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CrimsonLine

The Death of Osama bin Laden

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Why do spiritual people have to be burdened with faux-piety over this man being cut down in war? Is there never occasion for rejoicing in earthly justice? (and specifically war-time justice)

What if it isn't faux-piety? Anabaptists do actually exist...

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CrimsonLine wrote:

: Saul was the Osama bin Laden of his day, planning and carrying out terrorist acts against pockets of Christians, hauling them off to arrest and execution, driven by religious zeal to destroy what he saw as the enemies of God.

Slight quibble, but was Saul really a "terrorist" if he was acting with the permission of the authorities? Maybe he had more in common with, say, someone on the pro-Gitmo side of the fence (or what the people on the anti-Gitmo side think the pro-Gitmo side must be like).

: In fact, Proverbs tells us, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” (Proverbs 24:17–18)

Thank you, sincerely, for quoting the full proverb and not just the first half, as so many have done these last few days.

: The Christian should be glad that justice was done, and that Osama bin Laden received the gravest punishment human beings can give for his crimes. But we cannot delight in his death, because the Lord’s desire was that he should repent, and find forgiveness in Jesus. As it stands, we commend Osama bin Laden to the Judge of all the earth. And may God have mercy on his soul.

This is a thoughtful note on which to conclude. I appreciate it.

I must admit my own reaction to the news (and the meta-news) has been all over the place. I'm not fond of the one-sided moralizing some Christians have done here -- as though there weren't plenty of examples in the Bible of people celebrating the demise of their enemies, going back to the song sung by the Israelites after the Egyptian charioteers were drowned in the Red Sea -- but I also think death is a seriously profound thing, so much so that I can never hear of a real-life villain's demise without being moved by a kind of pity rooted in our common mortality.

So when I heard the news, two of my first thoughts were, of course, movie-related. First, this famous title card from the end of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon:

barry-lyndon-epilogue-title.jpg

And then, this famous bit of dialogue from near the end of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven:

And note, when Eastwood says "We all have it coming", he's referring to death, not justice. The kid is trying to deflect his newfound awareness of death by focusing on justice and feeling superior. But Eastwood brings it back to death.

Persiflage wrote:

: It's going to take more than killing symbolic leaders to accomplish any lasting good here.

They're saying now that they didn't just kill him; they took his computer, too. Any thoughts on whether that might have any tactical value? Or has Osama withered so much towards being a figurehead that he wouldn't even be in the loop on anything important nowadays?

: Spiritually, I can think of nothing better to turn believers in Islam away from Christianity and the gospel forever than to see Christians celebrating the death of bin Laden.

So ... are we taking it for granted, then, that there won't be any MUSLIMS celebrating the death of bin Laden? I mean, he's killed a lot more of THEM than he has of US, no?

Andy Whitman wrote:

: From a justice standpoint, the death of one man in no way makes up for the deaths of 3,000 civilians on 9/11, or the deaths of 1,000+ Coalition troops and contractors killed in Afghanistan, or the 1,100+ U.S. Soldiers killed in Afghanistan, or the 15,000+ Afghan troops and civilians killed, or the $400,000,000,000+ and counting spent in an ongoing war. This is not justice in any sense of the word I understand.

The point you make here is all the more, uh, pointed when you consider WHERE they found bin Laden, and what this says about what the Pakistani government has been doing with the money that you've been paying them to help you find bin Laden.

: What we have taught the world in the past 24 hours is that it's okay to assassinate political leaders with whom we disagree.

Um, bin Laden was a "political leader"? And he was killed over a mere "disagreement"?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I'm not fond of the one-sided moralizing some Christians have done here -- as though there weren't plenty of examples in the Bible of people celebrating the demise of their enemies, going back to the song sung by the Israelites after the Egyptian charioteers were drowned in the Red Sea -- but I also think death is a seriously profound thing, so much so that I can never hear of a real-life villain's demise without being moved by a kind of pity rooted in our common mortality.

