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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. A Dog's Love

    Rev. Lewicki's posting is extremely well done and echoes the real values of Christianity (which Westboro Baptist & Fred Phelps do not reflect) as well as the core values of the USA. For those those of you who have railed against David's sentiments, perhaps you need to look in the mirror to search for your own grasp on reality.

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

      The core values of America are to pray for terrorists who have murdered thousands of innocent poeople and ruined countless families? I think not.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  2. Lacy

    Another thing, this is a "BELIEVER BLOG". It makes me happy when atheists and non-believers come on this site and make comments 🙂

    May 4, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  3. JohnM

    I'm not sure who is more KooKoo-kookoo the writer or the inexplicable presenters of this nonsensical drival. It says nothing and has no meaning or discernable point.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  4. SholyHit

    It's interesting that this so called 'reverend' states in his diatribe: "Jesus did not meet enemies with violence." He – Jesus – sure sank into violence when he stormed through the temple overturning the money changers tables along the way. That act on his part was a direct political event on his part that the bible seems to over look for the most part. His whole 'ministry' was a political one against the Romans and what the Saducees & Pharisees were doing to the populace back then.
    Enough of the history lessons. I've been wondering how come the right wing evangelists haven't come out with some of their misdirected crap about the tornadoes across the South being God's retribution for all hate that seems to originates from down there.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  5. Lacy

    Your article made me realize that he did die years ago. We were merely trying to find his "shell of a body". He had no spirit or soul. This was gone. We destroyed his shell. I too wonder how God tried to get him to turn away from evil. Just has He does everyday to all of us. God gives us 2 choices: 1. Life 2.Death. Bin Laden chose the 2nd and so do many of us by the choices we make. We can all learn from his life and choose #1. I choose LIFE!!!

    May 4, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  6. Brittany

    God..blah blah blah.. Who cares. Osama is dead, people can have closure.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  7. christophorm

    osama died years ago according to insiders like Henry kissinger,madaleine allbright and the prime minister murdered from pakistan...osama killed on "may day" and "dumped in the sea" and the fake photoshopped birth certificate in one week is overkill.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • JohnM

      Is that sarcasm or are you just being facetious? There's hopefully no way you're serious.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  8. MiamiBoi

    Amen Brother.... We just have to keep on praying and when the time for the Lord to call upon his people to go to him we shall go to him.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  9. jay

    Why do people think all Americans are Christian?? This is absurd.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  10. Anon

    Very well said, Rev. Lewicki...

    May 4, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  11. Unbelievable

    "He died to goodness; he died to mercy; he died to peace. He died to the things that God cares most about."

    Classic Christian presumptuousness to assume you know, and can judge, what's in another man's soul.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  12. Corpus Christian

    Well said Pastor Lewicki. Too many "christians" today have a greater loyality to their political party and country than they have to God. The 10 Commandments (so many rant about being displayed) instructs us to have our top priority as God.

    Christ said: Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I say. The pastor in this article has just pointed out what Jesus stated to us: "Love your enemies". and you will know my disciples by their love.

    Thank you, Pastor Lewicki for reminding us Christians of Christ's teachings applicable this current event.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  13. swohio

    QUOTE from the fourth paragraph, second sentence...

    "Bin Laden has had more influence in the last decade over the way we live our lives than any other person."

    Excuse me, pastor, but why should Christians have given Bin Laden that much power? I thought it was Jesus who was supposed to have more influence over the way we live our lives – not a terrorist.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  14. Brad May

    This is why God needs to stay out of politics. A christian theocracy results in either bad christians with a good government or good christians with an incredibly weak, spineless government which turns the other cheek while we are sodomized by our enemies. Until God provides a birth certificate (long form), he should not be allowed to influence politics or moral order. Thank you.
    Bmay@iwu.edu

    May 4, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  15. Sutemi

    "I pray for my enemy — I pray him into the hands of the God of justice and of mercy."

