Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Saint Augustine and Saint Bono on Osama Bin Laden?

“Let your desire for him [your enemy] be that together with you he may have eternal life: let your desire for him be that he may be your brother. And if that is what you desire in loving your enemy (that he may be your brother) when you love him, you love a brother. You love in him, not what he is, but what you would have him be.” (Augustine, Eighth Homily, in Homilies on the First Epistle of St John)

And even more clearly, “You are to love all men, even your enemies – not because they are your brothers, but in order that they may be.” (Augustine, Tenth Homily, in Homilies on the First Epistle of St John).

Thus the death of Osama is a tragedy, for in a sinful world, we are facing the fact that “Your Kingdom” has not come, that an enemy has not (yet) become a brother.

Two further things I find intriguing in these quotes. First, I would want to interpret the phrase “eternal life” through the lens of John 10:10, abundant life to the full, as both a current hope and a future reality. In other words, the (costly) call to love our enemies must start now.

Second, “not because they are your brothers” suggests a theology of difference, that the love of others does not start by expecting them to be like us. Or in the words of Charles Taylor (in Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of RecognitionCultural Anthropology Books)), a politics of recognition in which the distinctiveness is appreciated rather than homogenised and unified (rather than a politics of equality).

And finally, a line from Bono, in the song Cedars of Lebanon, from the No Line on the Horizon album.

Choose your enemies carefully
Cos in time they will define you.

For further posts:
see Revelation’s White Horse Rider on Osama?

Posted by steve at 04:47 PM


  1. Excellent. Thanks for this Steve,


    Comment by Andrew Menzies — May 3, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  2. Great Steve. I’m sharing it with all whom I know. Bruce

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — May 3, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

  3. Thanks Steve, great post.

    Comment by Steve Woods — May 3, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

  4. Steve – just been thinking along these same lines this morning:


    Rejoicing over a death…or deaths makes human beings ugly, don’t you think?

    Comment by Richard Littledale — May 3, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

  5. I’m reminded of the old adage that the US can be ‘your best friend or your worst enemy’. In reality Osama chose to set himself up as an enemy of the US, the West and of all reasonable Muslims – and he lost out, big time. He reaped what he sowed. Justice is blind, when applied by human beings at any rate, so he got what he deserved without fear or favour. Now God will be his judge in eternity, and will no doubt be merciful as well as wholly just.

    Though he chose to be my enemy I didn’t hate him, and would have tried to love him if I had known him. I did not rejoice in his death, as did some, but I can’t say he didn’t bring it on himself.

    Comment by andrew holden — May 3, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

  6. Thanks Andrew. I thought your comment about not knowing him interesting – the sense of dehumanising of relationships that occurs through media and through distance,

    As to whether he brought it on himself, I wonder how we would feel in a Chinese hit squad landed in the US and took out George Bush one night, citing the death he caused in the Middle East,


    Comment by steve — May 4, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

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