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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. CandyLand

    to ChicagoAntrho (Anthrax)....still right...you can't change that.....Here's to you meeting the Christian who will change your life forever! As a matter of fact (whoever you really are) you just hit my prayer list. And I'm even going to share the prayer with you...

    I pray that everyone in your life becomes a Christian...if you're married, I pray that your wife becomes one, and that your children (if you have them) become Christians, I pray that your life is so flooded with the love and people of God in such a way that you can't escape them no matter where you turn.

    I pray that you experience the kindess and unconditional love that real children of God have to offer and that when you're in need . . . it is a Christian that comes to your aid.

    I pray that your every need is met and when you're angry or sad or hurting a Christian is there to minister (that means serve by the way) you in love and that you don't face any judgemental actions or behavior from any of them.

    May the peace of God the father be yours from this day forth.

    In Jesus' Name I pray Amen!

    May 4, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  2. chris

    When man finally realizes that there really is not a god, or any god, we will finally be able to move forward and do some REAL problem solving. Too many have died in the name of a god that doesn't exist. Give our heads a shake people. There is no tooth fairy, no santa clause, no easter bunny, no ghosts and gobblins, and no god. Maybe when we all come to grips with this reality we can all learn to get along.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  3. Butch2u

    Religion is requiried for people will not survive if they are persuaded or even suspect that they are leading meaningless lives in a meaningless universe.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  4. Terry

    Bro. Dave,
    I want you to know you do not stand alone. I agree with your comments and while I know that what was done was done so out of necessity, I do not believe it has changed anything regarding hatred in the world. Especially hatred against those of us whom chose to believe in the God of the Bible. A God and a book that has not to this date been disproven, while many have tried. When I stated that it has not changed anything, I am referring to historical facts that given time another will come along to take Osama's place in the area of hatred and evil. History has seen its share of those men; Khan, Alexander, Hitler and others. And to all those whom believe there is no God, I say that is your right. It does not change that fact that men and women like pastor Lewicki or myself will continue to pray for you. And by the way, in closing; in the end the truth will come forth and the only question remaining is which side of it will you be on? If Christians are wrong, as some state and we die, we have lost nothing. If however you are wrong and God, Heaven and hell exist and you die living as if they do not... who wins?

    May 4, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  5. Peter

    That is correct the US Loves it's enemies......

    Saddam, first in Iraq, as they supported him, and funded him because of Iran, and the Groups in Afghanistan because of the Russians.....which led to Bin Laden getting help.

    I wonder who is getting aid from America to "Save the world today", as America's deficit goes through the roof ?

    May 4, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  6. Geoz

    Prayer doesn't change anything except the prayer.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  7. Judas

    I still dont understand. . .prayer either works or it doesnt . . .which is it? We all know the answer . . God doesnt heal amputees. The only prayers that are answered are ones that simple minded people can grasp on to and hold as proof that god exists. When I question how people can beleive such silliness in 2011 all I have to do is watch Michelle Bachman on TV and get all my answers.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  8. Tim

    Very good, decent views Rev. Dave. Judging from the comments, decency has to take a back seat to jingoism, xenophobia and metro-bigotry these days. But it'll be back. Bin Laden was probably 'dead' long before 9/11 though. It makes you wonder how many more walking 'dead' are out there.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  9. Atheism is GREAT!

    All religions are stupid, and so are you.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • CandyLand

      as are you and athieism

      May 4, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Geronimo

      Prove it

      May 4, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • writingmomma

      When you lay on your sickbed and the pain is unbearable, I wonder on whom will you call for relief?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  10. JT

    As this comment will be lost amoung pages of pages, I just wanted to add my opinion. I'm not religious but I look to find meaning wherever I can find meaning. I lean towards agnostic.

    The article was well written. I do not agree with it though. War will have to happen unless everyone decides to be friends of Mr. Rogers land. This recent event was required to keep our foot solid in the ground. I am not about brute force either, but we can't let them get away with murder. I don't think prayer helped much but I do think he did live everyday in fear. He lived in a high secure wall, almost a prison for 10 years. He possibly never left nor did he communicate with the outside world.

    I'm still ready to find out what will come about in the next few days.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  11. Michael

    This just shows that there are exceedingly dumb people in all professions who have advanced degrees from prestigious universities. Reverend, you should be ashamed to tell the world what a moron you truly are. I'm surprised that "sky fairy" you claim to worship didn't tell you that you would make a fool of yourself before you wrote that article. Guess he was off his game that day, what with all the smiting cursing, and fear mongering he has to do.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • CandyLand

      takes one to know one doesn't it....

      May 4, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  12. William

    Why is a pastor qualified to opine and be published on this subject?

