Bishop Benfield on the Recent Tornadoes and bin Laden’s Death

Moral fiber is not a phrase that you will find in the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer. But it is a phrase that describes part of the make-up of each of us; it is probably fair to say that each of us has a slightly different moral fiber depending on such things as how we were raised, the influence of our friends, and our experience in worshipping communities. Two items this week brought that phrase to mind: the horrible destruction caused by recent tornadoes and flooding, and the reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden.

I hope that our reaction to the recent natural disasters is that we will respond quickly and lovingly to the needs of the victims. People in Arkansas and across the South have lost lives, possessions, and jobs. They need people who are willing to step up and take action. For some of us, it may mean sending a note to someone who has suffered much emotionally. For others it may mean assisting in clean-up. And still others may want to help financially. Whatever we do, it is a sign that we realize a connection with others; we see the risen Christ in them. It is a part of a healthy moral fiber. And a sign of a healthy Episcopal Church as well.

I hope that our reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden is one of sober reflection, not glee. In watching the television clips of Americans celebrating in the streets, I was reminded only too clearly of how we have felt our own pain in the past when we have seen clips of foreigners celebrating the deaths of Americans. As long as we continue to revel in any death, the peace for which we pray will be delayed. We can be thankful that the likelihood of future terrorist attacks has been lessened. And we can give thanks that for some relatives of the dead there may now be a sense of peace that they had been unable to experience before. But let’s not gloat or claim that anyone is now in hell. That is a statement that unwise politicians make; thoughtful Christians do not. The Christian witness has never been that we are sure anyone is in hell; we simply say that God’s love has the power to overcome all things. And we leave it up to God. To have the courage to make such a statement even in this momentous moment is a sign of well-developed moral fiber as well.