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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. keepitsimple

    Sin is the problem christ is the answer.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  2. Coolcat

    Faith and belief in God is not Religion. Religion is only a diktat, created by people of a society to come together. Do not mix them together. God, is not something that can be explained in simple terms, it is a power, a power which creates, preserves and destroys and every religion tells the same. Whether you call God Jesus, Allah, Krishna or what not, it is GOD!! the supreme power.
    Humans with their petty power crazy ideologies create religion and then fight to see which is better. You can read the bible, the koran, the Bhagvat Geeta, it all tells about how one can lead a life of Good Virtue (Whether Noah built an Arc or Gabriel gave the Koran to Mohammed is true or not is moot), the point is, how should one lead their life? Live and let live.... every religion says the same... some people get it, some morons (fundamentalists in each religion) dont...
    Your action and what you do in your life is part of the balance in this world, more good, more happiness and a peaceful life, more evil and destruction, more pain and sadness in life... I hate fundamentalists, no matter the religion, I love people who have faith in God, not faith in religion... Some day we all will answer for the good we do in our lives and the sins we have caused!!

    God bless you all and may God show you the right path!!

    May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • JAMTX

      Well said!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Andigopolis

      That's probably the most intelligent post I've seen to this article yet.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Vivian

      Amen!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  3. Tom

    Bin Laden was angry that the West (the US in particular) desecrated the land of Muhammad (Saudi Arabia) in the Gulf war. He wanted to drive Hussain out of Kuwait. To say he desecrated Islam is not accurate.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  4. Gill Bates

    It's pretty apparent most of the people posting here didn't actually read this article.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Vivian

      Gill it was just too long....people today can only focus on a couple of text sentences...

      May 4, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  5. 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 9:24 am |
  6. Loretta

    Thought provoking and well written within the principle of life and the human possession of it; for within this aspect holds the future of what our world (collectively) will become. The message of peace and it's attributes emulates human responsibility. The psychological attributes must surely radiate a pathway to justice, freedom and human dignity in the 21st century.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  7. CandyLand

    Ok – for all the smart aleck comments, I apologize.
    I WILL NOT, however, apologize for the prayer for ChicagoAthro....that's a serious prayer and though he/she will likely not share the outcome....that person WILL be changed forever because of the goodness of God. God loves everyone...even the people that hate HIM.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  8. 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 9:20 am |
  9. Dimaggio

    Who will be the Christian right's next enemy? They'll need to find one soon. Oh wait, that's right, It's not Osama anymore it's now Obama. Idiots.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  10. Michael

    So why is it that CNN seems to always let christian people put in there two cents. Where are the entries written by a Buddhist or a Muslim?

    May 4, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • TV

      This was close enough to be a buddhist. The truly spiritual people are the same, this guy appears to be one of them. At least that is my opinion.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Madison

      Do you know for a fact that an article by a Buddhist or an atheist was submitted?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • icrabidppl

      i would like to see that

      May 4, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  11. Buddy Gold

    So, Mr. Pastor, you just questioned the credibility of those who protect you and America on a daily basis. You insinuate they all lied. To me that is very un-patriotic and un-American. These folks put their lives on the line for you every day, and you have the audacity to call them liars. You should be ashamed of youself, and quit hiding your selfish views behind our God.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • TV

      Buddy, read the article!!! Or don't you know how read and takes too long to get past the headline?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Shirley

      Did you even read the article? Who did he say was lying?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • bostonian

      Can you read?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  12. Birdy

    This article was written by someone that believes that there is a man in the sky. lol

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

      Per CNN...on Sunday night New York was playing PA. Smartphones started going off all over the baseball field as the news was broadcast.....it was the 9th ending and the score was 1 to 1. The guy in the sky sent a sign......

