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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. Marc

    Too all you Christinan nay sayers, I am going to pray for your eyes to be opened to the truth of what the one and only God is about and his greatest sacrifce for all of us.

    In Jesus's holy name..... Amen

    May 4, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • Les

      Hahahaha. Thanks!

      May 4, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  2. Ferari34

    OIL is the blood of US Military. In the history of the empires they reign for decades even century but eventually they fall.

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

    The Bible clearly states Christians are to love their enemies. As for Osama, I agree he died long ago, when he turned from being a freedom fighter to an oppressor of freedom.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  4. Ferari34

    I believed that bin laden was killed long ago. Its the US Military keep it secret for they have reasons for aggression and invasion to middle eastern country which is known for there rich oil reserved which is the US always want.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:14 am |
  5. wipeOut

    wipeOut

    "Crime Does Not Pay" History proves it.

    Past: Saddam Hussein
    Present: Bin Laden
    Future: Ghadafi

    But, "When there's life there is hope". Hence, Ghadafi still have the chance to change the future with this:

    Past: Gbagbo
    Present: Mubarak
    Future: Ghadafi

    He must take his pick before it's too late..

    May 4, 2011 at 7:13 am |
  6. albert

    This so-called Christian, is simply just another hypocrite. The Presbyterian Church like many others, cry for peace, and "Pray for their enemies", but look the other way when the young men and women of their congregations sign up for military duty and go to war. In some cases they are killing members of their own faith. Jesus never advocated war. In fact he said those that live by the sword will die by the sword.
    Religion is a major cause of many wars. This "Reverend" is no Christian, Jesus spoke out against such hypocrites. Words are cheap "Reverend".

    May 4, 2011 at 7:12 am |
  7. Cleveland

    From a purely practical standpoint, the direction to "turn the other cheek" is a reference for how to handle and insult, not how to handle SELF DEFENSE. While I do understand that you prayed for your enemy, it would be better still to pray for those who bear the sword on your behalf. There is no call to celebrate here, but taking down Osama was both necessary and overdue.

    With that said, pray for your country, its leaders, its defenders.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:09 am |
    • David Lewicki

      You're right. I do that, too, every day, beginning with the members of my congregation in active service. Thanks for lifting that up.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  8. Les

    There is no such thing as a "rational, balanced Christian viewpoint". The entire concept of Christianity, and other equally questionable belief systems, REQUIRES the suspension of logic, reason, and rational thought. I'm stunned.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:05 am |
    • Marc

      What is your belief system??

      May 4, 2011 at 7:08 am |
    • Noah

      That's kinda the whole concept of FAITH.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  9. Marc

    I see everyone claiming to know what a " Christian " is. To all who have posted, can you tell me what being a Chrisitan means to you?

    You sit here in judgement of Christians, do you even know what you stand in judgement of?

    May 4, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  10. Peter

    I'm a Jew.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  11. oogmar

    Strange that I've seen more "We shouldn't celebrate the death of another person" from the 1/5 portion of America that's atheist than people who claim to follow a Christian indoctrinated standpoint.

    Refreshing to see actual (gasp) Christian ideals from a Christian.

    Downright bizarre these days, actually.

    Nobody should celebrate a person's death, only pity deeply the hatred that led to the necessity of that person's death. Just sayin'.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:58 am |
    • Jason B.

      I think it's safe enough to say though that sometimes killing a person can be justified as the "greater good". Here you had someone that was inherently evil. Nothing would ever change that. OBL was intent on killing anyone that wasn't obedient to him or didn't worship like he did. Being rid of him, in the long run, has the potential of saving so many others.

      While I'm not sure that "celebrating" his death is the right thing to do, I'm certainly glad Osama's gone.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  12. Jennifer

    thank you for that article as a christain woman I totally agree with you.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  13. Anika

    Beautifully put. Thank-you for a very sane, truly inspired, inclusive statement.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  14. Peter

    A smart, articulate piece is written by a Christian pastor, and so some called "Christians" on this board don't want to hear it. They want blood, red meat, macho. We live in an era where too many "Christians" have no idea what their religion is supposed to stand for. I won't go so far as to say that they have twisted their religion the same way that al-Quaeda twisted Islam, but the parallel is scary.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • Rich

      Christian pop music is the new Christianity now. We worhsip music festivals and bands.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  15. Alan

    These religious books were written by very mortal men in very brutal times that ended thousands of years ago. The Bible itself is nothing more than a collection of disparate oral traditions compiled into a unified text by a bunch of Roman politicians. And yet billions of people think it should be taken literally? Are you guys really so blind that you don't see how terrifying that is? Billions of people believe something for no other reason than because a bunch of other people believe the same thing.

    I have a feeling that the generations about a hundred years from now will look back on all this religion nonsense with pity and revulsion. These "gods" are nothing more than Santa Claus for maladjusted adults too scared to come to terms with their own finiteness.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:49 am |
    • Les

      Very well said, Alan. Agreed. The author's views and preachings are the most terrifying thing I've heard this week.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:52 am |
    • Rich

      John 1 " the light shone in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it"

      May 4, 2011 at 6:59 am |
    • Jennifer

      I'll pray for people such as yourself who are nonbelievers to open your eyes before you come to the end of your life to see the truth. You are loved by god the father and jesus christ who died for your sins.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • Les

      Rich, what are you talking about? The concept of reason and logic shone on the idiot, and the the idiot could not understand it!

