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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. drastic1

    whether someone is viewed as evil or good often depends on perspective. To the West, bin Laden was evil, to many Muslims he was someone who was fighting the West who they view as evil. Who is right and who is wrong ? Instead of trying to figure out what "god" thinks, we need to grow as a species. We have the ability to destroy ourselves and no supernatural being is going to save us if we pull the trigger. We can only save ourselves. Nothing is wrong with religion as long as we do not use it as a crutch or excuse in the belief that "god" will save us from ourselves.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  2. pritam thapa

    finally a burden of earth has been lifted.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  3. MeMeMeMimi

    Wow, I really wish I could get back the few, completely wasted minutes reading this so-called "article". Religion is such B.S., the flying spaghetti monster is the ONLY way folks!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  4. scott

    If your faith gives you pause to kill that's a good thing. If anything gives you pause to kill that's a good thing. Killing is serious business, should only be attempted by serious cats who host serious thread. However, think not of the 3000+ people who have died as a direct result of this man and their vengence being fulfilled. Think of the 3000+ people who have NOT died as a direct result of this man, the 300000+ people. The goal was to polarize and ignite the world into jihad maybe the 3000000+ people who have NOT died as a direct result of this man. They have a better chance now. A chance to live to fight another day, to work, and play, and see their kids grow, and do all that other stuff you do when a madman doesn't drive a plane into your break room window while you're eating a donut. If your faith give you pause to kill that's a good thing. If your faith paralyzes you to the point that you cannot protect your family, friends, countrymen, and fellow human beings from being brutally murdered when you have the means to intervene then it becomes reduced to a warm place in the sand to put your head; a great place to go extinct.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • scott

      also, not being Christian I'll keep my treatment of this light but doesn't the Christian mandate direct you to emulate the thoughts, behaviors, choices, and motives of Christ with the prescient knowledge that you will fail, and that's OK? It seems to me you should have no trouble reconciling killing this mass murderer with being a Christian. You'll be forgiven, because you're flawed. So it's OK, head to the haypenny and have a shot, dance a jig with a stranger and be glad they're there and that this particular persons machinations aren't going to claim them today.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  5. Randall

    Wow. Everyone is so hateful in their responses. I think this opinion is absolutely right on the money. Killing this man did nothing more than prove we cant be the bigger person. Its like us killing the man who became the world's first drug dealer and blaming him for all of the drug problems in our country-It does nothing. Osama may have had a large hand in terrorist acitivities, but I am amazed that after a decade, our government didnt have the smarts to realize that Osama was just the spokesperson for a whole world of violence. Killing him may help victims of 9/11 cope with their losses, but killing him does nothing to stop it from happening again and again. All we can really do to affect the end result is let our God, our creator, handle this mess in the end. Because when we die, or the world as we know it comes to an end, what God has seen is all that matters. Not who we killed in a decade-long vengeful war.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Sodapophead

      I guess you don't protect your family from the horrors of the outside world, how sad.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Mike

      Perhaps all of the hateful comments originate in our own collective notion that something is amiss. I personally like the nature of Rev Lewicki's headline and I do not think it was not misleading, rather it pointed to a real truth. Regardless, I did not celebrate when Osama was killled, rather I lamented that there are people in this world who would do such evil that our only viable response was rooted in the destruction of another human being. My heart goes out to all the families who has lost someone dear to them, I pray that God would in some way restore their lives while recognizing that they will never be the same.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Randall

      I am not saying we cant protect what we have. I am simply saying that in the end, our actions will be reconciled by our creator, and our vengance has blinded us from what our God wants for all of us. As a species, we are quibbling over the dumbest things, and most of these can be linked back to money. Hopefully God will forgive us all for our greedy and selfish ways, even those on this forum who call names and discredit another man's opinion.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  6. IsThisNews

    No, it is not.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  7. demogal

    I am moved and humbled by this piece written by a thoughtful and truly Christian man.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  8. DLinDC

    CNN – Please change your hook for this article to "Delusional Pastor prays for most hated man in the world"

    Current line is misleading and leads us to listen to the rantings of a moron.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • MeMeMeMimi

