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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. chickenWITHoutAhead

    Some people just make me laugh..

    Simple as this. If an article. Is written by someone who claims belief in anything..whatsoever, it instantly gets put down as being biased, uneducated and nothing more than waste.

    If it's not, it's praised to be well written and rarionalized.

    Simple.

    Also, all believers in any "religion" are religous zealots who are brainwashed and fanatical.

    Simple.

    Also, all people who believe in nothing other than "love" are rational, smart and intellectual.

    Simple.

    Amazing how this world works.

    Osama bin Laden's blood is on the U.S.s hands..you think the Islamic extremists are looking for revenge on troops? Heck no.

    They'll probably come to our "free" land and find a way to screw up even more things.

    Good luck U.S.A.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:42 am |
  2. D Reed

    This is just so much Christian drivel..sad that people can attend a prestigious university and waste their time and resources on theology.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:41 am |
  3. Jeff Yarbrough

    Watching the celebrations over the death of bin Laden was much like watching the fall of the Berlin Wall, to me this was a victory for FREEDOM...

    May 4, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  4. Gene

    "He died to the things that God cares most about"... Do you hear yourself? And who has created OBL? Other God? Why do all these "Jesus fellas" have to push some ignorant religion propaganda? Why can't you just say what you think without involving the religion? And besides, isn't religion all about the Afterlife? Why would someone who believes in the Afterlife (heaven, hell, whatever) would pray for someone's death if he doesn't like him? You should be all sad now – "Damn, he's past the earthly passions, i wish he'd suffer longer". Freakin HYPOCRITES!

    May 4, 2011 at 4:36 am |
  5. WOW!

    Are there any adults responding here? Name calling, really? What gives any of you the right to explode over this? Personally i'd rather read this 100 times than to have to hear anymore about the royal wedding! You think it's a space waster, deal with it. I had to deal with it for months with the royal wedding! Show this man some respect for being comfortable enough with what he believes to put it out there so people (like you) have something to whine about. Or did i miss your "oh so interesting" articles??

    May 4, 2011 at 4:33 am |
  6. WDC

    Well said, beautiful article.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:26 am |
  7. truth

    Time to wake up Americans. I can not believe how dumbed down the people in this country are. Bin Laden is a created boogeyman to scare the public in this phoney war on terror. The US supported and bank rolled Bin Laden against the soviets in afganistan.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:21 am |
  8. jennifer

    Jeremy I know what god did and that he luvs us all but try explaing that to an eight year old (lol Noah was this weeks lesson) we could go back and forth all night throwing out different verses in the bible to fit ur opionions and or mine (my grams was a revered :)) all I am saying is that this world has changed dramaticaly since the good book was written and although this article while nice is the mans opionion and towards the end a sermon of what we should have done or do and thus my questions/statement to him.

    Oh by the way this country was founded on and I quote front the dec of indpendence "life liberty and the persuit of happiness" that's what our founding fathers wanted for this nation

    May 4, 2011 at 4:21 am |
  9. Rikka

    I agree with these thoughts up until the end. I cannot pray for bin Laden, I cannot ask that God give him mercy. He had a lifetime to take those opportunities.
    As for Frank – wow, simply wow. Your hatred of a single man in our political system is embarrassing to this country. I was raised Republican and live a life that is fairly conservative but my experiences in large cities, working with and meeting people from all countries, cultures and lifestyles obviously give me a larger lens to look through than what you and your fellow birthers and Palin followers cling to. I was a egistered Republican until the hatred started during the last election campaign, I'm disgusted with the behavior that's reared it's ugly head and has never relented. Disgusting. Give Obama credit where credit is due and admit that the false characterizations of him and details of his life have proven you wrong. How can race not be a part of all your misguided anger? Hypocrites. Hypocrites. What happened to decency and respect and the humble admissions when our words and actions are wrongly spoken and acted. You have become just as fascist and egotistic as any other radical group. Find your heart, find your morality and find your God. You are just spewing hatred and further fostering it for no reason than your own false injustices and prejudices, whatever they may be. Quit feeding your little world with the radio and TV political personalities that have one mission: incite, incite and incite – for higher ratings, book sales, sold out conventions and higher places up the ladder. Ridiculous.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • dustl

      If only more conservatives/republicans were as thoughtful as you. There probably are, it's just that these boards get trolled by the worse of them.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:50 am |
  10. Athiest Johnny

    Dont be so close minded and so negative. Nicely said Rev. Lewicki

    May 4, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • manda

      I was in my first year of Divinity School when September 11th became a defining moment in our history. While I agree with much that the Reverand has said, where I differ is that I believe WE let this fear define us. WE let this man make us into victims. We didn't have to do that, but because of our fear and the fear mongering that happened after this horror, and our inability to rise above it for years, we lost our best selves. I pray that this will be a turning point for us. I too pray for BIn Laden, and I pray for us to be able to let go of this fear that has ruled us for so long so that we may move forward in our lives in a positive and productive manner. There is a huge opportunity here...will we take it?

      May 4, 2011 at 4:41 am |
  11. Jrm

    Nicely said. Grace and peace.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:52 am |
  12. Athiest Johnny

    As athiest I agree. Well said.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:50 am |
  13. Nirvana

    * 1997 - In his first interview with Western media, bin Laden tells Peter Bergen - now a CNN analyst - that the United States is "unjust, criminal and tyrannical." "The U.S. today, as a result of the arrogant atmosphere, has set a double standard, calling whoever goes against its injustice a terrorist," he said in the interview. "It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose on us agents to rule us, and then wants us to agree to all this. If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists.""

