Praying for Osama bin Laden

Praying for Osama bin Laden

May 20, 2011 by

A Catholic church in West Palm Beach, Fla., is planning to pray for Osama bin Laden. The action is sparking protest within the church itself.

That says something about communication within the church. Reactions to the death of bin Laden have been all over the place, and that’s understandable.

But headlines like “Church to Pray for bin Laden” really put it into perspective. Are we communicating one of our core doctrines—love your enemies—so poorly that actually doing it would make headlines?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” -Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV)

Nobody ever said loving your enemy was easy. But the church has been called by Christ himself to love and pray for our enemies. How we as the church respond to evil communicates more than any marketing we’ll ever attempt.

I’m not sure if this is a commentary on the news media reacting to the church, or a commentary on how rarely the church actually follows the commands of Jesus.

What do you think?

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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17 Responses to “Praying for Osama bin Laden”

  • MEM
    May 20, 2011

    This is from TIME magazine: Parishioner Henry Borga requested the mass intention, on behalf of one Osama bin Laden, which is a long-standing tradition in the Catholic Church in which masses are offered for souls in purgatory or to remember someone who has died or in honor of someone still living. Borga told a local television channel that he placed the request for bin Laden because “he needs forgiveness and compassion from God.”

    So to me, this appears to be merely an adherent to the Catholic belief that souls are in purgatory. What Scripture undeniably says is that Christ died “once for all” and once you die, that’s your last chance, in which case – as far as we know – a mass for bin Laden’s departed soul is pointless.


  • Steve
    May 20, 2011

    While I believe we should DEFINITELY follow the Bible and pray for our enemies (we all need to do more of that), I think praying for those who have already passed from this world is against what I believe the Bible teaches. In my research and study of God’s Word, I believe it teaches us to pray for those who are alive, but those who have died are already on their way to their “eternal resting place.”


  • Graham
    May 20, 2011

    Assuming your theology allows for it (mine says that he had his chance and now stands in judgment), praying that bin Laden comes to a knowledge of Christ and repents isn’t something that anyone should have a problem with. We all deserve hell, and apart from Christ, we’d all be getting it regardless of our terrorist activities (or lack thereof).

    That’s what Christ paid for on the cross. 9/11 is not bigger than the gospel.


  • Nick Horton
    May 20, 2011

    Beyond praying for enemies the core issue here is they are praying for a dead man.

    I’ll say it again, Osama Bin Laden is dead.

    Judgment has happened. His fate is sealed. Is this church so lost in its theology it thinks it can pray for the dead?


    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      May 20, 2011

      Nick, I figured I’d leave the debate over Catholic doctrine out of it. Dead or alive, what do you think of a church praying for bin Laden?


  • Josue Sanchez
    May 20, 2011

    @Nick: exactly!


  • Jamey Halfast
    May 20, 2011

    @ Nick: You seem not to know about the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. …or, you think Osama went straight to Hell (-according to the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, not the (correct) protestant stand of death and immediate judgment). I’m not an advocate of the doctrine, I just am stating it. To answer your last question, yes – this church thinks that she can pray for the dead. Most Catholics do. That is Catholic doctrine.

    – and to hijack the whole thread – Is he really dead? Is he? Convenient they flew the body all the way out to sea to land on an aircraft carrier, instead of jumping across the border to Afghanistan. I’m just saying, it’s very convenient to have the body buried at sea…


  • Terri
    May 20, 2011

    Just a tad late to pray for him. Perhaps his family and his followers though, would be awesome.


  • John Partridge
    May 20, 2011

    As I understand it, the concept of purgatory was repudiated by Vatican II so even according to Catholic doctrine praying for the soul of a dead man would seem pointless. That said, praying for our enemies is always a good idea and therefore praying for the people of Pakistan, and Afghanistan and Al Queda as well as their leaders (and ours) should be a regular occurrence in our churches.


    • Angela Santana
      May 21, 2011

      “As I understand it, the concept of purgatory was repudiated by Vatican II so even according to Catholic doctrine praying for the soul of a dead man would seem pointless.” That’s incorrect.
      Respectfully,
      a Catholic


  • Alissa
    May 21, 2011

    All purgatory/praying for dead people theology aside, should Christians pray for their enemies? Yes. We should also pray for our leaders. And our families. And a lot of other things. I don’t really see where there is controversy (unless the controversy is that HE IS DEAD). If we are obeying Christ and praying (yes, even for our enemies), then we shouldn’t really care if the media is covering it or not. I just don’t think getting into the headlines for something we should be doing faithfully anyway is the goal.

    Either way, they aren’t going to understand it.. so Im sure it will baffle one reporter or another just enough that they might be dumb enough to cover it.


  • Jonathan Blundell
    May 22, 2011

    Tripp Fuller (Homebrewed Christianity) recently shared with The Work of the People and our podcast (something beautiful podcast) about the youth in his church starting to pray for Osama bin Laden years ago.

    Here’s the video from The Work of the People:
    http://vimeo.com/23266345

    People get uncomfortable when you talk about praying for our enemies. But the funny thing is – not only can prayer change the person we’re praying for – but it seems to always change us.


    • wired cleric
      May 26, 2011

      Thank you for that link. Puts the original point of the conversation front and center. Love the demonstration of how we try to maintain two conflicting points of view.


  • Sister Sarah
    May 22, 2011

    Did any body ask that local Catholic church what they wanted to accomplish with their Bin Ladin prayers? We can speculate all we want as to their purpose and motives, but I would like to hear directly from them.


  • John Partridge
    May 23, 2011

    My apologies on my earlier comment on Purgatory. I had no intention of offending. I looked it up and was clearly misinformed.

    “The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” – Vatican Catechism

    Again, my apologies.


  • Nick Horton
    May 23, 2011

    First. My apologies. My initial comment is rude and harsh. I did not consider the catholic brothers and sisters and their particular beliefs. I ask for your forgiveness.

    Since he’s dead I don’t believe there’s anything left to do.

    Were he still alive? Yes absolutely pray for him. Jesus commanded us to do as such. Is it hard? Absolutely. When I pray for my enemies it feels grudgingly hard. But, I can’t let my like or dislike stop me. Praying for enemies and forgiving those who hurt me is one of the hardest things I am called to do.


  • Simon Jones
    May 23, 2011

    Really, he’s dead, so praying for him will make no difference now anyway.



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