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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 • My Take • Opinion • Osama bin Laden • Presbyterian

soundoff (1,280 Responses)
  1. corrina

    Shame on pastor David for knowing that bin laden died years ago and keeping it to himself. for those of us who believe that he just died, we need to get Maury and his team to give a lie detector test to the pakistani president and his military officials that they did not know he was living there .they must think we are idiots to believe that

    May 4, 2011 at 6:39 am |
  2. Michael

    David Lewicki you are so stupid. You believe in the biggest lie in the world...Jesus.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:35 am |
  3. Pj

    Forgiving your enemies sounds very nice and even relieves you of unpleasant feelings. Its easier for some than others, too. The problem with forgiveness, 7 times 70, and turn the other cheek and so on, is that it encourages passivity and apathy and martrydom. Why do anything at all if God is going to even up the score later on in the afterlife. Why track down serial killers, why appt justices, why add to a police force, why have juries, why not just let any aggressive person out there gun y ou and your loved ones down and then your relatives tell him that they fogive and love him. even if he kills again. God will settle all scores and the rest of us sheep go on living our lives, until some lost soul decides to take us out, too. The Kin James version of the Bible is itself a revision of an earlier bible, and so on. People interpreting it should read earlier, original bibles if they're so concerned about getting God's word down absolutely right. And even then they won't. Its really easier to turn the other cheek and hope God takes care of things, for many people. what's tough is caring enough about yourself and your people to go after people that we know are out to destroy for no good reason. Putting our lives on the line to protect those of others. isn't that more like the brotherly love God speaks of? But then that verse clashes with others in the Bible. Go figure.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:35 am |
  4. works4me

    IF he "died long ago" it wasn't by our hand. The big wheel has turned and this was by our hand. Nice job all!

    May 4, 2011 at 6:33 am |
  5. Tristan Heite

    Leviticus 26:17 'I will set my face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.'

    May 4, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  6. PinkFlam

    What a cheap, cheesy headline. Where's the beef?

    May 4, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  7. Analog Kid

    99% of christians in this country are right now going against Jesus and his preachings about loving thine enemy. Love Bin Laden? Pullllleeeease.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  8. Dean

    One might argue that he wasn't a man for a long time. He was taken over by pure evil. We didn't kill a man. We took out a source of evil

    May 4, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  9. James Foulk

    Thank you for providing a Christian perspective on these events, it gives a much needed voice to those of us who feel the same way.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:46 am |
  10. Abdul Bari

    Very crooked thinking. As a Christian you need to do this or that ... but because he was already dead, whatever Christians are doing is OK.

    Killing of Osama is just one thing that Christianity and Christians are doing. There are millions of other things that cause people like Osama try to resist.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:37 am |
  11. angelika

    Whatever!!! really? Another ignorant article. Osama is bad, Bush is bad, China is bad. Who is the worst? don't know. This is all a big BS Progaganda going on right now. This is disgusting.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:07 am |
  12. darkstar4d

    He is no longer alive, he was a man without a country, he could have done right for humanity but chose not too for all the wrong reasons, he will never sleep, he will never dream, he will never feel the heat, he will never feel the cold, yes he had a family, he will never see them again, is he forgiven yes, will he be forgotten, Never!!!, even though he's dead, and yes his spirit died a long time ago, when he gave up on common sense and desency.

    But still there are others, others who are still out in the world living a lie and turning against humanity starting with themselves, in thier world there is no politics, there is no religion, they claim to be but they are not part of anything, they are in fact the living dead, they need to be ressurrected they need to come back to humanity as human beings, if they don't they will meet an unpleasent end for the world will say no more and do away with all of them.

    We do not want it to come to that, we don't, because there are so many of them, by Moses there are so many of them. (3 million +)

    May 4, 2011 at 5:07 am |
  13. Will 18E

    Well as a Presbyterian, I have to point out the author argument is based on a faulty premiss.
    religion or being a Christian or an American, had absolutely nothing to do with the military mission as a nation state on the "War on Terrorism" or the removal of OBL's life. , "what would Jesus do.. or think, or feel" has nothing to do with the actions taken by the body politic. On has nothing to do with the other, period.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:06 am |
  14. jman

    And I wish to post this for myself, to mister bin laden. you were our brother here on earth. you became a corrupted and evil man. But only the lord may judge you, not me. I pray that at some point you found forgiveness in the eyes of the lord and savior jesus. But I personally forgive you for all you have done against the innocent people of the world.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • LCCatFan

      You are an idiot. You can only forgive others for what they have done to >>YOU<<< just as I can not forgive others for killing you or your family. You are an arrogant and presumptuous fool.