    May 4, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  13. sparky

    Well, it's yout take I guess

    May 4, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  14. CandyLand

    To ALL OF YOU who find it so very easy to discredit, criticize, and dismiss another person's beliefs....YOU were and always will remain the target of terrorists. YOU are the reason that muslim extremists HATE America. YOU are the definition of "infidel" in their eyes. You have so embraced all that you can see and only live for it and whatever thing(s) that feed your flesh and visceral lusts that you will fight to the bitter end to see every living person live as you do. The cancer that you embrace has spread the world over and they HATE all of us for it.
    Thanks for the bullseye people.
    And whether your hypocritical selves realize it or not, you too have a "belief" system. It just happens to be different from others.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • ChicagoAnthro

      wrong...so wrong. That is your kind, truly.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Geoz

      Cast many stones lately?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • juskishi

      wow, you have absolutely no understanding of what really fuels terrorism. it's really sad if you are so ignorant of the facts that that's what you believe. but then again, you do believe in all those fictional stories in the bible so it doesn't surprise me one bit.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  15. Sam

    I am an atheist and even I can see wisdom in what David is saying. If America wants to win the war on terror so badly, it has to realize that one man, one organization or even one religion can not be allowed to be so powerful as to change its ways – its ways of freedom of speech, separation of religion and state, jutice for all of mankind and values on which this nation is foudned – not christian or some other values – human values – the most important of them being – treat others as you would like to be treated. Least we can do is to be respectful of each other – even when not agreeing with them.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • C

      Bin Laden is esentially an American creation we supported Bin Laden againstthe Russians the same as we did Gaddafi
      the Shah in Iran, Pinochet, Allende, Peron, Batista in Cuba,Saddam Hussein, Marcos in the Pihllipines other leaders in South America. The Rev. might be right about Bin Laden, but we have plenty of blood on our hands- one man terrorist ,
      might be another man's freedom fighter , WE may brag about being the most powerfull nation on Earth
      But at what costs. I'm beginningto wonder is there a real difference between us and THEM. If you believe in God we should know that He is the only person who decides who is saint or sinner, good or bad. I don't think we should be celecrating another mans ; that what they did when the planes killed our countrymen. How would celebrating make us different or better.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  16. Nancy M. B.

    The usual religious claptrap.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  17. kelsey

    AMEN!

    May 4, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  18. Pitifiully_laughable_post

    Yes, of course, Jesus Christ – the 'lord' and 'savior' of a billion people – who was written about by men hundreds of years after he lived and never met him in a fictional book ("The Bible") describing a talking snake, a fella named Noah who brought all 2.2 million species of animals onto a ship in 3 days (80,000 per minute!), and a guy named, uh, 'Jonah', who lived in a whale for 3 days is all absolutely true. Who couldn't believe a fictional book with such credible stories? People who have nothing need religion in order to make themselves feel better; in order to make themselves feel like that after they die, they will be going to a "heaven" and not a "hell" when, in fact, they have absolutely no idea that either exists (and chances are that none do). It's dumbfounding that people can even remotely argue that they know what will happen when they die, especially based on a guy – which historians have overwhelmingly proven that no evidence of his existence has EVER been found – that men wrote about centuries after he died in a book full of laughably pathetic stories. This is Christianity for you – people who NEED to believe in something in order to maintain their salvation. They'd all be bipolar crazy if it weren't for their "lord and savior" – they need him and "faith" (whatever that is) in order to feel good about themselves and convince themselves to behave in a particular manner.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Gingeet

      Nice! Well put.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • xjm716

      Did you forget your meds this morning?

      May 4, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • unionjack

      who wounded you? You sound really angry.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • CandyLand

      I SO agree with your handle...YOU sure are......I also agree with your take on "religion" as it's seen and portrayed in the media. But I wholeheartedly disagree with your assessment of those who are believers.

      It's unfortunate that the "believers" you've encountered have left you with that image/ideal.....one day you'll meet a realy one and you won't be the same afterward.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • jay

      Sounds like you may get see Osama personally. I will fervently pray for you and may Jesus Christ have mercy on your soul!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Arman Vladimirovich

      Your point is moot to the current issue and to be honest you were probably one of those Kids forced to go to some western Fanatic church and decided to rebel against mommy, and daddy and became a bigoted Pig so Keep your redundant comments about any faith no matter the Sect to yourself having faith is a good thing it shows an unspeakable amount of strength to blindly believe and that is why it is called faith I don't care who you call "God" The problem with this world is the greed, and Oppression it causes there is one book and one God to Judaism, and Islam same goes for Christianity Orthodoxy is one book one God it's when people become deviant with faith it is perverted and we see it today all over especially in America but I will still tip my hat to a man who believes blindly than some pacified Redundant coward like your self who feels the need to go Bullying peoples spirituality because they are Godless and lack moral.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Geoz

      I agree with the ideas, here, but not the sentiment. You can disagree with Xians without being meanspirited.

