Yesterday’s news carried the story of Gary Brooks Faulkner, self-appointed Osama bin Laden hunter. Faulkner, on his third trip to Afghanistan, is described as “extremely religious” and “highly intelligent” by his sister. Equipped with night-vision goggles, a pistol, sword, and “Christian texts,” according to the New York Daily News, he plans to behead bin Laden by the power of his (Faulkner’s) faith. Faulkner is fighting kidney failure, a disability he apparently shares with bin Laden, and although he appears to be dying Faulkner said, “God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him.”
It is hard not to admire a person so driven by conviction. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine Jesus instructing his followers to lop off somebody’s head. The incongruity between the insistence of forgiving and loving one’s enemies and the more direct approach of beheading is a wide gulf indeed. At what point does religion become revenge? Is doing unto others as they have done unto you the corollary of its better known anastrophic sibling? Beheading is one of the most degrading forms of execution – although all forms of capital punishment raise serious questions in classical Christianity. What happened to turning the other cheek (neck)?
The image of a lone-ranger mercenary wearing night-vision goggles while toting a 40-inch sword is painfully ironic if not downright reminiscent of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Flying planes into buildings out of hatred for theological differences is even more ridiculous. If people could keep their religious hands to themselves the world might become a much more humane place and the daily news might become just a tad less colorful.