My Take: My prayer after bin Laden’s death
President Barack Obama greets members of the U.S. military in Washington.
May 5th, 2011
08:26 AM ET

My Take: My prayer after bin Laden’s death

Editor's Note: Karen Spears Zacharias is the author of After the Flag has been Folded, serves on the national advisory board for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and blogs at Patheos.com.

By Karen Spears Zacharias, Special to CNN

The news that Osama bin Laden is dead sent throngs of Americans into the streets hooting and hollering like Super Bowl revelers.

Such a reaction is understandable given the tedious hunt our military has conducted. We should applaud them and their families for the sacrifices they have made and that they continue to make.

No disrespect to President Barack Obama or former President George W. Bush, but it is through the relentless efforts of our military, their unwavering commitment to duty, their love of country and each other that this particular mission has been accomplished.

Certainly the families of those slain in New York's Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and that Pennsylvania field on 9/11 have earned the right to raise their hands in jubilation that the man who masterminded the slaughter of their loved ones has now met a justifiable end.

There are some who are rejoicing because they believe that the death of Bin Laden will usher the world into a new era of peace. CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen said that Bin Laden’s death is huge. “Killing Bin Laden is the end of the war on terror,” he said this week.

Read more CNN Belief Blog coverage of Osama bin Laden's death.

But here, in this household, the news of bin Laden’s death was not met with fists pumps or high fives. The news laid me out flat. Forehead to the floor. Praying. Weeping. More praying.

Yes, I’m grateful that our military has stopped bin Laden. If there is one thing I understand completely it is the sacrifices our nation’s military have made. I was 9-years-old when my father, Staff Sgt. David Spears, was killed in Vietnam's Ia Drang Valley.

In March 2003, I was returning from an emotional trip to Vietnam to visit my father's battlefield when President Bush gave the order to invade Iraq. I watched his address on a wide-screen television in Singapore's airport.

I realized in that moment that there would be a whole new generation of children who would grow up as I did - the collateral damage of yet another hotly contested war.

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I knew it would be a long and drawn-out mission because, as with Vietnam, we simply didn't begin to understand the complexities of waging war in the Middle East, among a people whose traditions and culture are so vastly different than our own.

It is for our military and their families that I have been praying. Bergen might think that bin Laden’s death represents an end on the war on terror, but I disagree.

While Obama was announcing bin Laden’s death, our nation’s military bases were put on a heightened security status. Retaliation is a given. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not understand what we are up against.

A war on terror is not about capturing people and killing them. It’s about capturing the hearts of a people and changing them. Until we understand that, we can’t possibly defeat terrorism.

Bin Laden’s death, while justified, doesn’t mark the end to the reign on terror. Sure, it’s easy enough to mark bin Laden up as a lone nut job. Whacked. Three bricks shy of a load.

It’s tougher to consider that a boy who had been raised in a good home - a home where faith was preached and practiced, a home where education was encouraged and lauded, a home where charity was instilled and cultivated - grew up to hate so much.

But then we only have to look at Virginia Tech or Columbine to find our own homegrown terrorists.

Yes, there is a collective sigh of relief we share over the death of bin Laden. One more evil man stopped dead in his tracks. But once this frat party ends, we are still faced with the unanswered questions: Why did bin Laden hate us so? What were the reasons he wanted to harm us?

Was it our values and the faith we tout so frequently, as some have suggested? Or our hypocrisy? We preach democracy while supporting tyrants. We preach opportunity while turning a blind eye to corporations that exploit their workers. We preach virtue while exporting a culture that is saturated with sex and violence and rampant consumerism. Perhaps bin Laden felt threatened by all that.

Is there a better, more productive way to diffuse the wrath of terrorists, a way that won’t require the lives of thousands of troops, and the loss of limbs and brain function to hundreds of thousands of others?

Military action might be a necessary component but it is never going to bring about long-term security. There is no such thing as "winning the war on terror." The inequalities of our world's economic and health conditions fan the flames of hatred among the disenfranchised and underprivileged.

We will only change their attitudes as we build diplomatic, humanitarian, economic and personal relationships, allowing for our differences and respecting each other in the process. That's not appeasement. That's compassion.

Failing that, it seems to me that bin Laden’s death will not usher in a new era of prolonged peace. Instead, it will only ensure there will be more slaughter to follow as those seeking to avenge his death follow our lead, as we sought to avenge the deaths of those lost on 9/11.

This isn’t the way to peace. This is tit-for-tat retribution.

