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May 3rd, 2011
04:03 PM ET

My Take: Bin Laden died long ago

Editor's Note: The Rev. David Lewicki is co-pastor of North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia. He is a graduate of Yale University and Union Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2005 by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By the Rev. David Lewicki, Special to CNN

On Sunday night I watched the news as it crescendoed around the president’s speech declaring the death of Osama bin Laden. The talking heads worked capably with what few details they had. On the split screen, familiar spliced video footage replayed what little most of us know — or care to know — about bin Laden: wearing a turban, sitting drinking tea, a long salt and pepper beard, speaking to friends, crouching holding a machine gun, skyscrapers smoking.

Twitter gave a way to take the public temperature. Some passed information without editorial: “Bin Laden is dead!” Others tried to score political points: “took O 2 years to do what B couldn’t do in 7,” or “THAT’S a ‘mission accomplished.’” Reports said impromptu crowds gathered in front of the White House and at Ground Zero exuberantly chanting “USA! USA!,” singing our anthem. Others retorted that they would not celebrate any person’s death, no matter who it was. Still others retrieved unsettling data about what it has cost us to find and kill bin Laden, in dollars and human lives.

Finally, from those with an intimate connection to the innocents of 9/11, there were tweets about tears. Tears of relief? Tears because the news dragged them back to the still-tender memories of a decade ago? Yes and yes. I was a first-year theology student in New York City on that day in 2001; I know the tears.

All of these responses are authentic for a Christian who lives in America. Bin Laden has had more influence in the last decade over the way we live our lives than any other person. He was a wedge in our politics, he disrupted our ability to come and go freely; he triggered a vast global security and surveillance apparatus. He was directly or indirectly the focus of two wars that affected the material well-being and peace of mind of millions here and across the world.

He desecrated Islam and radicalized Christianity, making some Christians more enthusiastic about military action than they might have been otherwise, while making others more enthusiastic about trying to find peaceful solutions to global problems.

He robbed people of mothers and fathers, took away their children. He made a whole nation feel vulnerable and fearful of unpredictable catastrophic violence.

One thing we might do well today is give permission to each other to feel all of the things that we might be feeling. There is no one manner by which to respond to this man’s death, because his life impacted all of us, sometimes in radically divergent ways.

Beyond our feelings, Christians might also spend time considering our Lord’s call to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. This is not easy. If we call ourselves Americans as well as Christians, we may feel a strong civic sense that what our government did in our name was the embodiment of public justice.

But our political identity and our identity as followers of Jesus are rarely reconcilable. Jesus did not meet enemies with violence. He asserted that the way to loose ourselves of our enemies was, counter-intuitively, by loving them and forgiving them — by wanting God’s best for them and believing in the Holy Spirit’s power to convert any person to faithful obedience. Jesus implied that if the Spirit does not convert them to goodness in this life, any judgment of their deeds is to be left in the hands of their creator — God alone. Our job is to never cease praying that they receive God’s blessing.

I have been praying for Osama bin Laden for 10 years. I was not surprised by news of his death. As I asked myself why, I suspect it is because, in my eyes, bin Laden died long ago. He died to goodness; he died to mercy; he died to peace. He died to the things that God cares most about. He was alive until this week — but he died to life a long time ago.

I have wondered over the years what God tried to do to win him back to love. I wonder about the confounding ability of human beings to resist the love of God. I wonder about these things for Osama bin Laden and I wonder about same things with respect to my own life. Today, as I have many days before, I pray for my enemy — I pray him into the hands of the God of justice and of mercy.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the Rev. David Lewicki. This post first appeared on the Fund for Theological Education website.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Christianity • Death • Islam • Opinion • Osama bin Laden • Presbyterian

soundoff (1,280 Responses)
  1. jenn

    I wonder if Osama being killed touches on a greater mystery which is the problem of evil. How many of us have unfortunately met people who wreak havoc on our lives. Turn on the TV. There's so much unfair violence and crime whose effects are long lasting in peoples lives creating a lot of pain and sadness. It just affects humanitys psyche as a whole when you meet with an immoral person. We have laws. But how people are adequately brought to justice? People being realized from jail early all the time. Not to mention, all the little every day things when you meet a toxic person who can affect your life in different ways. What becomes of these people? They just go about their lives hurting people wherever they go. No justice served. I think most people are celebrating, bc its just amazing to see any justice served in their lives period. Anyway thanks for the thought provoking article. This is interesting how he died from goodness and humanity long ago. I guess you could apply it to all the other evil people out there.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:26 am |
  2. Wesley Pittman

    And the navy seals went in and shot Bin laden in the head.....and so ends the life of the most notorious terrorist and man since Adolf Hitler. The next instance, Bin Laden woke up to the burning pit of eternal hell. He is now in weeping and gnashing of teeth. He can never get out. God who is a just and forgiving God does not want anyone to go there, but if they reject His love that Jesus died for them on the Cross of Calvary, then that is where they go.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:24 am |
  3. AnotherLostHuman