    You have the leisure to pray because the sword of your enemy is withheld from your neck by the actions of brave men who contend with, and prevail against violent, hateful people who wish your death with *more* fervor than which you pray for them. Would you pray for them if you were subjected to an actual threat? Add thanks that this will probably never be tested to your prayers.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  16. Doug

    Really unprofessional headline CNN

    May 4, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  17. Mel

    First of all allow me to remind you of of our "MORAL OBLIGATION" in Lybia. According to our "so called leaders" , were in there country to "keep him from "KILLING" civilians. Correct? Lies, all lies !! Murder, is murder. Your killing people of Lybia and saying your protecting people. That I assume means "ALL" people. This Goverment lies about everything period! We must also look at the word murder ! Bin Lauden did`nt murder anyone. Can anybody "put him at the contols os any aircraft" ? Can anyone provide us with evidence that he gave others "bombs" to blow up others? He convinced others into feeling like his position was correct. . He personaly did`nt do anything other than admit his people did the deed. Now lets "fast forward" ..........your President ordered others (military) to kill Bin Lauden. Is this Murder ? Hes doing, this country is doing the same things it says are wrong ! You cant shoot someone , because they are shooting at you right? According to your leaders you can`t and yet they will tell you can `t do this that its illegal ! So why did they murder an "un-armed" man? These are their words not mine. The retoric, they speak.........basically they (Goverment) speaks out of both " sides of their collective mouths" !! And they claim the "moral" high ground. Seriously, this isn`t a Democratic society, its about doing what they like, (Goverment) and justify their actions useing whatever language suits them at the moment regarding the situation at the moment. As far as the "International Criminal Court' goes, well if you apply what their about then Obama should be brought before them and subsequently charged with the crimes that other dictators are charged with , or is it for OUR benifit ? Think about it for awhile. You`ll see.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Dave in Dallas

      "Interesting" thoughts. "Loved" your use of "quotes". They "genuinely" add to the reader's "perception of" the message "you" are trying to deliver "."

      "Well-done"

      May 4, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Robert

      Mel:

      I think that the fact that you made the comments that you made and have not been executed by the US Government that you criticize, is enough said! If you do not like our great country, go to another one. Go to Pakistan, Afghanistant or somewhere else in the middle east. Then come tell us about government hipocricy. I do not like Obama and believe that most politicians bend the facts and the truth, but I would rather think that while living on American soil than another country.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Cactusmac

      It's Libya, not Lybia. C'mon, man...

      May 4, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Chris

      Mel – are you seriously trying to say Osama didnt murder anyone? are you aware that you can still be convicted of murder even if you aren't the "trigger man"? He ADMITTED that he was behind the planned attack that killed thousands of people, he's admitted to being the mastermind behind numerous other terrorist attacks that took innocent lives. He's both a murdered in spirit and in the eyes of the law. Wake up.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Chris

      As for the President ordering Osama to be killed or captured, thats a casualty of WAR. Bin Laden declared WAR on our country a long time ago, by doing that he opened himself up to the consequences of war – such as being killed by our military. You must have a screw loose to even compare the two situatons. Osama has said time and time again that he will not rest until America is wiped off the face of the earth. Please take off the tinfoil hat

      May 4, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  18. Dave

    I am an atheist, but this fellow is on to something with the 'love your enemy' thing. The major issue with this country is the fact that hardly anyone tries to empathize with the other side. Instead of understanding their views, we malign them, label them and denigrate them.

    Osama bin Laden was doing what he felt was the right thing in the face of our oppressive and invasive foreign policy. Of course, it was not the right thing, but to merely say that Osama was wrong and evil will do us no good. Looking at his motivation will.

    We've come of age, America. We can either continue this stage of disrespect for each other (in this country and beyond) or we can mature, start taking responsibility for our actions and move forward.

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

      Well said Dave. A simple, articulate, powerful comment. Thank you.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  19. jon

    this dude probably steps out of the shower to take a p-ss. Who cares what he thinks/

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

      I doubt he gets out of bed to p-ss.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  20. Rex

    Who gives a rat's ass. The mutt is dead.

    May 4, 2011 at 11:10 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.