      May 4, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • mark

      i'm not sure the brutal times ended that long ago...wwii was pretty horrible and recent...and some parts of the world are still horrible. but..yes they were written in different times (like when slaves were a normal part of society), so perhaps their good ideas should be taken and not the bad ones...of course there does seem to be a problem with what's the good parts and what's the bad parts...

      May 4, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  16. Softship

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

    I think a lot of people would say that Christian Americans robbed them similarly. And I imagine there are a number of nations feeling vulnerable and fearful of unpredictable catastrophic violence.

    I'm not defending the actions of OBL in any way, but if you throw that criticism into the discussion, you will have to accept it being thrown right back at you.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • David Lewicki

      I agree. Thanks for commenting.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  17. Les

    You, sir, are a dangerous fool. While not the same as Bin Laden/Muslim extremism from a behavioral standpoint, you and your beliefs certainly are the same conceptually. Idiot!

    May 4, 2011 at 6:47 am |
    • Peter

      So Christians are the same as al-Quaeda? Wanna think about that for a minute?

      May 4, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • liligi

      As opposed to people who react immediately and instinctively in a grandiose display of ego and hatred, you mean? Wonder whom Hitler was most like.... the person this writer is portraying himself as in this article? Or the person you're portraying yourself as in one sentence.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:58 am |
    • Rich

      Thinking themselves wise they became fools

      May 4, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • antonio

      @peter

      Yes. Christians are the same. Jesus may not have been violent, but he was Jewish. Just because Christians committed their atrocities in the form of Crusades thousands of years ago and not today, doesn't mean Christians are expunged from their violent past. You're not any better than any other religion by any sense of the word. Read the book, don't throw it at people.

      With that being said. I'm extremely happy bin laden is dead. He's where he should be, departed from this world. USA USA USA!!!

      May 4, 2011 at 7:11 am |
    • Les

      @ Peter and liligi

      Yes, Christians are the same as Al Quaeda in the sense that their lives are dictated by a completely unfounded, unproven, extremist views that revolve around an arrogance that their religion, God, views, etc., are correct, and anyone who believes differently is sub-standard, judged, and your type pray for them in the hope that they will someday see the light and join your madcap group. As I said, not behaviorally, but conceptually, as much evidence exists for the crazy teachings of the Koran as it does for the crazy teachings of the Bible. Have you read the Bible? If you followed it literally, you'd be a terrorist too. But, like most, I'm sure you cherry pick the parts you believe in, and conveniently ignore the rest.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • Roger Goldleader

      Les, I just have to ask about this statement: "If you followed it literally, you'd be a terrorist too." I'm presuming you've read all the books of the Bible, so please provide quotations that support the statement that those who follow those precepts would, or should, engage in terrorism. Thank you.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Scott

      Christians have killed more in the name of religion than their extremest fanatical brethren.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  18. Rev. Wesley A. Johnson

    Incredibly well stated. Well thought out, carefully crafted, reflective, sensitive yet balanced. A grounded theological perspective.

    May 4, 2011 at 6:42 am |
    • mignon

      Try this lovin' over in Iran. Then come back and preach. My view of a loving God is not as sissifyying as yours. Bin Laden made his choice. There exists also the judgment of God. Maybe an all-knowing, loving God knew he would never repent and took him out. That would be a loving action of justice to those killed and those future victims.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  19. Alan

    This author is advocating the practice of actual Christianity as it was taught by Christ.

    Which means Christians are going to completely disregard the article. Actually adhering to the more inconvenient tenets of your own religion is just so...inconvenient... am I right?

    May 4, 2011 at 6:41 am |
    • Rich

      Yes, the fear mongering religion of rush limbaugh and glen beck. Well said.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • Missy

      You are right. I support completely the president's decision and am thankful OBL is gone from the skin of the world. That does not contradict Jesus' teachings. Celebrating the death of a human made by God, however, does. I sure didn't like the man, but he was still created in His image.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  20. Clay

    Who is this clown??

    May 4, 2011 at 6:39 am |
    • albert

      He is simply just another hypocrite. The Presbyterian Church like many others, cry for peace, and "Pray for their enemies", but look the other way when the young men and women of their congregations sign up for military duty and go to war. In some cases they are killing members of their own faith. Jesus never advocated war. In fact he said those that live by the sword will die by the sword.
      Religion is a major cause of many wars. This "Reverend" is no Christian, Jesus spoke out against such hypocrites. Words are cheap "Reverend".

      May 4, 2011 at 7:10 am |
    • Just Another Commentator

      No kidding. Am I marginal enough to get a CNN editorial also?

      May 4, 2011 at 7:16 am |
    • NoWay

      Another self anointed repeater. Which version of the Bible is he using? Hinn, or someone else?

      May 4, 2011 at 7:28 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.