      May 4, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  13. troy

    Now, we do know the much hyped Navy SEALs actually had a very easy mission, and most of you yahoos don't get it. 20 or more of them went into to family compound, full of sleeping women and children, and a just a very few men who were not military trained, or even body guards. The SEALs had fighter jet and attack helicopter support, and they were armed with sophisticated weapons and had months to prepare. The few men there had simple firearms and were completely unaware. It was hardly a fair fight, and it definitely wasn't a testament to how "tough" any military personnel could be. So, lets get that straight right now.
    As far as the mission itself, all I have to say is that America has always maintained its principles of due process even for the most disgusting of criminals. Hitler's regime, responsible for the deaths of millions, was afforded due process via a trial. Even Sadam was given a trial. But since Osama killed at least 3000 Americans, I guess its okay for us to look the other way on this one.

    Osama bin Laden should have been arrested, tried, and sentenced in accordance to the tradition and laws of our country. Instead, we sent out a highly trained Lynch Mob to do some good 'ol fashion backwoods justice. I expected this from Bush, but not from Obama.

    America, you have your bloodlust fueled revenge. Celebrate for the violence we did. I, for one, hold my head down in shame. It shouldn't have gone down like this. It shouldn't have.

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

      WOW Troy. I had no idea people could be so naive.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Allen

      your just as much an idiot as everyone else replying in thi article

      May 4, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • CheckUrFacts

      Oh? You were there? Tell me more.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Ohio

      Troy, you are an idiot.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • RaKa

      And if a Drug dealer is not prepared to engage in a shoot out we should not apprehend him. How stupid can a person be and still breathe.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Believer

      So they were supposed to arrest him and let the Americans pay for him to be taken care of for the next 10-15 years....feeding him, putting a roof over his head and all of the extra security he would have to have.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • newk55

      Troy , You need to get your head outta your butt He got whats coming to him Mission accomplished hes a Psycho, If you dont like it get out of my country Quit being a whinning little baby it shows we mean business Now they owe us back pay!!!!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Steve R

      No trial.works for me, a bullet is much cheaper use of my tax dollars than a long costly trial. I'm sure the lawyers are very unhappy at the thought of this.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Vivian

      It may not be pretty but Monday I was listening to the radio and they were talking about 9/11 and how long it had taken to find this man and how many people have been killed on both sides and the innocents ones who are killed by road side bombs or in the market places.. They were playing some of the 911 calls from the twin towers and a woman was crying to the operator about how hot is was and she was going to die and all the operator could offer was "say your prayers." I thought back to that horrible day and all the photos on the fences in New York....I'm glad this evil man is gone. I'm glad that Obama didn't stop the CIA from completing the mission. I'm glad that Eric Holder didn't succeed in his mission to ripe apart our military leaders. Yes, it would have been right for him to stand trail but that would have prolonged this man's gripe over us and it was time to end it. When our guys went in there they had no idea what they would face and I'm sure they had no clue the place wasn't booby trapped. Job well done!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  14. TV

    Finally, a true "Christian" at least in my opinion.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  15. ExSpeForces

    He died to goodness; he died to mercy; he died to peace. NOW HE JUST PLAIN DIED.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Carl LaFong

      And as of today, he is still dead.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  16. Laverne

    So pastor you are telling me that the military whom everyone say is so honorable, honest and committed ALL lied for President Obama (whom most are republican) to come up with this elaborate scheme to decieve the American people into believing Osama was just captured and killed, but he has been dead all the while?? While I respect your opinion as a pastor, I don't believe your theory. Sometimes things really happen just the way it happen and that's it! This is how all the conspiracy stories and start and people don't have anything better to do or believe so they latch on to it and take it way to far, give me a break.

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

      reading comprehension is not your strong suit is it?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Ike

      Did you even bother to read the article? He's not saying it's a conspiracy, he's saying the Bin Laden "in his mind" died years ago , spiritually. Read the entire article before spouting off!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • hotpatata

      Read before commenting.

