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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. Allen Thyssen

    The comments on this article are as interesting as the well crafted tome itself. Social media has now facilitated a leveling of the marketplace of freely spoken ideas, bringing the fringe to par with the mainstream. This is good?

    May 4, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Wondering that myself...

      May 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  2. Brian

    It's a good time to let go of the hatred. Well written alternative to the common brand on CNN.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  3. Octavio

    I Agree with you Pastor,thank you for the reflection, how good would be to know, beyond human laws judgement ,that he was remorseful and repent.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  4. Greg

    I find it interesting that CNN finds a religious guy, most likely a conservative, to spew this kind of conspiracy theory. It's pretty clear the motives here. Grab a conservative, make him into a denier, a birther, a conspiracy theorist, and bam, MARGINALIZED. It'll be great for the left in the up coming election if everyone that's not an Obama supporter is birther or bin Laden denier. And though this post seems conspiratorial there's plenty of evidence pointing to the media's love for the left and these types of articles, posed as offering fairness to both sides, clearly shows their willingness to marginalize anyone not subscribing to their left wing agenda. It's funny to be open minded and left leaning myself. It funny to watch the media dump propaganda and false leaders to stir up something or another. Our media in this country is junk, they've been completely co-opted. You've got the fundamentalist right wing FoxNews and the communist MSNBC and most of America falls in the middle. We're being divided folks. And though it may sound conspiratorial, this division is planned.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  5. joe

    what a crock of liberal chit....

    May 4, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  6. Richard

    Pastor,
    You seem to forget that Jesus came to "Seek and to save that which was lost" and did tell us to "Love our enemies" but when He returns as King of Kings he will destroy His enemies. Stop trying to make Christ a pacifist. And by the way, there is no reason for Christians to pray for OBL today. His fate is sealed. Also, if you study I Sam 15 you will find God's response to those that attacked Israel in a cowardly fashion. A quick perusal of the Bible instead of your pacifistic feelings would have been nice before you wrote this article.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  7. Gail

    Well said. I have been struggling with knowing our world is better without this terrorist leader, while not feeling the sense of celebration others have. To post pictures of his dead body is in my opinion morally wrong. Praise for our Navy Seals who executed their mission.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  8. Name*ATHIEST

    What is CNN doing? Wonder if they would let an athiest write for them. Seems like every day, "god" is a major theme of the day. Keep the masses ignorant, keep them under control.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • Gail

      Really? Then why are you reading articles on the belief blog – that should give you a clue that what you read may have to do with God.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  9. Bud

    Take a serious look at world affairs and you may realize that religion is the cause of most of our problems. To base your life on a mystical " supreme being " is very sad. Only proves again that " religion is the opiate of the masses".

    May 4, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  10. anamule

    I've had it with provocative headlines. This story is about a man of the cloth stating his beliefs about the spiritual condition of Bin Laden (or lack thereof) and the headline makes it sound like he is spouting "deather" crap. Shame on the CNN editors for instigating controversy.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  11. Paul

    Like sheep to slaughter. Keep praying you bunch of freaks. Next we should assassinate the heads or Pakistan, Syria, Indonesia, Libya, and Venezuela. Why stop when we're off to a good start??

    May 4, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  12. Looking for Sanity in Religion but can't find it

    First of all the Jesus that he is referring to is myth. Only one sermon. No details of his life. He wasn't born in Bethleham but the Catholic Church made that story up to make religion Hollywood and make it profitable since they Roman Empire couldn't destroy the religion. All religions are myth. Fiction. Stories told around camp fires by drunks with wild exaggerations. No Moses existed. King David did not kill 10,000 soldiers in battle everyday by himself. People who claim religion is true should be fined or should claim that nothing they say can be backed with fact. Lies.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  13. Kitty

    Crusades anybody??

    May 4, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  14. Faber McMullen

    This pastor cites ways a Christian should act and feel. He may be right, but the subject at hand is how a nation reacts to an enemy. God may very well be merciful to Osama Bin Laden, but the people of America (who are of many creeds and religions) apparently don't feel quite so merciful and that's okay.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  15. Reality

    Bin Laden followed the dictates of the koran. His execution for crimes against humanity has not changed the koran. Until this book of terror is modernized or deleted all together, no male Muslim can be trusted.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Miracle Manna

      I don't know about the Koran, you could be right. On the other hand, the Bible is certainly a book of terror. Read it some time and see for yourself. Religion poisons everything.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  16. Good Bye OBL

    Okay, I am a Christian. After I heard the news I posted how happy i was. Some of my Christian friends criticized me for doing so. Yes I am sad that he never got to know the love of Jesus, however, he knew who Jesus was and declared war on Him and His followers. Therefore an enemy of the Lord has been defeated. Of that I celebrate.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:29 am |
  17. NONAMERQRD

    You're a fool.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  18. JP

    "For God and Country.....Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo"

    May 4, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  19. dcdrew8171

    Here this person a fake leader of the lords will, speaking from eyes that don't see and ears that don't hear. Just proof that being able to recite Gods word does not give one the knowledge of his wisdom. There are many fakes such as that have minds of mush and hearts of gull. sad but true

    May 4, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  20. Why

    was that article just gibberish? why does this guy get to write on cnn.com?

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

      They sought him out of course. Creating a controversy and doing it with a "religious" leader serves an agenda.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • Maximusvad

      Even your religion isn't safe from Natural Selection. The Bible- Morality for Dummies.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Reader

      I feel sorry for my fellow readers. Everyone who saw this, is now DUMBER, for having read it.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Sorry to have dragged you down!

      May 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
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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.