Reactions to Bin Laden and thoughts on zombies

This morning I received an email from a friend and parishioner that included a link to a new house design, with a note that said, “Hey Pastor, I thought you would enjoy this zombie proof house.” In the end, that email may tell you more about me than anything, but I thought it was interesting to receive that link this morning as we in the United States react to the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

I guess I should set some things straight first. I do not think Osama was simply misunderstood, or really a decent guy once you got to know him. He was an evil guy. He did evil things. I think if he were here in my house he would want me dead along with my family. He was a bad dude. I have no thoughts to the contrary. It was not bad enough that he masterminded the attacks on September 11, 2001, but he used other people as human bombs, and hid behind his money and connections. In other words, he is a great enemy. He is like exhibit “A” in terms of the word “enemy,” which is really quite an accomplishment in today’s postmodern, relativistic milieu. In fact, if anyone ever taught anything that we ought to do in regards to our enemies, then perhaps this guy, Osama, ought to come to mind, because he most certainly was our enemy. But, of course, you can probably see where that is going.

I can guess what you are probably thinking right now. “But what about that zombie proof house?” Fair enough, back to the zombie house. When all defenses are up, it is basically a large concrete block. The walls close up, windows are covered, the only entrance is a second story drawbridge. It is amazing! With enough supplies, a water source, and some planning, you could withstand a prolonged undead siege. My first thought was in regards to the plans for my retirement home – retirement, something about as realistic as zombies themselves. My second thought was, “what if there is a fire?” There is one exit when you are in full defense mode, and if the fire is unfortunately placed… And this brings us to the real reason that I love zombie movies. In a good zombie flick, a Romero film, for example, the problem that ends up crippling our survivors comes from within. That, in fact, is really the constant thread throughout zombie films. It is a sickness that comes from within. Who can forget in “The Night of the Living Dead,” how it is racism within the farmhouse that rears its ugly head, while the undead besiege the survivors? The zombie disease itself is a metaphor for what happens within the survivor community. People turn on each other. The terrifying thing about a zombie attack is that it may be your wife, or mother or brother who becomes undead and thus tries to kill you. Zombies are most terrifying because they were human. Again, who can forget the scene in “Shaun of the Dead,” when Shaun’s own mother reanimates and he has to shoot her? The real issue is not “how do we keep them out,” as much as it is, “what do we do with ourselves now that we are locked in?”

David Bentley Hart writes that evil is an ontological wasting disease. Evil cannot build or create. Evil is not responsible for beauty or any goodness. Evil only kills, steals and destroys. It tears down. It throws into chaos. And it seems, at times, contagious. I have felt very uneasy now in examining the reactions of many Americans to the death of Bin Laden, especially some self-identifying Christians. I am not a pacifist. War means that people die. However, death is always the enemy, and it should always be considered a regrettable, even if necessary consequence of trying to maintain order in a world marred by evil and chaos. There is something appropriate in a zombie movie, when a zombie, with evil intentions must be terminated, because the context of the film does not let us forget that these are our fellow man, who have been tragically taken by an ontological wasting disease, and we must not celebrate the destruction on the outside lest we forget corruption that may take place within. These thoughts crossed my mind last night as I watched mobs in Washington D.C. celebrate the death of an enemy, and as I remembered just 10 years ago when different crowds across the world celebrated the deaths of our countrymen.

If I get time, I’ll post more of my thoughts on this tomorrow.  Until then, here is a post I really appreciated from Joe Carter at First Things.  While I would have some slight differences with him, I really agree with his main point.


  1. Aaron Esch Aaron Esch
    May 2, 2011    

    I’m glad you liked the zombie house!

    Indeed when is death ever justice? Perhaps in this case it is merely because Osama can no longer kill or destroy anyone. That is a reason to celebrate. I do sincerely believe that the blood of the victims of Osama cried out to God for justice and God dealt justice to this Terrorist. If Osama were only captured and not killed he could still influence others to plot terrorist attacks through his trial or by other means. Being dead and buried at sea he cannot, and that is Justice.

