"Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch! Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead."
This was the song that went through my head when I heard this morning that the ISIS militant known as 'Jihadi John' had probably been killed.
Not because I was celebrating. But because it put me in mind of Osama Bin Laden and the scenes which accompanied his death, so reminiscent of the celebration when the Wicked Witch of the East is killed. Crowds gathered outside the White House and in Times Square to celebrate the death of the world's number one villain. It became an event in and of itself – "Where were you when you found out Bin Laden had been killed" is now a question to which we're likely to remember the answer... "Where did you celebrate Bin Laden being killed?" is a question many also have an answer to. Because it seemed for a time as if celebrating was the only allowable response. The rest of the song sums it up well.
"Wake up you sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below. Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead!"
This is how the reaction appeared to Bin Laden's death. And I fear it's how the reaction to Jihadi John will go.
Let's be clear, the British-educated Mohammed Emwazi was a reprehensible human being. He has murdered, in cold blood, defenceless Christians, aid workers and other minorities who were unfortunate enough to fall into the clutches of the Islamic State – a heartless, brutal and some would even argue demonic organisation.
Emwazi was part of a network which is systematically killing, maiming and kidnapping our sisters and brothers in the Middle East. His reign of terror has resulted in the deaths of American journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines and UK taxi driver Alan Henning, as well as American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.
The wider impact of his crimes – and their capture on video – could have included inspiring other extremists to travel to ISIS held territory, as well as instilling petrifying fear among Christians and other minorites in Syria, Iraq and beyond.
So why am I not going to join the chorus of approval and joy which will inevitably follow from his termination?
First (and this is incredibly difficult to hear, but true nevertheless) he was made in the image of God. Despite the despicable acts he commissioned and carried out, which degraded his God-given dignity and image, that fact remains. This is unpalatable, but if we simply dismiss his humanity, we are on a slippery slope.
Second, I can't celebrate the death of any human being. I am glad that his ability to carry out further heinous crimes has been ended. I certainly won't be mourning him. But nor will I celebrate.
Third, although a major target has been taken out, this move will do little to affect the battle against Islamic State. His value as a propagandist was significant. But the money, weapons, manpower and other advantages that Islamic State have remain unaffected.
A fourth reason to be cautious about today's news is that it comes as the result of a drone strike. The technology which allows so called 'precision' strikes such as that carried out on Jihadi John is the same technology which has led to the deaths of children in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond. In the West, we purport to believe in the Rule of Law – in contrast to the cowardly executioners of ISIS. To celebrate a drone killing, even of a monstrous man, remote control assassinations may sound consequence-free in theory – but they aren't.
This brings me to another objection. Will this make us any safer in the long term? Will our Christian sisters and brothers be able to worship freely as a result? I doubt it. If anything, the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq is simply making their lives more and more difficult. The repercussions of another American/British action in the war zone are hard to predict. What we can be sure of is that this won't dent the determination of ISIS fanatics to kill and maim anyone who doesn't subscribe to their brutal ideology.
Finally, even though I'm not a pacifist, I think there's a strong argument for leaving judgement up to God. I'm relieved to know that the IS militants (along with the rest of us) will have to answer for their behaviour on earth one day.
I gain some comfort from knowing that in Jeremiah 23 we read the following, "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord... So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord."
There is no easy answer to ISIS aggression. There may even be an argument for targeting the likes of Jihadi John. But you won't ever catch me celebrating or singing about it. It's far too serious for that.