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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. Angelo

    This is absolutely ridiculous!!! CNN, what are you thinking?!?!?!?! Take this off your site now. I should not have to read about why "his God" should be this way, or that way!!!! I am an atheist!!! I am extremely upset and wil be calling my lawyers!!
    HAHAHA. Everyone simmer down. Its hisd own opinion. lolol. I love the interwebs

    May 4, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  2. lawrence

    Your take pastor is my take too. I am a muslim and except for the fact that I believe Jesus is a Mesiah but not son of God, all the values, teachings are well put by you for the common belief of both our religions. We believe in the same creator and I wish for all those negative commentators above to look into themselves a little and ask themselves why they are so negative. As difficult as our current world situation is, you and I and people like us also live in the same world as they do, but choose to live positively and by example that will help us unite rather than divide. This is so important.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Henry

      I completely agree with you Lawrence. Excellent article.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Thanks, Lawrence.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  3. Tom

    While he may have died morally or psychologically years ago he continued to physically kill innocent human beings. People like this have to be confronted. Just think if Hitler had been confronted early on, millions could have been saved. Don't forget that Jesus threw the money launders out of the temple, he didn't get on his knees to pray for their leaving on their own.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  4. BeingV

    Amen!

    May 4, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  5. will1

    Did anyone actually read the article?????? It wasn't about some weird conspiracy that Bin Laden was dead a long time ago, it was a well thought out article by a pastor. I get from the article that the pastor understood the evil that this man did but still hoped for a miracle that he could change. The pastor to me is showing love for others, turning the other cheek and NOT spouting politics. Thats something I do not see from most pastors and Christians today. Most I see politics,revenge and hate coming from them.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • Henry

      Yup, I completely agree. I wish I could say it like that. Well done!

      May 4, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  6. Seriously

    Frustrated that I had to read the whole post just to find that Osama "died inside" years ago. Please change the article link on the homepage.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  7. Name*hmmm oh well

    for a man of faith he sure is judgmental, remember thou shall not judge

    May 4, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • waheid

      Scratch a person who has strong religous beliefs - and especially those who feel compelled to spread their religion - and you will inevitably find a hypocrite. Never fails!

      May 4, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Again, not my intention to judge. Just offering an opinion from my own perspective–glad there's a space for comments and feedback!

      May 4, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  8. Brother Rat

    How nice of this man to judge our honest, human emotions as "authentic for a Christian who lives in America." I want to hear more about his take on inauthentic emotions and reactions... And Bin Laden died to mercy and peace? That's so nice that this fellow thought so, but in reality he has been working to further destabilize Western freedom and democracy, and others have been working under his directions and in his name. CNN is not the proper venue for this man's spaceman God to address how we "should" feel and react, and about how this man, uneducated in national security matters, feels about BIn Laden. Blech....

    May 4, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  9. Dowtin Thomas

    It's funny how some Christians will not agree with this guy's message. You would think that God being the ultimate communicator with perfect purpose could devise a book that everyone, even believers, could extract the same meaning.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  10. NuffSaid

    I am always amused by the bible bashing that goes on between each side of the spectrum. Here is the truth: Roman Emperor Constantine, a pagan, allowed Roman politicians to translate and create the Bible. Later on Catholics, and Christians alike, would state that Christmas would be on 25 December and Easter within March or April (since they couldn't agree). Interesting how those two holidays "coincidently" fall around the pagan sabbats Yule (22 December) and Ester (22 March).

    May 4, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  11. Matt

    And much respect to CNN for giving us a different perspective to consider, one shared by hundreds of millions of people beyond the borders of this great nation.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • Will

      amen

      May 4, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  12. Matt

    Wow, why so many haters of Christians? Some of you sound like the mobs from the east that consider Christianity a Western religion.

    First of all, this minister's point of view has as much right to be published as the next guy, because the freedom that our soldiers have fought for have afforded us that freedom.