Oh, wow, I literally Just Read this blog post via a Facebook friend:

The Torah describes Moses and Miriam leading the ancient People Israel in a celebratory song after the tyrannical Pharaoh and his Army have been overwhelmed by the waters of the Red Sea. Later, the Rabbis gave a new overtone to the story: “The angels,” they said, “ began to dance and sing as well, but God rebuked them: ‘These also are the work of My hands. We must not rejoice at their deaths!’ “

Notice the complexity of the teaching: Human beings go unrebuked when they celebrate the downfall and death of a tyrant; but the Rabbis are addressing our higher selves, trying to move us into a higher place. (The legend is certainly not aimed at “angels.”) Similarly, we are taught that at the Passover Seder, when we recite the plagues that fell upon the Egyptians, we must drip out the wine from our cups as we mention each plague, lest we drink that wine to celebrate these disasters that befell our oppressors. . . .

But then, of course, there is the celebration of Purim, and the children who are encouraged to call for the death of Haman. Like I say, it's complicated.

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So when I heard the news, two of my first thoughts were, of course, movie-related. First, this famous title card from the end of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon:

barry-lyndon-epilogue-title.jpg

Great reference.

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I can think of no better Al Qaida recruitment videos than the gloating scenes the news networks have been feeding us all day. Violence begets violence. I think that might even be a biblical concept. What we have taught the world in the past 24 hours is that it's okay to assassinate political leaders with whom we disagree. And that philosophy has a way of rebounding on peoples' (and leaders') heads. We never learn. We were already in deep shit. And it just got a lot deeper. Justice? Where is justice here? The world just got a lot less safe, and "freedom" marches on. God bless America.

I agree on all points here, but one. We forget, bin Laden was stateless an therefore not a political leader in the sense that, say Karzai is. This is an entirely different sort of conflict though it is international.

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I'm not fond of the one-sided moralizing some Christians have done here -- as though there weren't plenty of examples in the Bible of people celebrating the demise of their enemies, going back to the song sung by the Israelites after the Egyptian charioteers were drowned in the Red Sea

Which was an act perpetrated by Yahweh himself. Indeed, the celebration of Israel over military victories was always worship of a God, one God, that battled for His glory through the nation itself. It is very difficult theologically to make a one-to-one correspondence between Israel's wars and our wars, as the basic narratives don't match up. On the other hand, we can quite easily create one-to-one correspondences between Jesus' resistance to violence and our need to resist violence.

A facebook status from a muslim friend of mine:

A coworker asked me today "You alright?" (a crack about the killing of OBL). I asked him if Charlie Sheen was shot and I asked if he was alright how would he answer. He said "I would say I was alright." I said "of course you would because what does the shooting of some douche bag got to do with you?!"
Edited by M. Leary

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Making a public display of celebrating "Justice" in many cases, without even exploring the moral implications of doing so, is often unwise. This is one of those cases. The news media is currently engaged in the task of creating hours and hours worth of al-Qaeda recruitment video footage.

Why is this any greater of a recruitment than our country's past ten years? Why is this somehow worse than torture/harsh interrogations, Guantanamo Bay or invading Iraq? If he was a mere outdated figurehead, as many on conservatives have argued over the last several years...why is this suddenly a dangerous recruiting opportunity for terrorists?

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Making a public display of celebrating "Justice" in many cases, without even exploring the moral implications of doing so, is often unwise. This is one of those cases. The news media is currently engaged in the task of creating hours and hours worth of al-Qaeda recruitment video footage.

Why is this any greater of a recruitment than our country's past ten years? Why is this somehow worse than torture/harsh interrogations, Guantanamo Bay or invading Iraq? If he was a mere outdated figurehead, as many on conservatives have argued over the last several years...why is this suddenly a dangerous recruiting opportunity for terrorists?

