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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. mensaman

    Religious people are just too strange for the modern world.
    In todays world you must face things in real time with hard facts. It's called reality. Enough of this myth nonsense.
    How can people burden themselves with fantasy. Is that mental salve really that necessary all the time? Do you like being taken financially and fooled emotionally?
    Next thing you know, 6 people will claim to see bin Laden walking around a year from now and another myth will be born.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  2. Mettle

    Rev. Lewicki said:

    "I have been praying for Osama bin Laden for 10 years."

    Yet another example of the powerlessness of prayer.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  3. Army4Ever

    READ NOW!!! White House Deputy Secretary of State going to testify that Bin Laden died in 2001 and 9/11 was a "false flag" inside job.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • dbarak

      Link please. Unless you're lying, of course.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  4. SurelyUjest

    Nice sentiment, If we were all more forgiving and understanding without all the "religious overtones" the world would be a better place. The problem is while we have a large group of Xtians whom are dedicated to the ways of love we still have a significant percentage who preach hate in the same name. This exists within the Muslim and Jewish communites as well. As long as we read from ancient texts written long long ago we will learn little about our own human psychology. Mankind needs to look at the big picture that is becoming more visible each day without fairy tales and religious miracles or stories to cover the truth. That truth is we are all on this same planet for better or worse our species is dominating the nature we need to survive this explosion of humans on this planet will (if not cooperatively checked) deplete us all of what we need to survive...no hocus pocus....no prayers.....no wishes....no gods will change that. We need to grow up and stop this nonsense. Yes we can include a doctrine of love and understanding and it will be helpfull but not if directed from a set of texts that contradict themselves from chapter to chapter verse to verse. Mankind needs to grow up period and my last statement here is GOOD job President Obama!

    May 4, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  5. Wilson

    This is the stupidest article I have ever read.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  6. Ted Kogon

    How about "God's mercy," Reverend, when it applies to the thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghanis killed by US forces? Did Jesus say, "Thou shalt not kill but...."? Is murder by an American soldier more tolerable than murder by a Jihadi? Christian sanctimony is as objectionable as Muslim extremism, that's "my take." You are all part of the problem, not the solution. tsko

    May 4, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • The Wise One

      Excellent post Ted Kogon – religion is the root of most of the evil in this world. The bizare stone age rantings
      of how "Sky Gods" rule our world and dispense justice........no wonder we have lunatics flying planes into buildings.
      I love how Christians and Muslims are so peaceful.........how many millions have been butchered because of them?
      I rest my case.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  7. Untorn Christian

    I believe the editor's note speaks enough: 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.). What was the name of that song, "Send Me Your Money"? Keep drinking the Kool-Aid, and before you know it, you'll be a satelite of the Westboro Baptist Church. Why does someone always have to turn a good deed into something else. ...Now let's bash the SEAL team for using the code "Geronimo" for Bin Laden. It's code idiots. I love this country, but this freedom of speech crap has gone too far. Everyone has an opinion, but keep it to yourself...

    May 4, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  8. dbarak

    Pass the collection plate, two circuits if you please. Lewicki needs new shoes.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  9. Dirk Waldon

    Wow! Even the churches in Georgia are off the chain..... Go 'Gators!

    May 4, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  10. JohnRJ08

    This is a news website, not a religious indoctrination tool. Your column doesn't belong here and your comments means nothing to millions of Americans because they are filled with religious dogma. It was religious dogma that gave us Osama Bin Laden.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • So typical

      Typical reaction on the "Belief" blog. Did you bother to notice that although you are on the CNN website (news), this article was posted on the "Belief" section? One has to think, why would someone with such malice towards the Church be reading these articles? Looking for something John?

      May 4, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • kells

      you are just talking like a frustrated athiest get a life, coz your life is meaningless without God......

      May 4, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  11. Vishal Arora

    As an American who lived in DC at the time of the 9/11 attacks and who remembers the day vividly, I first rejoiced at the news. I have friends and family in NY and I called them and celebrated the news. As a Christian, as I was reading the Bible over the few days that followed, I began to understand God's view and I asked God for forgiveness. I realized that the actions of this man had caused hatred and anger to reside in my heart for him. And God, in his Word, said to me: "your heart needs to be pure and clean if you want to approach me. your heart needs to be free of tarnishes like hatred and anger. pray for this man and forgive this man, and then I shall forgive you and clean your heart and shower my grace upon you."

    May 4, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Mark

      Wow god sure spoke clear to you. Now was that threw e-mail or did he just call you on your cell?

      May 4, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  12. That's great!

    That's great, love and for give the man who has basically made terrorist a household word. Your a moron! I want my America back and Osama is one of the idiots who has ruined so many families and lives on our hard earned soil! I think you views are bull when churches can't even practice love and acceptance of our harmless gays that just want equality but then idiots like this guy say that Osama should have been loved and accepted and forgiven. Your are your own devil hiding in a veil of friendly BS! The world is a safer place because Osama died for his sins which is just and more the fair!!! Write another BS book and preach that for the next 2000 years idiot

    May 4, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Gaunt

      The words of a true Christian.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Mark

      About time someone spoke the truth. How can we love foreign hate when we can't even look at the hate in our own communities and churches. I pray for you. Dear Jesus. Please save me from your followers. Amen!

      May 4, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Jimmy

      Nothing funnier than the sentence 'Your a moron'.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Say it ain't so

      Hard earned soil? Your ancestors stole this land from the native Indians & that's a fact so please remember that when you refer to your country as "our hard earned soil".

      May 4, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Joe E.

      Your anger is palpable through the screen, and I know that you are in pain.

