Two men died this week. They had one thing in common – a burning, unquenchable zeal.
One man was born in modest circumstances on May 19, 1931, the beginning of the Great Depression, in Hammond, Indiana, to a line of devout Pentecostal preachers. The other was born to privilege and wealth on March 10, 1957 in Saudi Arabia.
One, armed only with faith and the love of God, entered the dark and violent gangland world of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York City to make war on the drug-fuelled forces at its heart. The other, armed with an AK47 assault rifle, went to an equally violent, dark and dangerous Afghanistan, joining the mujahideen to kill the Soviet violators of an Islamic land.
One founded Teen Challenge, a biblically based drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, expanding to over a thousand centres in eighty countries worldwide. An entire generation became inspired that their lives mattered to God. The other founded Al Qaeda or ‘the base’ a multinational stateless army dedicated to violence and terror.
One believed that God can and does reach the desperate, marginalised and dispossessed with his love and grace. The other envisioned a complete break from foreign influences in Muslim countries and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate, that a Judaeo-Christian alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam and that the killing of bystanders and civilians was religiously justified in jihad.
One died tragically in a car crash in Texas, full of years, leaving behind a legacy of purpose and hope. The other was shot dead by American special forces, hiding behind a woman, in a specially purchased walled compound less than half a mile from a prestigious Pakistani military academy.
Whose reward will be the greater, I wonder?