    So while you've been wasting your time praying for a terrorist Bin Laden for 10 years, pastor, you could have been using your strength and energy praying for a President who is black, educated, capable, and a far better leader than you Republican Party could even imagine to produce. Yet, your bigotry and hatred left you no option but to pray for the enemy rather than the leader of your country, who needed you in the most troubling time in our history. Thank you for your theological insights, which actually mean nothing for they are so misguided that they have led you down the path of treason, more or less, and surly you will burn in hell.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • Josh

      "and the award for the person who jumps to a ridiculous conclusion goes to: another l

      May 4, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • Ccc

      You are crazy! First off, how do you know he did not pray for our president. This article is solely about OBL. and secondly, maybe I missed it, but how do you know the reverend is republican? Bigotry and hatred? I guess I missed that too. Did you even read the article completely?

      May 4, 2011 at 3:41 am |
  4. SadieHyde

    Topic like this way too tempting for the trolls,they'll just keep trying to derail any attempt at meaningful discourse between the religous and the non-religous. Most of them sound like they're mucking about in computer class in school but I suppose it's rather late for that.. As for the poster who is so gravely offended by this article, I would make the same suggestion I'd make for someone unhappy with being 'forced' to watch or read something they don't want to. Don't. Click another link. Change the channel. Buy a different newspaper, whatever, but don't waste everyone else's time- including your own- which you imply is so precious that it's practically criminal that you're being forced to read an OPINION piece (usually a hint that it may not be objective factual reporting) by posting inflammatory posts about how offended you are that someone mentioned god near you. If you feel CNN has too many articles of the type in it's belief blog, either don't read it, or perhaps write to them via one of their 800 Contact Us! links and request more diversity in religions represented.
    I'm going to go hang back with the secular humanists again, although I am deeply horrified as usual by the extreme ignorance and hatred that seems to be the lifeblood of all the comment sections on the blogs here.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:23 am |
    • Matt

      sadie, if you were referring to my comment on this article on how it should not be on the front page within the top stories of news then i think you misread my post. my intention was not to spread nor exude "hatred or ignorance" but rather to point out the fact that the news is supposed to be impartial. i did not click on the belief blogs section of the site and i probably never will. i understand your point of "dont click" since normally i wouldnt have but when a pastor's opinion (as you pointed out it is indeed opinion) is top news on a site that is read by millions i cant ignore what this tells us about our country, which is that the christian religion has a strong presence in the national media when perhaps it shouldnt. an opinion piece that offers advice for following a specific religion simply has no place as top news.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • Ted M

      -Matt- Very well said. I agree wholeheartedly. Extremely slanted viewpoints are not news, but far from it. There should be an editorial page instead of this constant slantedness intermixed with actual news.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:08 am |
  5. gupsphoo

    If this were true, it would be evidence that GW Bush is a complete moron for not taking credit.

    Well I guess that's quite believable after all. LOL

    May 4, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  6. Brucemo

    This should not be in "top stories" on the CNN front page. Please, CNN, use some common sense when prioritizing news.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  7. mike kerns

    I pray bin ladin gets eternal suffering for the crimes against humanity he perpetrated.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  8. Matt

    its unfortunate that this religious opinion article is front page news on cnn. not everyone in america is christian and it is things like this that divide our country.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:19 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Matt, I still believe this is a country where people can express religious ideas freely and not feel coerced into believing them. I give CNN credit for giving space for dialogue: from Christian, Muslim, Jew, agnostic and more....

      May 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  9. David

    I wish they had video of the bullets travelling through OBLs head now thats a movie of 5 to 10 seconds I want to see

    May 4, 2011 at 3:17 am |
  10. jenn

    I like these belief blogs CNN has.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  11. Lexmi5

    Wonderful article... I too am not a religious man... Not an atheist.... I have my own relationship with God... But I found what the reverend said was way beyond any RELIGOUS views and way more about THE HUMAN view... Also wonderful comment by "des athiest".... We need to stop the judgements of others as way of avoiding the fears in all of us to understand perspectives beyond our own.... We all need love... Each and every one of us.... Osama was a man living in so much fear of understanding any other perspectives that it destroyed any love within him and THAT is what the reverend was saying when he said that Osama was dead long ago... Without love... We are all dead.... At least this is MY perspective.... Thank you....