And as many liberals have argued. I tend to concur. Also, presuming that the majority of Muslims don't support terrorism and recognize that 9/11 was an atrocity, however much ill will our subsequent actions may have generated, I have to think that reasonable Muslims around the world will consider the U.S. action against bin Laden as an understandable and even necessary action. If anything, bin Laden's ability to elude the U.S. for a decade was better PR for al Quaeda than killing him now.

Edited by SDG

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Making a public display of celebrating "Justice" in many cases, without even exploring the moral implications of doing so, is often unwise. This is one of those cases. The news media is currently engaged in the task of creating hours and hours worth of al-Qaeda recruitment video footage.

Why is this any greater of a recruitment than our country's past ten years? Why is this somehow worse than torture/harsh interrogations, Guantanamo Bay or invading Iraq? If he was a mere outdated figurehead, as many on conservatives have argued over the last several years...why is this suddenly a dangerous recruiting opportunity for terrorists?

Are you kidding? Imagine a slightly different scenario. Imagine the assassination of Queen Elizabeth of England, another outdated figurehead without political power in any official sense. Now imagine thousands of people in the country who employed the assassins, shouting "Burn in Hell, Queenie" and stomping on the Union Jack. And imagine that you, as a British citizen, get to watch it all on TV. You don't think the recruitment offices throughout Merry Olde England would be full the next day?

The only thing different about the two scenarios is that the person actually assassinated really does have an army behind him.

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Are you kidding? Imagine a slightly different scenario. Imagine the assassination of Queen Elizabeth of England, another outdated figurehead without political power in any official sense.

What would it say about the Muslim world if there were even any remote way in which one could argue bin Laden : Muslim world :: Queen Elizabeth : Great Britain?

The only thing different about the two scenarios is that the person actually assassinated really does have an army behind him.

My God, the Muslim-hugging liberal in me hopes you're wrong.

Why can't the analogy be like the one MLeary's Muslim friend made? Why can't we have shot the Muslim Charlie Sheen, an embarrassing "douche bag" (his words, not mine)?

Edited by SDG

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Are you kidding? Imagine a slightly different scenario. Imagine the assassination of Queen Elizabeth of England, another outdated figurehead without political power in any official sense.

What would it say about the Muslim world if there were even any remote way in which one could argue bin Laden : Muslim world :: Queen Elizabeth : Great Britain?

The only thing different about the two scenarios is that the person actually assassinated really does have an army behind him.

My God, the Muslim-hugging liberal in me hopes you're wrong.

I'm not suggesting that bin Laden has the kind of widespread following in the Muslim world that Queen Elizabeth does in Britain. But I am suggesting that he has followers, that they are radical and dangerous, and that an event like this, and its resulting distasteful celebratory aftermath, will do nothing but inflame those followers and bring newly incensed followers into the al-Qaeda fold.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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I'm not suggesting that bin Laden has the kind of widespread following in the Muslim world that Queen Elizabeth does in Britain. But I am suggesting that he has followers, that they are radical and dangerous, and that an event like this, and its resulting distasteful celebratory aftermath, will do nothing but inflame those followers and bring newly incensed followers into the al-Queda fold.

Yeah, I don't know. That argument makes sense to me when you're talking about bombing Muslim countries, storming into Muslim homes in the middle of the night, detaining prisoners indefinitely, subjecting them to degrading and horrific treatment, etc. In this case, as far as the event itself goes, killing bin Laden seems to me to be only a defeat for al Quada and not the kind of thing likely to "incense" anyone who wouldn't have found an excuse to be incensed anyway. Anyway, I hope that moderate-inclined Muslims not already in bin Laden's back pocket will recognize this as an understandable act.

As for the celebratory aftermath, I think there's room for a level of celebration though I share your objections to the more distasteful forms (gloating, etc.). Human nature is what it is, for good and for ill, and it's some of both. I can see getting outraged at, say, celebrating degrading and/or defaced photos of bin Laden. I can't see getting worked up about people cheering, although I'm not inclined to cheer myself.