    Secondly, God loves you as much as he loves me, as much as he loved Osama, as much as he loved any ruthless dictator in history. Does that mess with your beliefs? It should give you hope that no matter how evil of a person you are, God still loves you, and will continue wooing you to Him, because you can't change who you are without Him.

    Loving a person doesnt mean ignoring what they've done. There are still consequences for one's actions that are carried out by the law. War is sadly a necessary evil used to combat greater evil.

    There's NO possible excuse to celebrate the death of an individual, no matter how evil.

    Celebrate the fact that victims who have lost loved ones at the hands of this madman will have some semblance of closure. Celebrate one less threat to our peace and freedom. Celebrate the potential for the Taliban to sever ties from alQuada, celebrate the seizure of data that may lead to the capture of more operatives that are deceived into thinking our deaths will guarantee them a spot in Paradise. Don't celebrate someone's death.

    Finally, keep in mind that this madman was once an ally in the war against the Soviets, just as much as Saddam was an ally against Iran. We trained him. Consider that we had a hand in his ability to avoid detection, in his ability to execute his plans.

    At the end of all this, you have the choice to choose what you believe, whether you think it's logical, or nonsensical, or radical...Our freedom allows us that luxury. Be respectful of that choice.

    My 2-cents.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Henry

      I agree with you about the haters of Christians. I am also convinced, however, that the haters are actually the Christians they pretend to be. The haters are not, I am afraid, non-Christians. It would seem that today's hating Christian is exactly what the author was talking about what we should not be.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • waheid

      It's not a matter of hating Christians: it's a matter of hating ignorance, bigotry and violence. More people have been maimed and killed in the name of some god than for any other useless cause.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • BeingV

      Thank you Matt! That was intelligent, meaningful and well put.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • HumanBear

      That is right on point. That is beautiful Matt. You love the Lord and it speaks through what you typed down. God is no one to be afraid of. Love Him because He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  13. bert

    I wonder if Obama is being roasted over an open spit in hell?

    May 4, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • ccaze

      about as likely as being with 72 virgins right now. My bet is he is currently getting eaten by fishies.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  14. Hasher Iva

    What a dumb@$$. Loving and forgiving an animal like UBL only works for you. UBL couldn't be exterminated quick enough.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • saftgek

      It would appear you've chosen to not embrace what the Son shared with us, and what Scripture has taught us. Forgiveness is as much for the forgiver as it is for the forgiven. There is nothing positive or healthy about refraining from reconciling with people and situations thrust upon us.

      I, for one, struggles long and hard before entering a better time in my life. Comming from an incredibly abusive family, I carried resentment – even hatred – for my "father" and select siblings. After an extended period of time, and searching within myself, I realized my intense negative feelings did nothing to "hurt" the offenders. On the other hand, those feelings were hurting me a great deal. Once I forgave, I was much healthier.

      Forgiveness is a wonderful balm for the bane in our lives. I sincerely hope you will rethink your position on forgiveness.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  15. Shamina

    im very glad osama bin laden died , he was a very evil man. you all should read psalm 101

    May 4, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • Lady Visible

      Psalm 101 is from the old testament and therefore has nothing to do with Jesus. Christianity promotes "Turn the other cheek." and not "An eye for an eye." Please don't encourage violence in the name of Jesus. He was all bout love. Period.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  16. saftgek

    With respect to Rev. Lewicki, this was an exceptionally irresponsible story with an equally irresponsible headline. Yes, it got him attention he apparently needed badly.

    As to why CNN chose to run the story is a mystery, and also disappointing. This is not a news story – it is at best an opinion piece. It carries no more weight or value than any other opinion of any other common citizen. It DID, however, well-communicate the thoughts of a religious zealot with an ego that seemingly needs to be fed.