      Agreed 100%!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Hmmm

      While the headline is misleading you would've known what the gist of the article was at the beginning so stop whining. You seem more like the moron who is ranting.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • DLinDC

      I actually read the entire article giving this gentleman the benefit of the doubt.
      I agree with you, that was my mistake

      May 4, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  9. a Sooner from OK

    The Sooner the better that UBL made his departure. As for the prayers, they didn't change a darn thing. He still was plotting and stirring up his fanatics looney followers, despite the pastor's good natured prayers. Only, they were idiotically useless. If there is an Allah, that's were UBL would want to go. He did and could care less about some Christian prayers that , I am sure, wished him to got Jesus heaven, and not to the 72 virgins. Oh well, ... the power of prayer.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  10. rashme21

    Well written article. Headline misleading by CNN. If someone soul is died, how much we pray God cannot save that person. Revenge is not Christ teachings but you can pray for justice and freedom. Moses want to take his people to a safer promise land but pharoah chased them and died. David fought many war and killed many people when you are in power it is the responsibility to take care of the people. I think this is a fare game to say Osama is killed. 6 seal is today David.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  11. Katie

    We sure do get alot of atheists reading the belief blog. Jesus died for you, no matter what you believe.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • MeMeMeMimi

      Prove it, where's the death certificate?

      May 4, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • DLinDC

      The reason you're seeing athiest comments is because of CNN's misleading hook line,
      suggesting that someone was claiming that OBL had physically died years ago,
      not somebody's opinion that OBL died to peace and goodness and fluffy kittens...

      May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Bizmark

      long form only please, or donald trump will show up in here...

      May 4, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  12. phoenix

    the american heathen is even more to blame than bin laden, with their sinful ways.the heathen even got worse in the last 10 years, more crime , drugs, idol worship ect. bin laden and his cronies showed up, act one is over with.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  13. John B

    More power to you, sir.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  14. Dennis

    Stand back everyone. It's a wizard duel.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  15. james

    Well put.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  16. Preacherman

    There was only one Jesus and those who tried to imitate his life fail because there will never be more than one Jesus. When we shy away from our human nature and pretend that we are Jesus, we either fall on our neighbor's shoulder or fly at his throat. Try to be human and not Jesus because if God had wanted you to be Jesus, he would have created another Jesus, an impossibility.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • arthurrrr

      you are not a believer, are you.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Kati

      The point of the Christianity and the belief in Jesus is that we shoudl all strive to be like Him. True, an impossibility for we are sinful creatures, but a worthy goal indeed.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  17. Pazzo

    Why was this article even posted?

    May 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • MeMeMeMimi

      LOL, he must have paid someone.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  18. Alex Santana

    I am so sick of these crackpot "pastors" who think they know everything. The clown in Florida who burns Korans etc, the nutcase Robertson's in Virginia and now this loose cannon. Wonder why they are all from the South? Makes one wonder!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • imissnumberthree

      Florida doesn't actually count as a southern state. Seriously.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • arthurrrr

      wow-you really dont like God do you.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Mike

      Yale University is in Connecticut. Dont be ignorant your statement was doing so well.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • demogal

      Absurd of you to put this man in the same category with the two "crackpots" you mention. Did you even read his article?

      May 4, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • MeMeMeMimi

      The desperately need attention, apparently mommy & daddy weren't very attentive to these idiots.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  19. redmonde

    Unfortunately Rev. Lewicki it seems that a lot of people blogging to this post has died as well. I totally agree with you in reference to Bin Laden dieing a long time ago. It's sad to see, hear and read the lost souls who do not accept Jesus Christ let along our Father.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Sarah

      You know, I was reading this nice even handed personal account of what this event meant to him and then you had to come here and be obnoxious about your religion. This isn't how God gets people to turn away from the things that inflict harm on others. Pointing a finger and claiming that hell awaits is not how you draw people in. It is how YOU exert your imagined superiority.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  20. theghostwiththemost

    why is this news?

    May 4, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Troy

      Why did I read this?

      May 4, 2011 at 10:09 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.