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

      I guess you faliled reading comprehension in school? He said, and I quote, "He (Osama) was alive until this week — but he died to life a long time ago."

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

      I blame that school systems both public and private for the people like Laverne who have never learned to read or think.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Lee

      Read the article. Seriously, to the end.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • HMorgenstern

      You didn't even read the article did you?

      "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."

      May 4, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • wings

      Um, Laverne, read the article. He's not saying that he was dead all the while. He's saying that although he may have been alive physically, he was dead inside because he had no humanity in him at all.

      Somebody needs to put "learning how to read and article" back in school studies.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Objective

      Did you even read the article?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • asdfjkl

      Did you read the story?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • David Good

      Laverne,

      I encourage you to re-read Pastor Lewicki's opinion piece again, and realize he is saying bin Laden was dead on the inside. What makes us who we are (mercy, goodness, peace) was not present in bin Laden. This is not a conspiracy theory wrapped in pretty paper. This is an honest assessment of a man who went out of bounds long ago. On a side note, it is easy to see in these comments that many people do not hold the same beliefs as Pastor Lewicki, but, no matter one's spiritual beliefs, it is easy to agree that anyone willing to do as bin Laden, must have a dead soul.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • D-Nice

      Ditto... Just Shut up and go away...

      May 4, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • doofus

      Epic

      May 4, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • AreWeTherYet

      Hey Laverne.... Here's a tip – above the comments field is a whole buncha letters. If you look at them carefully, they form words. These words, when put together, make sentences. Those sentences make up the article that everyone else but you is commenting on. That's why they put the comment section AFTER all those words.

      See, when you enter a comment that shows you didn't bother to read the article at all, it makes people question your intelligence. So in the future, READ before you speak/post/etc. Not only will it make you look less ignorant, it may help make the world a better place by setting an example for the people who do stupid stuff, like what you did just now. Thinknig can be fun. Try it.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Afam

      If you read carefully you would understand that the pastor is not saying Usama physically died long ago... He is saying that Usama died to goodness, mercy and peace.... The pastor NEVER said Usama was killed long ago and now the government is making up some kind of story to take credit....

      May 4, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Nerdindisguise

      Laverne, I just couldnt help but admire your lack of reading comprehension. This mans opinion on Bin Laden losing his humanity before actually physically dying may just have been a little too much for you. Stuff like this should and will be used as news because it offers a broader perspective into the mind of mankind.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  17. freetime1

    What a joke. There is no god. You picked a heading to get people to take a look at this bit of trash that does not belong on any news network. So many still believe this trash, but it is not real. The idea of a god is used to get people to do all kinds of stupid things, like pray and kill. At least as can be seen more and more are no longer blindly following BS about there being a god. I will not pray for you to wake up, but I will debate you and hope that works.

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

      Prove there's no God. Oh yeah, you'll pull the argument out of your hat, "you can't prove something doesn't exist!" Well, you're wrong on that.

      I can say, "there's no elephant in this room" and prove it by showing you all over the room and finding no elephant. Well, in order to KNOW there's no God, you have to know EVERYTHING about the universe. But, you don't know everything about the universe, you and the rest of us know very little. So, in order to believe there's no God, you have to take what you know and have faith that what you know applies to the whole universe. In other words, you have to rely on faith that's based on what you know.

      Guess what, that's what we do, we have faith based on what we know. I didn't wake up one day and believe. I went through many long periods of agnosticism. Yet, my experiences and factual evidence (it's there, but you just refuse to believe it) have led me to believe in God.

      Go ahead, mock me, make fun of me, I really don't care. But, when you make a statement of "there is no god", I'm not going to let you cop out and use the "you can't prove something doesn't exist" defense.

      Have a great day!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • freetime1

      You have made the point for me. You do not understand logic. You must also believe in every other god and there are lots of them, because you can prove they don't exist, that most make them real lol. Not how it works. Hello!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  18. Fat Bobby Joe

    A man who graduated from Yale, professe3s belief in a mythical being, yet we are to accept that he is intelligent.