      May 4, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  15. Roger Harknes (Minister Peaceful Poet)

    Very good article. Actually though Bin Laden died in 2001 of kidney failure. I don't know who the seals killed, I'm sure they believed it was Bin Laden. Smartly the bodied was buried at sea so we would never know for sure. Bin Laden was never linked to 9/11 by any real evidence, just heresy from tortured prisoners. Who, well you know, would say anything to keep from being tortured.
    Anyways, when Jesus comes, the veil of fabrication will be lifted and we all know the truth then.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • JamieIRL

      I'm talking to outer space aliens right now.

      See how fun it is to make baseless claims?

      May 4, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • Analog Kid

      Get back on your meds and get back to the asylum.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:05 am |
    • works4me

      It's a good time to remove your head from your ( ! )

      May 4, 2011 at 6:45 am |
  16. Selfish Gene Simmons

    Kookoo.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • Lurch

      You're a few minutes off there, kookoobird.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  17. dinks

    All u idiots that are hating on Islam, are no better than OBL hating on americans. Both party's were in the wrong. And nothing will get better with all this ignorance in the world.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • Wayne

      Islam is evil. Just saying.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:07 am |
  18. jman

    to all my fellow christians (if youre not christian then this is not directed at you) remember the lord commanded us to love all equally as brothers, even those who would do us harm. the author of this article is 100% correct in his forgiveness and praying for Osama. Remember, to hold a grudge in our hearts against even such a man of terror as bin laden, will only do us more harm than good. for the lord commanded of us to forgive all men, and he would forgive whom he would forgive. we can not enter heaven if we hold unforgiveness against another in our hearts. remember then, to pray and love bin laden, as difficult as it may be. for if not, you're jeopardizing your own future and salvation.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • Abdul Bari

      Very respectable post; but as a Christian, what did you do towards this when he was alive. Even if he is dead, what is being done against other people who are categorized as terrorists or "against us".

      May 4, 2011 at 5:40 am |
  19. chickenWITHoutAhead

    Gene,

    Great post bruda..point the finger and 3 are pointin back at you.

    Remember the rules of nature, your gunna die. I'm gunna die. Plain and boring.

    I would love to get your opinion on other matters such as love, fidelity, parenting, brotherhood, sports, school, work ethic, and most importantly the heart!

    I'm pretty sure they are like most other peoples opinions and when it comes down to it..doesn't have much weight cause your an individualist.

    Think your right on everything? Look at those 3 fingers pointin back straight atcha..

    They'll tell you things you won't like brutha..

    May 4, 2011 at 4:50 am |
  20. aliu

    the us always think they have monopoly over inteligence where they can cheat the world with their blutant lies which cannot be proven beyond doubt.you have the inteligence of spreading falsehood and we those who are to consume have more intelligence to subject it to critical analysis and know the motive behind this lies.Allah tells us that even if all moslems remove their hands from the religion the enermy cannot overcome the religion.usa may try all the time to fight islam but the end result would be failure.next time usa haave to come up with better lies than the poor one that is circulating that they have killed osama.

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

      ?

      May 4, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • Derek Trygstad

      Sorry brah, terrorism is bad and terrorists have to pay for their crimes. Educate yourself before you regurgitate the sad lies your despotic leaders feed you. Until you stop listening to everything your crazy religious leaders tell you, we will never progress as a species.

      May 4, 2011 at 5:02 am |
    • Matt

      There are two blatant facts that you are missing which gives your argument no footing.

      1. You talk about the 'US' as if it is one person whose sole mind-set is to tear down everyone else around them. If you knew anything at all about this country, then you would realize that the biggest critics of the US might be its own citizens. But then again, we do have that luxury to question the believability and/or motives of our government.

      2. The US and it's allies are not fighting against Islam. We are fighting against those who decide that it is OK to murder innocent women and children. It just so happens that most of these men and women's religion of choice is Islam. You talk as if this country would do the same to the hundreds of thousands of Islamic faith residing in the United States just because of their faith alone.

      Killing Bin Laden helps the psyche of the American people. However, other than that, it will do little in furthering our riddance of terrorism.

      May 4, 2011 at 5:57 am |
    • Wayne

      Still believe the earth is flat do you?

      May 4, 2011 at 6:08 am |
    • Albert911emt

      Not all Americans think alike you idiot.....just like not all French think alike, not all Germans think alike, etc....

      May 4, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • Sandra

      Get over yourself.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:22 am |
    • bbech

      Fact: All rectangles are squares. False: All squares are rectangles. Your statement matches the latter.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:50 am |
    • max

      For you lost unbelievers...
      I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18
      Please give God a chance...you will never regret it. The only way is through Jesus Christ.
      There are folks out here praying for you.
      For those believers in Christ...God bless you & keep the Word out there for those in need.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:54 am |
    • Rich

      @ the author David. For anyone else it would be worth praying for. But for harder criminals like this clown it is a waste of time. John1. "The light shone in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it"

      May 4, 2011 at 6:55 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.