    CNN's editors would be well-advised to be more selective in their publishing, and avoid such blatant provocative posts. Such articles serve only to sully CNN's reputation.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • Henry

      Please, please, please. It was not a news story. It was Opinion. Perhaps, for your sake, it just have said that in the headline. CNN is sorry for misleading you. So am I. Now go home.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • David Lewicki

      My piece was originally published on a religious website. It was picked up by CNN for their "Belief" blog, which is about religion and religious ideas. The headline was the editor's decision and it has caused no small amount of controversy and confusion! And sorry if I came across as a zealot with an ego that needs feeding. Not my intention.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  17. Pastor Carlton Evans

    Always some non-spiritual person speaking things on behalf of God and God's people that God is not saying!!! Get revelatoin of the King and His Kingdom people!!! Religion is from the DEVIL and Kingdom is from God!!!

    May 4, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • twiddly

      And you, sir, are from the Twilight Zone.

      Please find something more realistic to rant about, like maybe hunting bigfoot.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • waheid

      I agree wholeheartedly with twiddly. The world would be far better if religion were consigned to the dust bin of history. We don't need religion and we don't need religous people. If the pastors, priests, ministers, rabbis of this world would start doing productive work and spend less time and effort spreading ignorance the prospects for peace and intellectual advancement would take a giant step forward.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Lincoln Place

      Troll.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  18. NJGirl

    Yeah, you just keep praying and let the US Navy Seals do the dirty work. You, sir, are a moron.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • AGizzleOH

      Agreed. Let's just forgive all terrorist enemys and let the rev's pray for them... That'll work! I got news for the rev. The next 100 years are going to be a bloody mess and the only way we defeat the terrorists/enemys of the US is with heavy use of bullets and bombs, not deep prayer... Think about the child who is born a non-christian, who's raised as a jew, muslim, hindu, buddist, etc. Is every other non-christian going to hell because they do not accept jesus as their savior and repent? Osama was a bad person that deserved to be shot in the head and fed to the sharks. I'm glad he's dead.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  19. twiddly

    If anyone really thinks about what they were brainwashed with as children, they will likely come to the conclusion that it makes no more sense than santa claus, or the gods of mythology.
    But part of the vicious cycle is we are taught that even to question what we were taught [regarding religion] is somehow sinful.

    Do some research. Find out where the bible (or the koran, or the torah) really came from; learn the actual history of organized religions. You'll find it's more about [earthly] money and power than anything else.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • saftgek

      Feeling very badly for you and those of your ilk. Ignorance and denial seem to overwhelm your thought processes. Hopefully, in time, you'll become better informed and express yourself in a different manner. It's up to you!

      May 4, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • twiddly

      Spoken like a true lemming, saftgek.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • saftgek

      No, actually spoken like an intellectual whose mind is open to all and selective based on body-mind-spirit experiences. An uninformed person makes irrational life decisions. I choose a different path, and practice it every day. Hopefully, you'll experience an epiphany in your life that will affirm constructive brain function – and soften your heart. We can only hope!

      May 4, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  20. eightysix

    Why is CNN giving this guy a stage for his personal beliefs? I don't care what his religion is but he doesn't offer a shred of evidence that Osama died years ago! This isn't news, it's gossip mongering.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • Deedoo

      You really didn't read the article, did you? He never said that Osama died physically a long time ago. Re-read, you might get it.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • sjenner

      You didn't read the article. The author isn't saying bin Laden actually died years ago. Further, opinion articles are very appropriate for a news publication. The New York Time and Wall Street Journal, for example, are famous for their commentary pieces.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Doug

      Isn't those crazy beliefs what got us here in the first place ?

      May 4, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Anon

      Reading comprehension–get in on the fun.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Layne

      I felt it was a very good article, even though CNN stuck a misleading headline on it. The Reverend articulated what many of us feel, but didn't know how to say ourselves.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Ronco

      He's talking about a PROVERBIAL death, genius. He's not saying OBL died physically long ago! "He died to goodness; he died to mercy; he died to peace." is what it says. Open your eyes!

      May 4, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • Henry

      You did not read the article did you?

      May 4, 2011 at 7:53 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.