      I have personally found that forgiveness of those who wrong you is the ONLY way you will ever be free of the pain. It is undoubtedly the most difficult thing you could ever do, but also the most powerful, because once you forgive them, the person(s) who wronged you no longer have any power over you. Your continued animosity guarantees that they influence how you feel..............until you forgive them. I hope that you can, and I hope that you find peace in the action.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  13. Sherron Teal

    LOVE OUR ENEMIES??? That is hilarious! It also shows how out of tune Christians are with reality!!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • SooCee

      Wow, Sherron, you sound like bin Laden! I'll take Jesus any day & every day!

      May 4, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • matt

      That's the point Sherron. He's not saying everyone loves their enemies currently. He's saying if people responded with kindness to one another we wouldn't get into these situations.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  14. Rob A

    Well said, Rev. Lewicki. Well said.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  15. Festivus

    God gives us the freedom to make choices. Some of us choose to not believe in Him, some choose to fly a plane into a building full of innocent people. My guess, God cried along with us that fateful day.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Terre

      Really, what about all the genocides and infanticides in the bible?

      May 4, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Festivus

      I invite you to explore those incidents in the bible and draw your own conclusions, because no matter what I say about it, there will be some disagreement.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  16. Jeremy

    That piece of garbage deserves no mercy...

    May 4, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  17. Babs

    God's JUSTICE and His MERCY are INDIVISIBLE. The God of the Bible is equally just and merciful. God understands/believes in justice because He is the inventor and embodiment of it. He also understands mercy, because He is the inventor/embodiment of it.

    Jesus' payment of humanity's sins had to be done in blood to satisfy God's JUSTICE. God understands that evil demands justice and the taking of life. However, Jesus' payment of humanity's sins also had to be done period by a good and righteous being if humanity was to be saved at all, and this in order to satisfy God MERCY.

    God's justice and His mercy are inseparable.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Gaunt

      Your god is neither just not merciful. In fact he welcomes sinners into heaven if they praise his name at the last minute, and casts good, honest, kind, sinless people into hell because they praise the wrong name. He is arrogant, cruel, selfish and evil.

      Ask yourself, if Adolf haitler had had a genuine repentance in his last moments, honestly sought absolution for his sins and found Jesus, where is his soul now?

      Ask yourself, if Mother Theresa, on her deathbed, in her last moments, had rejected JC and embraced Bhudda, where is she now?

      So how can you possibly claim your God is anything but cruel and selfish?

      May 4, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Jake

      To GAUNT:
      no one is sinless on this earth. no one is good but One who is our father. have you broken any of the 10 commandments? we all have Gaunt. You have as well. Jesus died for us to pay the price for our sins. sad thing is not many accept Him

      May 4, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Gaunt

      Ah jake, that standard desperate dodge to this issue. When pointing out that your evil and selfish god doesnt actually care about sin at all, the zealots ignore the fatal flaw in their faith, stick their fingers in their ears and claim 'everyone is sinful!' as if that actually addresses the issue.

      Yet, as always, you utterly failed to grasp the problem. Your god isnt merciful, nor kind, or even reasonable. All he cares about is that you squeal his name and not anybody elses. As I described, in the scenario above, Adolf hitler is in heaven, while Mother Theresa is in hell. Does that seem reasonable, or fair, or just to you?

      You can violate and eat children, and repent at the end, and be in heaven, while if you live a charitable, perfect, kind, generous life devoted to otheras, but are a Sikh, you burn in agony forever.

      And thats merciful and kind and good to you?

      May 4, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  18. SEAL

    All of these aggressive, hateful comments...Do you all remember where you were when OBL died? Remember the people in the streets chanting USA! USA! and the sense of patriotism that seemed to swell within Americans? The REASON for that feeling is everything you see before you. The ability to have differences of opinions, beliefs, morals and religions is what makes America America. It's what makes being patriotic, and loving your country all about. You don't have to like, love, or agree with everyone. That's not only impossible (IN AMERICA), but expected. But we can love the freedom to have those differences. To be intolerable to the point of obscenity and hate simply detracts from what being an American is all about. There's a way to disagree the right way, and the wrong way. The facts state that this is a historic event in American history. Remember that before you decide whether to lower it with malice towards your fellow Americans.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Karen

      "But we can love the freedom to have those differences. To be intolerable to the point of obscenity and hate simply detracts from what being an American is all about."

      This isn't true since gays and lesbians are still hated because of their differences and are not tolerated. If they were they would have equal rights under the law. It's time to take the rose colored glasses off.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  19. cregis

    Well, whoever wrote the headline got me to click on this article, and I wouldn't have if I had known it was just religious.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  20. Roland Garcia

    To the guy who writes the headline- take a journalism class. To the pastor- just another example of why we need to tax the church. That will help close the budget gap.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Grr82cu2

      What an utter ~~ MORON ~~ this "pastor" is!!!

      An IT consultant working in the city were bin Laden was hiding TWEETED at the time of the raid (time stamped) about the unusual sound of helicopters flying by overhead.

      A few moments later he TWEETED about "explosions" and worried "something bad" was happening.

      bin Laden's wives taken into Pakistani custody are NOT DENYING he is dead – they are complaining he was killed although unarmed.

      Now this IDIOT – this – MORON – this so-called "pastor" presumes with nothing but his own ignorance as a reference to proclaim that bin Laden died years ago??

      Pity those in any congregation he ever leads!!!

      May 4, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Ahhhhhh

      @Grr82cu2

      You're the moron. You didn't read the article yet commented on it anyway.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Gaunt

      Grr8, you are officially too stupid to live. Thats not even remotely what the article is saying. You didnt even bother skimming it, didnt even bother TRYING to see what the author was saying, before spouting off with irrelevant crap. You have suceeded in making an absolute fool of yourself, congratulations.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:33 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.