What led Usama bin Ladin to become the worst terrorist in history? We all have troubles and tribulations. Many people have bad childhoods. Many people are poor, some people are rich. But only Hitler grew up to become Hitler and only Usama grew up to be Usama. It is an interesting psychological and historical question to ponder, of academic interest, to think about how an evil person comes to be. I enjoyed Ron Rosenbaum’s book, Explaining Hitler, where he examined the views of multiple historians who attempted to come to grips with how Hitler became the man he did. Its cover is a photograph of Hitler as an infant, and the question throughout is “what made that baby become a monster?”
In the end, Ron Rosenbaum had no answer to the question. He concluded that the question is unanswerable. Likewise, we’ll never know for sure how Usama turned into the monster he became, unlike his brothers and sisters, unlike all the other people of Saudi Arabia who lead normal lives.
The Prophet Ezekiel reported that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11). Jesus told his followers to pray for those who persecuted them and to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). For the fictional Klingons, “revenge is a dish best served cold,” but for Christians, we’re told vengeance belongs only to God (Romans 12:19-21).
Nevertheless, the Proverbs express both God’s command “do not rejoice when your enemy stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17 ) together with the thought that “when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy” (Proverbs 11:10). And certainly it is human nature to become giddy over the end of tyrants. No one sheds a tear when a gangster meets justice, when the dictator falls, or when a terrorist is transformed into fish food.
God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but God also sees to it that they do on occasion die. Justice—and vengeance—is sometimes served, cold as ice. And for that we give thanks.