      One question though, I had understood that there IS some historical basis for a man who lived with the name Jesus. Not necessarily the son of god, but a man.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Oshun

      It really is enlightening to hear a free independant thinker from time to time. It takes guts, and moreover brains for ppl to deviate from what their parents have told them all of their lives. But, really if one would just take the time out to research what is in the Bible, Koran, or the Torah, they will see that it was just a form of control at a time when ppl were intellectually lacking. Think about it it is said mankind thought the earth was flat. That thought would get you committed today.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • RaKa

      As the bible puts it, " God uses the foolish things to confound the wise." I was once an atheist, until I had an encounter with God. Atheism is a convenience that only takes place when times are good.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Anonymous

      Ignorance is bliss.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • chris

      Ancient man did not have knowledge of science or evolution so they needed to answer questions like "where did I come from" and "what happens when I die"? Because of this they invented gods and heaven and this gave them the ability to answer these questions. Now we have a lot more answers proving god does not exist.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • juskishi

      great post, i totally agree and couldn't have put it better myself. i know people who are so weak-minded that they couldn't make it through a single day if they couldn't put things "in God's hands." really sad. but if you can't believe in a flying spaghetti monster, what can you believe in!?!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Peaches

      True. Christians will think of ANYTHING to give them a reason to keep believin', they must listen to Journey EVERYNIGHT! After you die.. you won't be sadly disappointed.. because you will be dead... that's it.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • skywizard

      amen brother

      May 4, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Terry

      Actually, it was not Noah who rounded up the animals, God delievered them to him. It was not stated as a whale, but a large fish... And the authors of the New Testament where men who, with the exception of Paul, lived and worked with Jesus for 3 years. And, everyone has faith in something. You have faith that when you get out of bed in the morning, your legs will hold you up. You have faith that when you set down in a chair it will hold you up and that when you get in your car or wait at the bus stop, you have faith that your car or that bus will run and get you to where you need. As for people disproving the existence of Jesus, where is said proof? Because honestly, and I am sure other Christians agree, if Jesus Christ did not exist, if he did not die on a cross and raise from the dead then "our" faith is in nothing. But, you are right in saying that Heaven nor hell can be "physically" proven that is where faith comes into play. As, I have mentioned before you have the right to believe or not believe in what you want as do I. The difference comes when we both die, one of us will mostlikely be wrong. If I am wrong and die into nothing then the only thing I am guilty of is missing out on the "eat, drink and be merry" part of life. However, if you die and your wrong- then what? You get to spend eternity in hell thinking it never existed and those who have faith in the same God I do will spend it in Heaven. But hey, its your choice how to live your life.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Peaches

      Sit* Sit in a chair... Not set! Proof read before you post something ridculous like that that everyone over the world wide web can read!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  19. KatArt21

    LAME.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • CandyLand

      LAME... is looking back at you every morning in the mirror....Jesus can turn that around for you....I bet you won't give him a try...even if I double-dog darred you....LAME is chicken!

      May 4, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Zach

      I double Dog dare you to believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa. . .

      May 4, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • skywizard

      ooooh....u were double dog dared

      May 4, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  20. John _Atlanta GA

    Science flies you to the moon
    Religion flies you into a building!

    May 4, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • CandyLand

      science kills you with "there's nothing more we can do for you".....GOD provides the miracle that gives you more time than science ever could....

      May 4, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Ron

      Not religion- Islam. Christians don't fly planes into buildings in the name of Christianity.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Phil Simpson

      This man has the same "god" that Bin Laden had – I have wondered over the years what God tried to do to win him back to love – a "god" who tries to do something and fails is a pathetic putz, just like allah, I would suggest this 'pastor' find another honorable profession. THIS IS NOT CHRISTIANITY!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • William

      Science kills you with "there's nothing more we can do for you?" talk about a tautological argument. If god is in control of everything, which would presumably have to include science, then isn't it god who is responsible for "there's nothing more we can do for you"?. If that's the best you've got for support of god, you should just stopping wasting time on this nonsense.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Zach

      . . . yet

      May 4, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      but most of the time he just lets you die.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • RaKa

      According to your logic we would have to say that "Science causes you to disintegrate over Texas due to failed heat shields, or over Florida due to a failed o ring" See how utter stupidity works.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Gregory

      God, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus. All fiction.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Peaches

      God doesn't answer prayers. Didn't you hear?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • RaKa

      The Bible indicates that whenever God is "on the move", Satan lurks about to see what He's up to. It's interesting to me that whenever a Faith article is posted Atheist show up in force. Hmmmm, me thinks someone is getting nervous.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:19 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.