I hope once all this revelry ends, you’ll join me in prayer for our troops, for our nation and for the pursuit of peace that provides understanding.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karen Spears Zacharias.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Opinion • Terrorism

soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Iamthebeast Sssotlohiefmjn

    I prayed for Violent Storms and a great many other events to happen as a witness of both my displeasure and my God's displeasure in the news I heard of Osama Bin Laden's murder by the current ongoing illegal USA America government. Even my family and friends and many people about me in public were aware and then they came in force and continue to do so, earthquakes and huricanes, Obamanazi loosing Popularity as the masses realize how bad everything is.
    I agree with you, winning hearts is a better way but we Americans are extremly vain.Dont be a busybody scripture says but do we heed? I am old and tire of all the world and earth, I see only evil, from a little to a lot and I do not see any good in the world at all, never have. I want to move on, become a seed through Armageddon and Desolation that I might unfold and bloom in a new world and earth tomorrow. I seek to be the very least evil and the purest of the least evil and have nothing to do with good save to serve it with the service it grants I service it.
    Jesus said, unless the seed dies it cannot bear fruit but if it dies, it may arise and bear seed, some greater and some lesser. He said also, make your tree either good or evil for it will be known such also he said no one is good not even him but only God who I say I have not seen on earth. I thus make my tree what I know, evil and go inward that I might prosper.
    Understand? 666

    August 26, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  2. Rationalist

    Prayer: how to do absolutely nothing and still think that you are helping. What if the soldiers who so bravely and thankfully rid the world of OBL had decided to pray that day instead of pick up their weapons and take action? America needs to stop praying to their imaginary friends, pick up a shovel, and get to work.

    August 18, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  3. Sebastian

    Consumerism is a defining factor in a society based upon capitalism, nicht wahr?
    Many Americans are content to ride the waves of others in their quest for self-gratification, regardless of consequence. Our country's addiction to foreign oil is a prime example... Would we really grapple with issues in the Middle East if the U.S. had made a realistic effort to become self-sufficient?
    I humbly submit that the mantle of blame rests directly on the shoulders of those who have forgotten (or never fully appreciated) how many sacrifices have been endured to prevent social decay.
    Morality is largely based upon religious doctrine, and is therefore irrelevant in a pure democracy (basis: Plato's "Republic"). America should not be defined by theocratic standards unless every citizen agrees to obey said doctrine without variance or interpretation. Philosophy? Absolutely.
    Get real or go home...


    June 19, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  4. allfaith

    I pray that everyone will love peace enough that they will have no need to hate war.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • Jesus

      Pray to whom? An invisible and imaginary guy in the sky? You're better off actually doing something to oust those religion hucksters and GOP politicians (bought and paid for by big corporate, bank, and insurance interests) from the policy making aspect of our society. They hope you pray! Praying keeps you off the front lines where decisions are made. They want you to reside meekly in your pews and fork up cash to them as they desire. What a mess they made of things. Instead of wasting time "praying it all away", why not work to vote these slugs out of office?

      July 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  5. kennth B, smiith, P.E.

    Atten.Editor: Since my last comment to you, dated 6-5-011, a new forest fire has erupted in Arizona, causing several communities to be evacuated, and causing thousands of people heart-break, and sorrow. I repeat my former request, that "a National day of Prayer be declared, to call the atention of the U.S. GOVERNMENT to some of the errors of its ways.
    Our Prayers for these unfortunate victims should go out to them, with our heartfelt sympathy.

    June 7, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  6. kennth B, smiith, P.E.

    Atten: Editor and Mr. Greenier. The extraordinary force and severity of the recent storms, floods, and firestorms, ie. Texas, Mississippi River,Tuscaloosa, Ala.missouri flooding, and Springfield,Mass Tornado, leads me to believe that a higher
    Authority is trying to give us a message. Our country"s mantra has been, since 1776, "One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all." Since this country has enjoyed His protection for the past two or more centurys', it is not surprising that He might expect us to obey His commandments. That we have failed in this latter area is obvious,what with torture and execution without due process. What this country needs is a National day of Prayer, to help get this message to the Gov't.

    June 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Montgomery County Police Department in Rockville, Maryland

      Many people soon rejoiced in bin laden gone because of what he did to us back in 2001. When you think of the mayhem in New York and D.C. and what happened in Shanksville, Pa. during that time, you would understand that justice was finally served. What he got was a drop in the bucket when you think of what he did to the thousands in New York and D.C. back then. Hell will be waiting for bin laden and the circle will be complete.

      June 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  7. Iqbal khan

    But check this......

    June 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  8. john

    Its election year. Its all BS to justify the foney presidential aproval ratings. Even though you wont know anyone who voted for obama a second term he'll be there. Americans will believe he could have been voted in again after all he did catch the boogieman who magically melted 3 steel structure buildings with jet fuel (which burns much cooler than the melting point of a steel Ibeam) and penetrated one of the worlds most secured biuldings without getting caught on cam. How they ever found him with there satilite imaging that could pinpoint a cancerious sist on my left big toe (It only took 10yrs).
    Remember in 2008 they tried to convence us our naighbors voted for obama cause they felt bad for the black man. His whole campain was based on one word change (With very little explination) and everyone who disagreed with him was publicly outed as a racist.
    911 was a wakeup call democrocy is a falst or atliest has been since way before the bush administration

    June 2, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  9. Jon Matthew Greenier

    Matthew 5:43-45
    43"(A)You have heard that it was said, '(B)YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR (C)and hate your enemy.'
    44"But I say to you, (D)love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
    45so that you may be (E)sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • allfaith

      It's not wrong to confront injustice to prevent it from advancing, but truthfully, something that has already happened cannot be undone, it can only be learned from, understood, and then left behind.
      If we hate, we have reason to believe that we are hated in return. To fear being attacked is to always be at war.
      Live in peace.

      June 15, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  10. Michael

    Where's the prayer i would have liked to have read it!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:37 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.