Edited by SDG

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Jim Wallis said:

Violence is always an indication of our failure to resolve our conflicts by peaceful means, and is always an occasion for deeper reflection.

I'm not going to argue that Christianity is, at it's philosophical core, a religion of nonviolence. I accept and embrace those ideals. But is violence always a "failure"?

Such armchair sermonizing is precisely the thing that irks me about Christianity sometimes-- it's this detachment from the complexities of the world around us and the apparent denial of the necessity of engaging with its more messy and ugly elements. Has Wallis never been physically attacked, have his children never been threatened, has he never been placed in a survival-of-the-fittest confrontational situation like the majority of people around the world? Is he suggesting God will never put us in situations that we can't talk or pray our way out of? Perhaps if you are a white, middle class dude living in a fairly affluent neighborhood, this is the case.

I am a left-leaning dude politically and I have much in common with Wallis. I'm also white and middle class. But I have been placed in a few situations in my life that required violence to survive, and I can tell you I never lost a minute of sleep about having to go "there". And in no way do i regard those choices as a failure. In fact, I'm quite proud of them and wonder where I would be today had I adopted pacifism.

"Deeper reflection"? I'm sorry. No one who's ever faced a serious physical confrontation talks like this.

Edited by Greg P

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. . . waterboarding . . . which apparently led to some of the information that resulted in bin Laden's demise.

Source? Admittedly, I've been out of the loop on this thing. I haven't watched any TV coverage of Bin Laden's death. I heard an NPR report this morning and that's the extent of it. But it was my understanding that the Obama administration had ordered the end of waterboarding.

Nothing definitive, but here's what a friend wrote on Facebook:

I just heard for the 2nd time today U.S. Congressman Peter King (NY) explain that we obtained the "courier information" (leading to Obama via a multi year investigation) initially from Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed and then it was subsequently confirmed by Al Libby both under "strong interrogation" but clearly stated "water boarding" in Guantanamo in context of Mohammed.

My friend then went on to praise the operation at Gitmo in general and the practice of waterboarding in particular in leading to the discovery of bin Laden's compound.

And it was those comments, more than anything written here, that prompted my reply. Yay! Waterboarding! Praise God! Which he did, and does. My friend is a Christian, which scares me to no end.

Sometimes I don't understand the Christian Church.

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What we have taught the world in the past 24 hours is that it's okay to assassinate political leaders with whom we disagree.

As others have pointed out, bin Laden was not a "political leader," and this was much more than a "disagreement."

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CrimsonLine wrote:

: Saul was the Osama bin Laden of his day, planning and carrying out terrorist acts against pockets of Christians, hauling them off to arrest and execution, driven by religious zeal to destroy what he saw as the enemies of God.

Slight quibble, but was Saul really a "terrorist" if he was acting with the permission of the authorities? Maybe he had more in common with, say, someone on the pro-Gitmo side of the fence (or what the people on the anti-Gitmo side think the pro-Gitmo side must be like).

Saul was not acting with the permission of any authority that had the right to pronounce a death sentence on people. Remember that the Jewish leaders needed the permission of Pilate to have Jesus crucified. Saul had permission from the Jewish leaders to persecute Christians, but NOT the permission of the government that actually had the power of the sword over the land.

: In fact, Proverbs tells us, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” (Proverbs 24:17–18)

Thank you, sincerely, for quoting the full proverb and not just the first half, as so many have done these last few days.

It IS a very subtle and layered verse, when quoted in full, isn't it?

: The Christian should be glad that justice was done, and that Osama bin Laden received the gravest punishment human beings can give for his crimes. But we cannot delight in his death, because the Lord’s desire was that he should repent, and find forgiveness in Jesus. As it stands, we commend Osama bin Laden to the Judge of all the earth. And may God have mercy on his soul.

This is a thoughtful note on which to conclude. I appreciate it.