    May 4, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  14. Locode

    why would I listen to anything from a moron who believes in mythical beings?

    May 4, 2011 at 3:42 am |
  15. Nirvana

    * 1997 - In his first interview with Western media, bin Laden tells Peter Bergen - now a CNN analyst - that the United States is "unjust, criminal and tyrannical." "The U.S. today, as a result of the arrogant atmosphere, has set a double standard, calling whoever goes against its injustice a terrorist," he said in the interview. "It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose on us agents to rule us, and then wants us to agree to all this. If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists."

    May 4, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  16. Adam Humphrey

    As a Canadian, I am proud to say 'thank-you' to my American neighbors. Thanks for killing a man that would never seek forgiveness or redemption. Thanks for letting the world know that even those who are very good at hide-and-seek are not safe from the all-seeing hand of American justice.

    You all have a friend in Canada.

    USA USA USA

    May 4, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • Jeff Yarbrough

      OBL wanted his 47 virgins...

      May 4, 2011 at 4:42 am |
    • dustl

      Uh, 72 actually. And he's enjoying them now I suppose.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:49 am |
  17. C.Chase.

    REALLY? Holier than thou? Arrogant? REALLY? Regardless... Someone had to have the strength to pull the trigger, why would I NOT pray for forgiveness? Sorry if YOU don't understand. If I had been the one to take that Mass Murderers life, I would still pray for forgiveness... THAT IS "HOLIER THAN THOU" AND "ARROGANT". Really? Wow.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:35 am |
  18. Smarter Human

    Leave it to a backwoods bumpkin to come up with such a ridiculous theory.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:30 am |
  19. Frank

    Agamide, if I were to commit murder, I'd want you on my jury because you apparently don't see any value in evidence. No pictures, no body, no evidence of Osama Bin Laden having been killed, but you're sure he was killed nevertheless. Brilliant! I suppose you bought into into Jessica Lynch being an all-American war hero as the Pentagon falsely claimed. I also suppose you believe Pat Tillman was killed by enemy fire, despite the fact our government was caught in a blatant lie. You are what's commonly referred to by people in government as a "useful idiot". You're quick to believe authority and have no mind of your own. I believe the writer of this article. Bin Laden died years ago and his death was announced on 7 or 8 separate occasions. The government is trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat at a time the President is in deep trouble: fake long form birth certificate, dollar facing imminent default, record unemployment, the bombing of four of Kaddafi's grand kids, the bombing of a Libyan school for special needs children, popularity ratings in the tank like never before, etc. Bin Laden is being defrosted. Madeleine Albright said he was literally on ice years ago and would be trotted out at an opportune moment.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:29 am |
    • Gaunt

      The stupidity of some people never ceases to amaze me. I dont even know where to begin with your lenthy series of delusional lies: The birth certificate is not fake, and even right wing outlets like Worldnetdaily and Foxnews have now confirmed it is absolutely genuine. Please stop lying.

      The US dollar is not 'facing default', in fact the US has the highest bond rating available internationally anywhere in the world, and still has a lower debt ration than half of the G20. Please stop lying.

      As to your claim OBL died years ago, amazing how he managed to ,while dead, release tape and video in early 2010 referring to events that had only just happened. Is it your contention he returned from the grave? Please stop lying.

      Finally, as to his current death, there are pictures, there is DNA, there are dozens of direct and hundreds of indirect witnesses, but to you, none of that counts as evidence. Why? because like all adolescents trapped in their little world of delution and fairy tales, nothing exists unless it supports your lies. The fault is not with Obama, not with America, not with anyone but you.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:51 am |
    • ElisabethinCA

      Frank...I really feel sorry for you. You said you agreed w/ the article..did you read it? He never said Bin Laden actually died years ago. He said he died to all the values that we as American's sometimes take for granted. I am not going to get on you about your comments, about the "fake" long form Birth Cert. You see, I knew that the minute it was released that there would be people like you claiming it was fake. You see, there is nothing our president can do that would satisfy people like you. It’s sad really. It is ok to disagree, I don't agree with everything our president has done, I voted for Bush and I certainly didn't agree with everything he did either. What really bothers me is why we have turned into a country that hates those we don't agree with and eviscerates them. Condemns them and makes lies up about them. Wants to see them suffer painful, horrible deaths. Says the most derogatory, ugly, racist things. That isn't what our country was based on. Remember the "every man was created equal"? So please, don't ever call yourself a Christian. Your thoughts, views, and ugliness are the complete opposite of what a good Christian and a good American are. People like you that are so hateful you have to justify your hate with lies just so you can live with yourself are the shame of this country. I don't agree with all he has done but I can tell you this. Our president is a good Christian who loves this country, he is a father who loves his kids and a man that doesn't think or say the kind of evil things people like you do. Do I wish he was a better president? Of course...do I wish people like you didn't exist? Of course.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  20. Carrotroot

    Finding and killing Bin Laden is about equal to putting a man on the moon for my generation. AMEN this man is dead.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • Gaunt

      What you mean, because both were fake? 😉

      May 4, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • dustl

      Then this is a pretty sad generation.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:48 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.