Zero Dark Thirty: The Greatest Manhunt ever?

Posted: January 11, 2013 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Drama, True Story
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ZeroDarkThirtyThe tagline for the highly anticipated movie Zero Dark Thirty is: “The Greatest Manhunt in History.”  For those of you unfamiliar with this terminology, a manhunt is “an organized, extensive search for a person, usually a fugitive criminal.”  Of course, this famous manhunt refers to Osama bin Laden who has been sought after on a worldwide scale ever since the 1998 African embassy bombings.  The 9/11 bombing significantly intensified the search for this mass murderer throughout all the years of the G.W. Bush administration.  Ultimately, Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S Navy Seal Team Six in 2011.  Zero Dark Thirty tells the story of the last decade of this worldwide manhunt that ended in bin Laden’s death–with Barak Obama taking the credit for making the call to take him out.

Now there have been many famous manhunts of fugitives, serial killers, and mass murderers in world history.  The first recorded manhunt in human history is actually found in Genesis 4.  After killing his brother, Cain was driven from the land by the LORD.  His biggest fear was that people would hunt him down and kill him, in some sort of renegade justice.  So God, in His grace, put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.  In essence, God graciously saved Cain from what could have been the greatest manhunt in history (at the time)!

Immediately following September 11th, most Americans seemingly wanted bin Laden hunted down and even killed.  He proved to be a very elusive character though, just as many criminal masterminds have been throughout history.  According to a CIA critique of the film, Zero Dark Thirty focuses too much on just a few heroes, not recognizing that there were literally hundreds of operatives who contributed to bin Laden’s demise.  And they also say the emphasis on “enhanced interrogation” techniques was overblown as well.  Whatever the case, many people were very happy to see bin Laden finally get what was coming to him.

So how are Christians to respond to the assassination of Osama bin Laden?  Should we stand up and cheer that the world is now rid of this supreme terrorist?  Should we feel proud of our governmental leadership for giving the order to “take him out?”  Or is there something a bit unseemly about the President of the United States authorizing the murder of a fugitive without the opportunity for some sort of war trial?

Clearly, we serve a God of justice who has given authority to civil governments to “bear the sword” against evildoers (Romans 13:4).  Thus, a strong military is both necessary and a God-ordained way to deal with the sin and violence of this world.  Christians can serve in the military and in the course of their work may be called upon to kill bad people and break things.  Soldiers are to submit to their leaders and follow the plan laid out for them.  Seal Team Six followed orders and fulfilled their mission.

But that Scriptural foundation doesn’t quite answer the question of what political leaders are/aren’t free to do in the defense of their country and in dealing with evil.  I think Christians should very well have a problem with it.  As one commentator wrote: “The order was given by a president who, as a former law professor, knows the absurdity of his statement that “justice was done.” Amoral diplomats and triumphant politicians join in applauding bin Laden’s summary execution because they claim that real justice—arrest, trial, and sentence—would have been too difficult in the case of public enemy No. 1.  But in the long-term interests of a better world, should it not at least have been attempted?”  The same commentator continued: “The law permits criminals to be shot in self-defense if they (or their accomplices) resist arrest in ways that endanger those striving to apprehend them. They should, if possible, be given the opportunity to surrender, but even if they do not come out with their hands up, they must be taken alive if that can be achieved without risk. Exactly how bin Laden came to be “shot in the head” (especially if it was the back of his head, execution-style) therefore requires explanation. Why a hasty “burial at sea” without a post mortem, as the law requires?” 

Maybe we were caught up in the manhunt and death of bin Laden more from a spirit of revenge than of justice.  As sympathetic as we should be towards the victims of this terrorist, Christians must also stand for obedience to the law and  for true justice.  The “greatest manhunt in history” depicted in Zero Dark Thirty may have taken one evil man out of the picture, but we should be careful to claim some sort of righteous victory.  In times like these, lovers of Jesus may need to call upon their governments to follow the law as it reflects the righteousness of God.


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