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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. Sybaris

    What a load of drivel.

    This guy prayed for OBL. Reminds me of the Priest in the 1953 version of War of the Worlds. He walks out to the aliens with Bible in hand and gets summararily toasted. Sure you can say that some microscopic microbe createed by your god eventually took down the aliens but it's just a movie and out of context with the irrational efforts of the priest.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  2. Tony

    Good peice.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  3. Tom

    religion sucks. As so do its followers.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  4. Bob

    Religious or not, you should respect that the author wrote this editorial from the vantage point of love, peace, and forgiveness. It always amazes how hateful people are writing comments; I think that says a lot about how unhappy/miserable they are with their lives.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  5. Barri

    ID10T Error.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  6. Jesus F Christ

    I'm sure this headline excited many conspiracy theorists. Here they thought they were gonna get some new ammo from a real ivy league man of the cloth. Its funny that people despise the powers that be so much that they almost seem to be siding with Osama Bin Laden. So patriotic they've become terrorists.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  7. JKKI

    People keep posting their views on this article as if he is saying it was a cover up. Please read the article.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  8. Tim

    Christianity and Islam are both horrible delusions. Once religion is gone, the world will be more peaceful. I see no difference between this guy and an Islamic cleric praying for Islam to end Western Society. We pray for God to destroy or convert our enemies, our enemies pray for God to destroy or convert us; someone is going to be disappointed.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  9. Bob

    Christians are like an abused wife who keeps going back to the abuser.

    Seriously. God creates a "paradise" with a deathtrap in the middle, tells them not to eat the apple even though it's wonderful and juicy and delicious. Then, when eventually they fall into God's trap, he boots them out into a world he created full of misery and suffering. Pain, hurricanes, lightning, floods, diseases, cancer... you name it.

    Their "God" is a sadistic fothermucker and all they can do is pray at him telling him how wonderful he is? Please. Pull the other one and get some damn therapy.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  10. Ryan

    As a devout Christian myself, I have to disagree with Rev. Lewicki's assessment. Jesus said the following in Matthew 26:52 "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

    Bin Laden clearly lived by the 'sword' and had over 10 years to repent, but since he chose not to, he 'perished with the sword'.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • TV

      So what about the men and women in uniform? They have all essentially "taken up the sword"? Should they al "perish by the sword" too? Like most humans you only see it from one side... the one that suits your views and the point you are trying to make.

      I think what Jesus may have been trying to say, I will never assume I know what somebody else was thinking, was that when you see violence as the solution (and this pastor was trying to point out) you have essentially "died" by the sword. You loose your humanity, innocence, etc. Its hard to know for sure since so much is lost in the translation from Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English or whatever route it took, Jesus definitely did not preach in English.

      Ghandi had a great quote to describe many (but not all) Chistians: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”. But then Ghandi is in hell, right? I was raised as one, I know a lot of "Christians", Ghandi is spot on.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  11. vern

    What r u tryin 2 say rev? Bla bla bla . What u shooda prayed for is for God to get him sooner than later!

    May 4, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  12. kgeller

    Hopefully, one would conduct his life in such a way that he would not make enemies. But if they are evil like ben Laden and Hitler, they are very much better off dead and quickly! Let G-d then sort them out as to where they will reside.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  13. shawn

    Religion is so dumb. That modern people obsess over the beliefs, writings and myths of ancient Middle Easterners is pathetic. Free yourselves and enter the 21st century. The world will be a much better place when you do.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Shaputy

      21st century values are indeed better than the Ten Commandments & New Testament. You see them on display all the time. Jersey Shore sets fine examples to live up to. Kenneth Lay & Bernie Madoff are some of the best role models this century has to offer.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  14. William Flagpole

    Based on the headline I thought this was going to be just another way to try to discredit Obama. Instead, we get a thoughtful piece on how Americans who are Christian struggle with topics such as this. Nice job Rev. Lewicki.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  15. AngelFire14

    Dear Pastor Dave, thank you for this piece.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  16. BethTX

    Well, thank God we have someone from Decatur phucking Georgia to set us all straight. As we know, that's the education capital of the world.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • t-ho

      So says the lady from Texas? Pot, meet Kettle.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  17. john

    to JackInNH... read the article!! The author never said that Osama actually died years ago, he was dead to the world, to the righteousness of mankind, void of virtue a long time ago. In essence Osama was dead to the author, not actually deceased.

    Dont comment on something you haven ot read.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  18. George

    I would expect nothing less from a man that believes in ghosts, spirits and angels.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Shaputy

      What do you believe in ?

      May 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  19. crnelius

    Uh, "Morons, you're bus is leaving."

    May 4, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Nathan

      "Moron, your bus is leaving."

      May 4, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  20. Cliff

    A lot of big words for someone who cannot correctly use 'lose' and 'loose'. And as far as his goodness dying ten years ago...did we just get done watching Star Wars right before writing this?

    May 4, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • CMSMW

      Actually, "loose ourselves of our enemies" is perfectly correct grammatically. You loose yourself of burdens, not lose yourself of them.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • read the article

      the term is "loose", not lose. Read properly before commenting, please. Loose, as in free from, not loose as in, the priest's daughter..... ;)

      May 4, 2011 at 9:02 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.