very real illness, it makes people completely irrational, they completely and totally believe and trust in voices they hear tha tell them to do certain things. Osama was not a well individual, that much is very apparent.

  • Suzanne Dorsey Carlson

    If I spent the rest of my years I would never have been able to verbalize the way I feel about this as you have. The first time I saw this picture above of Osama the first thought that struck me as well was the resemblance of Jesus. I didn’t have the courage to say that out loud because I was also critisized and made fun of that I was against the open celebrations we Amercicans of all faiths were demonstrating. The only thing I did post is this: When I see the joy and celebration of dancing in the streets over this murder I realize that we look exactly like them.” That did not sit well with anyone. But in reality how many times do we see those countries rejoicing over others deaths and murders and we say they are scary looking, evil and act crazy behaving like lunitics. We looked no different. I commend you for having the courage to write what you did because I was a coward to do so.

  • Ivan

    This article is way too utopian !

    I don’t like that you are trying to say that he was mentally unstable. He was not … he created something that we will have to fight for decades on end.

    He did not feel remorse he felt pleasure and glory for what he did on 9/11.

    This man would never allow us the same decency to admire Christ in him. The only think I can think he had Christ like attitude was towards his kids and wifes … for the rest of humanity he was someone not christ like at all.

    When 98% of your life is wrong the 2% of Christ like attitudes is worth nothing.

    Let`s not forget that this individual (and other extremist) do not even respect other religion … we are far from the measured people here … they behead anyone different then them …

  • Barbara Miller

    Thank you for giving voice to a truly Christian perspective on recent events. It is not easy, but it is what we are called to do and to live out.

  • Rhonda M

    Being a human created by God with a potential for faith, hope and love is different from being a “child of God” as you state. Bin Laden was a creature with potential for the “foundational formational triad of Faith hope and love”. (van Kaam) One becomes a “Child of God” at baptism. Yes, distinctively human dignity calls us to honor respect human life. ALL human life. Christ likeness, or seeing Jesus where Jesus was not welcome is an impossible task. Grieving what could have been, Christ likeness, would be the more accurate articulation. Maybe the cause evoked in this event should not only be to pray for this man’s soul, but to pray and fast “radically” for those living who wish to annihilate an entire people; the Jews. The same people through which was offered our salvation, and son ship through Christ. Prayer and fasting would put some meat on this sentimental reflection.

  • AnitaH

    I also had a hard time with the celebrating over OBL’s death. There is nothing celebratory about taking the life of another. In the end, those who commit atrocities are still human beings- just like you and I. I understand what he did is terrible and I understand it well. I knew someone on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. I know the pain and aftermath of having a tragedy like 9/11 become personal for you. And I still don’t rejoice in the death of one who had a hand in it.

  • Dani Divine

    I was living in Santee California when Andy Williams, a student at Santana High School, brought a gun to school and shot and killed two other students. My daughter was there that day. It wasn’t long before a memorial was set up in front of the school with flowers, candles and photos of those who had been killed. Someone added to the memorial to include Andy Williams, the teenager who had done the killing. It was removed because so many people were disturbed by including the child who had murdered two people. I was very saddened by that act of non-inclusion by those who called themselves Christians. In fact I was blown away by it. I will always remember it as a moment in time where the greatest of hypocrisies was exercised. I believe that to see Christ in Osama bin Laden is a great act of Love. Thank You

  • Suzanne

    It’s so good to know I wasn’t alone in praying for Bin Laden’s soul as soon as I heard of his death. So much is made of his deeds of terror, but his murderers, who perpetuated terrorism by their revenge killing, are called heroes. I don’t believe anyone but God has the right to take a life, and I am praying for the Navy Seals too (a hard thing for me to do as a pacifist). When the self-congratulation is over and reality sinks in, may the Seals realize they killed a brother human, ask God’s forgiveness and turn from the path of violence.

  • JPSerino

    Bin Laden was a child of God, but to see Christ or Jesus in him is not truth. The very chasm you speak of, is that we are individually called to die in our individual will in order to be in the will of God, which is who Jesus is. When our will and actions are not aligned we are separated from God, and Jesus, in spirit. It is not a personal choice, a political decision or a matter of opinion. Truth is beyond all of these, as the knowledge of good and evil, it can not be conceived in the mind of man, but revealed to us through the right relationship to reality. Perhaps in his final moment, like the 2 criminals on the cross on either side of Jesus, one defied God, while the other asked Jesus for forgiveness, and got it. Which was Bin Laden’s choice? That is between God and him. It is not our concern.

  • emily manning

    Osama prayed to the same God we do. He might be called Allah or all the other names out there that people call “God”. But it is the same God. The difference is Osama interpreted things differently than we do. As far s he was concerned he was doing God’s will as his way of life, his viewpoints & how he saw what God wanted him to do. His belief & all the radical peoples beliefs are so different fom ours. But the radical to us is not a radical in their eyes. We are the radical, the horrile sinner. For this reason I did not rejoice in his death. I said a prayer for his soul for whatevr God’s/Allah’s will would be. Not all people who call God Allah believe as Osama beleved. We only see evil from our own point of view. Only God has the right to judge in the end.

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