When I was thinking this all over, it struck me that in the old days, when a judge passed down a death sentence, he usually said that - "and may God have mercy on your soul." It was an acknowledgement that even the criminal has value in God's eyes, and that human justice does not circumscribe divine justice - or divine mercy.

And then, this famous bit of dialogue from near the end of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven:

And note, when Eastwood says "We all have it coming", he's referring to death, not justice. The kid is trying to deflect his newfound awareness of death by focusing on justice and feeling superior. But Eastwood brings it back to death.

I haven't seen Unforgiven in a long time. What a powerful scene.

Also, presuming that the majority of Muslims don't support terrorism and recognize that 9/11 was an atrocity, however much ill will our subsequent actions may have generated, I have to think that reasonable Muslims around the world will consider the U.S. action against bin Laden as an understandable and even necessary action. If anything, bin Laden's ability to elude the U.S. for a decade was better PR for al Quaeda than killing him now.

Today's paper here in Rochester, NY features a half-page story on the reactions of local Muslim leaders - all relieved that bin Laden is gone.

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: Saul was the Osama bin Laden of his day, planning and carrying out terrorist acts against pockets of Christians, hauling them off to arrest and execution, driven by religious zeal to destroy what he saw as the enemies of God.

Slight quibble, but was Saul really a "terrorist" if he was acting with the permission of the authorities? Maybe he had more in common with, say, someone on the pro-Gitmo side of the fence (or what the people on the anti-Gitmo side think the pro-Gitmo side must be like).

Saul was not acting with the permission of any authority that had the right to pronounce a death sentence on people. Remember that the Jewish leaders needed the permission of Pilate to have Jesus crucified. Saul had permission from the Jewish leaders to persecute Christians, but NOT the permission of the government that actually had the power of the sword over the land.

FWIW, my working definition of terrorism is acts of violence directed against innocent noncombatants in order to destabilize communities, and by extension ruling authorities, through fear. For a zealous Pharisee -- or for zealous Muslims in Muslim-majority countries -- to execute or massacre Christians for being Christians is certainly a form of persecution, and carried far enough might rise to the level of genocide, but I wouldn't call it terrorism. The targets in this case are a minority population targeted specifically for their personal offensiveness, not as representatives of a larger community and by proxy its ruling authorities.

Government sanction, IMO, is a red herring. There is such a thing as state-sponsored terrorism. Blitzkrieg-style bombing raids targeting civilian populations in WWII was a form of terrorism by my definition. So was bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Also, presuming that the majority of Muslims don't support terrorism and recognize that 9/11 was an atrocity, however much ill will our subsequent actions may have generated, I have to think that reasonable Muslims around the world will consider the U.S. action against bin Laden as an understandable and even necessary action. If anything, bin Laden's ability to elude the U.S. for a decade was better PR for al Quaeda than killing him now.

Today's paper here in Rochester, NY features a half-page story on the reactions of local Muslim leaders - all relieved that bin Laden is gone.

It would be nice to think that that sentiment is shared outside the borders of the U.S.

Edited by SDG

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Jim Wallis said:

Violence is always an indication of our failure to resolve our conflicts by peaceful means, and is always an occasion for deeper reflection.

I'm not going to argue that Christianity is, at it's philosophical core, a religion of nonviolence. I accept and embrace those ideals. But is violence always a "failure"?

Such armchair sermonizing is precisely the thing that irks me about Christianity sometimes-- it's this detachment from the complexities of the world around us and the apparent denial of the necessity of engaging with its more messy and ugly elements...

This is the second time in this thread you have vaguely patronized someone else's response to this issue as "faux" or "armchair [read: amateur]" without any sort of substantive reason. Believe it or not, Greg, there are entire swaths of the Christian religion that would say: Violence is, by its very definition, always a failure. You are free to disagree, but pretending that such notions are only held by people that don't understand the way the world works requires the construction of a legion of strawmen. I would challenge you to sit down with Moltmann for a while.

