I don’t believe in smacking, spanking, or whatever you like to call it. I don’t believe it is the way to deal with a situation that has gone wrong. But of my five children there was not one that didn’t get smacked sometimes, and mostly by me. The ones that were smacked the most were not the naughtiest – they were the ones I understood the least. If I could live my life again, and change one thing, I would like it to be the case that I never smacked any of my children – never frightened them, never was harsh or impatient with them. But that isn’t going to happen.
Whenever I smacked my children the same root cause was in operation; I had hit a wall. I had run out of ideas, the situation was beyond me, nothing else seemed to be working, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. As a course of action, in the here and now, it short-circuited a few dramas; but in the deeper and more important levels it was never an improvement.
I think now, and I thought then too, that smacking/spanking is evidence of failure: to communicate, to empathise, to exercise patience, and to understand. It is a failure of the imagination and of moral strength.
I think the same about putting Osama bin Laden to death.
I can see how we got there, I can see why it has come about, but it seems to me to be at a deeper level a symptom not of justice but of division – the failure to imagine, to understand, to redeem and to heal.
He inspired and condoned violence on a mass scale. He hated the West and all it stands for. A lot of the things he hated about our way of life are things I hate too, oddly enough – secularism, imperialism, the ways of Mammon.
I am sorry that it had to come to this. Sorry that, if we find killing and violence so repulsive, we couldn’t think of anything better than killing and violence exacted in revenge.
I have no idea what kind of a man Osama bin Laden really was. I deplored the atrocities he inspired, and I can see that this execution was inevitable. But I believe it was inevitable not only because of the evil in him but also because of the evil in us. Supposing, like St Paul, he had experienced a visitation from the living Jesus, and come to us to tell us so. Would we have received him like Ananias, like Barnabas, and taken his overtures of friendship on trust, in good faith? I doubt it.
The Old Testament seems to be full to the brim of Osama bin Ladens, visiting the wrath of God on people and slaughtering the enemies of the Lord in their thousands – yet we don’t say they were evil; we say the battle belonged to the Lord. This violence, this interminable bloodshed! Until we can get past the mindset of it being about whose side we’re on and reach the mindset of understanding, the manufacture of guns and bombs will always be a lucrative trade.
As much as I deplore the violence and bloodshed Al-Qaeda has perpetrated, so do I deplore the cheering crowds on the news broadcasts today.
A man who was our enemy has died an untimely, unnatural, bloody death at our hands. It is not a matter for rejoicing, even if it had to come to this.
There is only one good way to annihilate an enemy; and that is to annihilate the enmity itself, and win him over into being a friend.
I hope this day’s work will have weakened rather than strengthened terrorist activity around the world; but even if it does, I’m sorry we had to do it this way. I wish we could have found a better way to draw the sting of terrorism and promote the cause of peace.
The question we are to live by is “What would Jesus have done?” In this case, realistically, I'm not too sure what Jesus would have done – and that’s always at the heart of where things begin to go wrong.