You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:24)

Soon after a SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden, MSNBC ran a story about his medicine cabinet. “No exotic drugs found” said the pop-up on the screen. Susan and I “busted out” laughing! How absurd! we thought. Who cares what was in the terrorist’s medicine cabinet?

In doing a little preparation for this post, I Googled “MSNBC Osama’s medicine cabinet” to see if I could find that clip. I couldn’t, but one from ABC got a hit ( According to one of the reporters, the video taken at the compound gives “tantalizing hints” at how Osama and his family lived. OMG, he had on his shelf petroleum jelly! Eyedrops! Nasal spray!

Why the fascination with how one of the world’s most evil men lived? For that matter, why do we want to know the intimate details of the lives of movie stars and politicians?

Perhaps it’s a way to feel powerful. “Knowledge is power,” they say, even if it’s something stupid and trivial like knowing what a terrorist used for a headache or what the star of the latest blockbuster flick eats for breakfast. We long to have control, influence and/or access, especially over/to those who frighten us or entertain us or both. If we can peek inside the closet of the actor or learn the beauty secrets of the supermodel, we might even be like them if we could buy the same clothes or cosmetics. If we can reduce the terrorist to an ordinary person who uses nose spray and takes supplements, he or she must not be so scary after all.

In the Bible, naming something or someone, whether an animal (as in the creation story) or God (as in the prohibited action in the Ten Commandments) is a way of having control, exercising dominance, setting the agenda. Seeing a video and knowing the contents of Osama’s medicine cabinet isn’t exactly naming the animals, but it’s in the ballpark. It’s saying “You ain’t all that. You’re just a man.”

What seems like trivia turns out to be a pretty big deal after all.

© 2011 Tom Cheatham