Edited by M. Leary

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It would be nice to think that that sentiment is shared outside the borders of the U.S.

I think it is. Though Salafi Islam dominates Western reportage, the American disdain for this kind of jihad also exists abroad in some measure. I agree that the American response represents a minority stake, but Shadi Hamid has written a lot of interesting editorial in recent years about how the Salafi Jihad has lost its glitz, and is laregly still around because it was a handy way for guys Mubarak to generate conservative support.

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Believe it or not, Greg, there are entire swaths of the Christian religion that would say: Violence is, by its very definition, always a failure. You are free to disagree, but pretending that such notions are only held by people that don't understand the way the world works requires the construction of a legion of strawman.
I don't deny that many great Christian men and women throughout history, have demonstrated striking examples of non-violence under the harshest persecution imaginable. I don't dismiss their difficult choice of non-violence... In many cases, i find it praiseworthy. The Christian pacifist, like Wallis or yourself, is not so generous towards those who have faced difficult choices and chosen to resist or defend themselves. Jock Purves "Fair Sunshine" detailing the lives and deaths of the 17th century Covenanters, springs to mind-- some of those men resorted to violence to escape persecution and protect themselves, some even resorting to blazing gunfights with their blood-thirsty persecutors. But obviously, most were peaceful and accepted their fates. I actually find something to admire in both examples.

But this is not really my point.

Choosing non-violence while facing persecution for the cause of Christ, is far different than, say, being a pacifist when a criminal is harming your child in front of your eyes.

When American white men pontificate on the virtues of Christian pacifism and categorize all violence as a profound "failure", it strikes me as very detached from the reality that all humans -- and in particular, the desperately poor-- around the world face every day. There is a certain smugness to it that I perceive, which is similar to the prosperity gospel proponents who regard sickness and poverty as a "failure". You have the right to believe those of us who have used physical violence to avoid death or dismemberment (for ourselves or our loved ones) have somehow failed God, the cause of Christ or our own dignity, but I have the right to think you're a bit sheltered.

How is that unfair?

Edited by Greg P

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The Christian pacifist, like Wallis or yourself, is not so generous towards those who have faced difficult choices and chosen to resist or defend themselves.

Not sure where you are getting this Greg, or how you are able to quantify so finely my levels of judicial generosity. It sounds like you have a conception of "Christian pacifism" in mind that doesn't really match up to the historic conditions upon the term. Again, I would recommend a few of the standard resources on the issue - in which you what you often perceive as smugness may start looking like a fairly unpopular form of discipleship.

Edited by M. Leary

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Not sure where you are getting this Greg, or how you are able to quantify so finely my levels of judicial generosity.
Sorry, Mike. It was wrong of me to assume. Perhaps you can shed some light then on the scenario I mentioned and how such a physical intervention may or may not be considered a "failure".

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No worries, Greg.

"You have the right to believe those of us who have used physical violence to avoid death or dismemberment (for ourselves or our loved ones) have somehow failed God, the cause of Christ or our own dignity..."

I think this is our theological disconnection. I don't think we should say in such contexts: "I have failed God" or "I have failed Christ." Rather, all occasions of violence (even in cases where such violence is ethical, if not obligatory) are symptomatic of the great post-Eden failure in which we live. If we think of violence as the Fall made active in human history, then it is reasonable for us to look at any occasion of violence as a way to envision history as the space in which God's redemptive work is taking place. Through the church, he is actively working on behalf of all of us who have been victimized by the fall - victim, victimizer, and accidental bystander.

This, in part, is what Luke is referring to when he pictures Jesus as the suffering servant in Isaiah - not just dying for those who are killing him, but taking the very shame of this violence upon himself.

Edited by M. Leary

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Andy Borowitz tweets:

BREAKING: AT&T Says Bin Laden Still Responsible for One Year Left on iPhone Account

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