An American family in London watches and worriesby Timothy Dearhamer
London — As we watched the BBC News coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden and saw Americans celebrating in the streets, my 8-year-old daughter turned to me and asked: "Dad, should we have a party since he died?"
I told her what I believe: "Christians do not celebrate the death of anyone."
My daughter is keenly aware that we are Christians and we are Americans. She is the only American in her school in East London, where we live. Her best friends at school are Muslims from Pakistan. Our downstairs neighbors are Jewish. We are good friends with a Hindu family.
I am also a Lutheran pastor, which is why we live in London. I serve St. Anne's Lutheran Church, which has members from 30 countries and is multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-racial. The congregation I serve is only yards from St. Paul's Cathedral, in the heart of the City of London. My congregation includes a survivor of the July 7 terrorist attack in London.
Today, friends from all over the world have been asking me about the news. The first message to me on Facebook was this: "Why am I crying this morning? I opened my page up just now and someone posted OBL's dead face and it was right under my status. I'm sitting here crying after seeing it."
I wrote to my friend what I said to my daughter. "Christians do not celebrate the death of anyone."
As a Christian I value all life. Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies. Proverbs 24:17 teaches, "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble." It's not easy, but that's what Jesus has asked me to do.
My friend wrote again: "I'm glad he's dead, though. Is glad different from celebrating?"
My thoughts: "I think we can be relieved that a moral monster and perpetrator of evil is no longer able to continue. We may be glad as Americans, but reflective as Christians." As the day has progressed, my emotions have turned to the new reality. I updated my Facebook status: "As an American family living in London, please keep us in your prayers in light of 'likely reprisals' in response to the death of Osama bin Laden." The phrase "likely reprisal" comes from Prime Minister David Cameron.
I am nervous about traveling on the Tube to the church tomorrow and in the days to come. I am worried about my wife and daughters as we travel around London. We are Americans in an iconic world city that has suffered from terrorist attacks before. Is my family safe? Am I safe? Is my church safe?
Even though Osama bin Laden has been finally caught and stopped, is anyone safer?
I consider myself a Christian first and seek to live the teachings of Jesus Christ while trusting God. I believe God brought me and my family to London. But I am obviously still an American. All I have to do is open my mouth and people know I am from America, as are my wife and daughters. As a father and a husband living in London, I am truly worried about the safety of my family.
The death of Bin Laden raises moral questions and mixed emotions for me as a Christian. Americans celebrating the death of an enemy in the streets does not remind me of the American values of life, liberty and justice for all.
I am praying for the grace and strength to trust God in all things, following the examples of Martin Luther King Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They were exemplars of the Christian faith who faced persecution and death at the hands of enemies. They believed love would prevail.
The Rev. Timothy Dearhamer is the senior pastor of St. Anne's Lutheran Church, London. He is originally from Broken Arrow, Okla., and is a source in MPR's Public Insight Network.