  2. Seth Seth
    May 2, 2011    

    Thanks Andy for your post and thoughts; Aaron, I think you ask a good question about “justice.” I wonder if our idea of justice is the same as God’s sense of Justice–begging the question, I guess that it is not. I am not sure that a death can bring Justice–it “feels” right and just, but feelings are not always the best guides. God’s Justice seems to be the kind that renews, restores, re-creates out of death. And this is the kind of Justice we are called to as Christ-followers, in his Kingdom. The kingdoms of the world got justice to some degree for sure, but I want something more, something more like what Isaiah and Micah (and Jesus) envisioned–when that Justice comes, then I can celebrate.

  3. May 2, 2011    

    @Andy–Brilliant thoughts, as always. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    @Aaron– I couldn’t disagree more. If “justice” is understood as “retribution,” then we should all be terrified of “justice,” for the legitimacy of retribution is always in the eye of the beholder: the monster is always the one on the other end of the gun. In a world of retributive “justice,” everyone ends up dead, for retribution is a fire that cannot be quenched, and its handmaiden of violence has a virulence that cannot be controlled…even by those with the most honorable intentions (presumably “us”, although that is probably a self-deception).

    Moreover, if this is “justice,” then we should all despair for eternity, for God is shown to be really no different than the violence of the human heart…just much bigger and more efficient in the violence which God would bring to bear in exacting retribution. I simply cannot square such an image of God with the revelation Christ made in the cross. Instead of lashing out with divine revenge and unquenchable violence, he rather submitted to the judgement of human sinfulness, trusting in the Father–not divine retributive violence–for vindication and “justice.” Yet in such a “defeat” at the hands of the power of human hatred and violence, Christ paradoxically overcame them, for in his resurrection God showed that the justice of God which was revealed in Christ’s resurrection from the dead is more legitimate and powerful than the false power and judgments of violence and retribution.

  4. May 2, 2011    

    Thanks for the comments guys. I’m pleased that you all ended up in a discussion on justice, because I think that is the next step in my thought process as well. I hope to bring this up in a post tomorrow that will also be connected to another movie genre, actually to one specific movie within that genre, the Western…

  5. Chris Chris
    May 2, 2011    

    Great blog Andy. This morning I awoke to the news and felt a sense of relief and happiness. This was shortly followed by a sense of guilt in seeing so many people celebrating someone else’s death. I know that yesterday’s actions will save lives.

    As I read your blog tonight, I was struck by another thought. That was a thought of sadness. Sadness that one evil man could have such power over so many people that his death causes such relief and happiness. The power of terrorism is making others live in fear. I am sad that people have let fear rule their lives and they have made themselves to live in zombie proof homes. Their fear does not allow them to fully appreciate everything that God has given us.

    I hope that people take the opportunity to rejoice and be happy in the good things around us and not give bin Laden another thought. Let his power of fear die with him.

  6. Aaron Esch Aaron Esch
    May 3, 2011    


    Perhaps you misunderstood my comment, I wasn’t referring to retribution. I was referring to the fact that Osama can no longer inflict evil on creation. I think that Gods justice is resurrection and renewing creation. In order for this to happen creation must be purged of evil. Evil cannot exist in new creation. Osama was evil and his death was the punishment for that evil. We are all faced with the same justice as a result of our evil flesh. Jesus saved us from eternal separation from God, which is the second death. We still must face our mortal death, but that is only the death of our evil flesh. I think that we should look forward to this justice. We should embrace the fact that in dying and then being resurrected like Jesus we will finally be free of our evil flesh. Sometimes death is violent, sometimes it is bloody and messy, but it is part of the justice that we all have coming.

    Having said that I also have to say that I have no uneasy feeling about the celebration that followed Osama’s death. As a matter of fact I see it as a picture of the celebration of the saints when evil is finally defeated forever. Will you not celebrate when Satan and all of his followers are thrown into the Lake of fire, and evil is defeated forever?

Leave a Reply

The Author

This is the blog of Andy Croel. I am a United Methodist Pastor serving in Michigan.

The Name

Pulpiteer [puhl-pi-teer]
a preacher by profession
One who speaks in a pulpit;