    May 4, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  12. Dan Amosin

    I'm all for forgiveness and praying for/loving your enemies. But Osama Bin Laden committed heinous mass murders and other crimes. He had to be held accountable and pay for those crimes, like Hitler did. Otherwise, there will be anarchy if good men do nothing to combat evil engulfing the very fabric of our civilized society. In the face of evil, we have to defend ourselves. Jesus did not tell us to accept and tolerate evil in our society.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  13. Mark

    I never really took the time to sit and think about the influence (although negative) Osama had, over not only the US, but the entire world. Great article.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  14. Lexmi5

    Wonderful article... I too am not a religious man... Not an atheist.... I have my own relationship with God... But I found what the reverend said was way beyond any RELIGOUS views and way more about THE HUMAN view... Also wonderful comment be "des

    May 4, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  15. julian

    I'm glad justice was served, but I'm saddened someone died without knowing Jesus

    May 4, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • N. D.

      Without knowing JESUS??? Are you KIDDING ME?!?!?! What makes you think Jesus is more important than Mohammed? or Buddha? Or ANY OTHER PROPHET?!?! you die hard Christians need to pull your heads out of your a*ses and realize that your religion is NO BETTER OR CORRECT THAN ANYONE ELSES!!!!!!! Faith is a matter of perspective, and this is a VERY BIG WORLD PEOPLE. May "GOD" have mercy on all your pathetic, judgmental, ignorant souls.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • Dan Amosin

      He knew Jesus, but sided with.the devil, like Judas.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:19 am |
  16. De Paz

    I enjoyed reading what the reverend said......Love Your Enemy.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:04 am |
    • Vynn

      Yeah, we loved Osama bin Laden....we loved him to death.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:20 am |
  17. jennifer

    I have a question and statements for the good Rev.

    Question god luved us so much that he in fact flooded the earth KILLING everyone not on Noahs ark is that correct and as I am a christian I know it is please explain the luv he felt for the people he choose to kill. We are taught by example "An eye for an eye"

    I luv god and my faith and this country I will always support(regardless if I agree with the politics) our Armed forces because they are doing their jobs. Just like our pilice and so forth. whatever happen between seperation of religion and state its why our children can not pray in schools. Rev I think your article is a well written opionion and as such is just that your opionion. Somethings that we learn and are taught in church we just can not follow in our lives in this century. I teach my children what is right and wrong. I teach them to be kind and gentle and I teach them to defend themseleves when it is warrented. Their will always be one thing or another that we should do or that we ought to do and then there are some things that just have to be done.I try to live my life as christian as I can and ask forgivness for not living up to perfection. But I will never pray for evil people who think that it is okay to kill. So as a christianly duty I will leave the prayers to you since I beleieve that is what YOUR job is and I will support God Family and Country.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • Jeremy

      It sounds like you are saying God flooded the Earth with implications that he hated us. Not true at all. God flooded the Earth as a sort of restructure. The world was consumed by sin sorta like it is now. Gods love never fails. People need to remember what this country was founded on.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:28 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Jennifer, thanks for this thoughtful message. Following Jesus is messy. None of us do it perfectly and it sounds like you're doing a great job with your family. As far as the flood, the God in Scripture seems to go back and forth between judgment and mercy for those who sin. Keeps us on our toes, for sure.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  18. bill mizzell

    I believe we all lost something. We lost our
    Freedom of speech, our pursuit of happiness, our country is being bought from those who fought for our Freedom. I don't believe he is dead. I think
    we all know our government is able to convince us of anything.
    I will remain a non believer until someone reputable like Bill Clinton tells us he is dead.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • Ari

      Bill Clinton..you mean the guy who LIED to the nation about cheating on his wife with Monika? Really guy? Someone needs to put on their big boy pants and face the truth.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:09 am |
    • AGeek

      Ari: With all due respect, lying about a hummer is a slightly different matter than lying about WMD sitting in Iraq and costing the country over a trillion dollars and the lives of our sons and daughters. Get some perspective.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  19. 911 Survivor

    I feel as though OBL just died yesterday. I also feel i lost my loved one yesterday in the Pentagon. I miss him terribly. the pain is still overwhelming. Nobody wins. CNN should remove this from its front page immediately. It's not new, but opinion.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • xbloodgreenx

      Sorry for your loss, but did you actually read the article? It seem slike you just looked at the headline and didn't look at its context. "... He was alive until this week — but he died to life a long time ago."

      May 4, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  20. C.Chase.

    On May 1st, after President Obama announced BinLaden was killed, the 1st thing I did was to pray for the forgiveness of the Navy Seal who had the strength to pull the trigger! That TEAM brought justice for all of America and even though it will never bring back our victims of September 11th and all of our troops who gave thier lives to help fight for this day, it is one less evil presence walking our earth.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Alex

      So why would the Navy Seal need forgiveness? Who's to say that God didn't direct the bullet like he did David's stone that destroyed Goliath?

      May 4, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • Kathy

      You prayed for forgiveness for the Navy Seal who shot Bin Laden? He doesn't need forgiveness, he deserves a medal and you need to pray for your arrogant, holier than though pseudo religious soul. Your email is absolutely nuts.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:15 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.