    I cannot. You are delusional, pastor. You are no different from David Berkowitz. You both believe in things that do not exist.

    You cannot be trusted.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • TV

      Just because he has different delusions than you does not make him wrong and you right. Oh thats right, you can't possibly be wrong. Sorry! 🙂

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

      that's simply uncalled for. whether you believe in the precepts of one religion or another, or none, you could still at least respect him as a fellow human being and citizen. his was a thoughtful and reflective piece, that i found quite interesting and refreshing to read. i wish more people who call themselves Christian would actually follow the principles he speaks of here, instead of clinging to the fire and brimstone of a vengeful and jealous god that they have created in their own image. whether i believe the same as he believes, though, does not mean that i cannot appreciate his thoughtful words and respect his opinion

      May 4, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • msclair

      God holy spirit Jesus = confused

      3 doesn't equal 1.

      There is a God, but God is not a man, that lived in the womb of a woman and lived on earth. And definitely not a God that can be born and die.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  19. Ferari34

    Bin Laden was killed long ago US keep this secret. I believed he was killed by an air strike rip his body into pieces. US needs a proof that he was really killed by reconstructing his head from pieces to adobe photoshop by their expert graphic artist.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Butch2u

      That's just stupid!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Carl LaFong

      Oh, goodie! MORE conspiracy theories!! I love you guys. You are totally insane!!!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  20. William

    Christians haven't crashed planes into buildings in the name of Christianity, true. They commit different atrocities like bombing abortion clinics, blowing up a federal building, the crusades, etc

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

      Dude...stop putting your faith in man. Put it in God and Jesus Christ. One of the basic tenets of Christianity is the admission that you are imperfect, but still loved by God. We are all sinners. However, Christians that have been part of the atrocities you speak of are, simply put, either lost or not Christian at all. Remember, the devil knows the Bible better than any of us. He'll use the weak to discredit Christ and separate us from God. Just know that Christ is the only one any of us should try and emulate, because He was without sin, was pure love, and died for us so that we might be adopted into God's kingdom. Put your faith in that. Not in man.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • RaKa

      And atheist around the world kill millions of innocent unborn children every year in the name of their god, namely self absorption. See how this works.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Paul in Puget Sound

      The Christian admonition to love one’s enemies is inherently immoral and obviously stupid. It is counter intuitive to millions of years of mammalian evolution. Someone who is determined to kill you because his god says it is necessary is a mortal enemy and needs to be exterminated. Killing bin Laden was an absolute necessity for our survival, both literally and symbolically. And, please, be disabused of the notion that Christians are especially disinclined to kill. More blood has been spilled in the pursuit of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic desert god death cults than in any other pursuit in human history. It is perfectly reasonable to kill Islamo-fascists. They want to be martyrs? Great, let us help them in any way we can.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • CandyLand

      Those people are NOT real Christians! A true Christian does NOT hate and they would follow Christ's example not the worlds' violent ones to solve problems.
      God is a God of life AND choice...otherwise...everyone would be Christians and love God. He made us to be choice driven beings, meaning we have the choice to sin or live lives that are pleasing to HIM.
      Who is ANYONE to judge another or take away their freedom of choice to do anything?!?!?!?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Shirley

      Blaming all Christians for the bombing of abortion clinics and federal buildings is just as stupid and small minded as blaming all Muslims for the sick attrocities commited by Osmam & al qaeda. There are insane extremists in all religions, races and countries.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Sharona

      The Christians who bomb abortion clinics and picket soldiers' funerals are like Islamic extremists who fly airplanes into buildings. They represent their own agenda; they do NOT represent God. The God I know loves each of us, desiring a relationship with us despite our shortcomings, and His mercy toward us is unlimited. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, foresaking harsh judgement for compassion. That is Christianity as I know it.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:40 am |
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About this blog

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.