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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. Rev. G

    This was a needed conversation and I want to thank you for letting us share in your journey. You put to word, the thoughts that so many of us share, about the challenge of being faithful with so many conflicting demands on our allegence. Peace always,

    May 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • David Lewicki

      Thanks.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  2. La Cristiana

    Phenomenal article, very well written! It truly expresses the dichotomy of the Christian's challenge, to live in this world, yet not be 'of' the world. Our hearts are to mimic that of JESUS CHRIST, our Saviour and Redeemer. God reminds us that judgment is HIS. I pray for those who have been wounded by this man, who as Rev. Lewicki described, died to goodness, mercy and peace a long time ago.

    May 5, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  3. Deon

    I love everyone and delight in the death of no one.

    May 5, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • William Demuth

      I hate everyone equally, and really enjoy when people die, as long as their is cake and coffee after we plant them.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  4. J Malan

    #Chad Parker: Amen

    May 5, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  5. Jimbo

    Keep your condescending Christian thoughts to yourself. This was about raw values, which are universal. You go ahead and love your enemies. Those of us without your empty words in our heads will make the world better and stronger.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Bruce

      ... with bionics!

      May 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Can we rebuild Osama?

      Can we make him better, stronger, faster?

      May 10, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  6. Ebony

    That truly touched me. You are absolutely right.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  7. John

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

    Wow, I can think of so many more constructive ways to use one's time to make the world a better place.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • David Lewicki

      Good point. I've been busy with other things, too, as I'm sure you have!

      May 6, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Good point. Thankfully, it's not the only thing I've been doing!

      May 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  8. What a Joke

    CNN is funnier than the Onion... I can't even began to explain how ridiculous this article is. This guy still needs someone to tie his shoes!

    OBL is EVIL. No need to celebrate his death but trying to rationalize it so you feel superior to God is the most ridiculous and arrogant action a man can take toward God.

    May 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  9. BornUScitizen

    You f***king people kills me!!!! You still giving Osama control and he's gone...if you so damn happy he's gone, STFU about it and get on with your damn lives!!!!

    May 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Bruce

      BornUScitizen: Calm down and back away from the exclamation points. It's okay. Nobody needs to get hurt, here...

      May 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  10. Reality

    If only bin Laden had read the following in his formative years:

    Saving Muslims is quite easy!!! (As is saving Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans)

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:
    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.
    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    May 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • our12

      Debunt the 5 reasons that lead us to believe that you are IN LOVE with yourself

      May 5, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • William Demuth

      Cut and paste much?

      May 10, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  11. Angry

    I'm glad I read this.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  12. America

    John, you fail to understand America. If you find injustice in the world, then work to change it. Don't participate in killing innocent people. And don't tell me we're not innocent because we're Americans; if it wasn't for the USA, you wouldn't have ever had ANYTHING worth two cents. As a nation we've had our faults, sure, but we understand ethics and justive better than anyone who defends terrorism, and we do a lot of good on this planet. Stand down sir. Defending osama, like you are, is beyond pathetic.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  13. LegalBeagle

    I will never understand why it is widely excepted that having delusions of magical beings is perfectly normal. I can only hope that one day the rest of the world will grow up.

    May 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • McLovin

      Did you just diss Santa Claus?!

      May 5, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Barney is REAL, and it is my mission to preach his gospel!

      May 10, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  14. Nicole

    Ugh...another Pastor with a big ego decides to blah blah blah b.s. ...what's new.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  15. Natalie

    I am a praying to god for Bin Laden – im praying that he has no mercy and sends him straight to the deepest darkest spot in hell – a hell that is saved for the worst of the worst.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Nook Schreier

      With that kind of hateful spirit, it seems likely you might join him there.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Chris

      Nook – I dont find it hateful to hope someone as terrible as Bin Laden gets his due in the afterlife (if I were to believe in such a fantasy). The man murdered thousands of innocent people. He is evil, a coward, and earned the demise he finally got. This turn the other cheek nonsense needs to stop. People reap what they sew, if there is a hell he earned a seat at the head of the table.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • TheWiz

      The teachings of Christ are crystal clear – that we must love our enemies, bless those who persecute us, pray for those who hate us – and not that they receive condemnation, but that their hearts may be turned to ways of true justice, love, and peace. To wish eternal damnation on any human soul is a direct violation of these commands, as much as we might actively dislike a person. We know that God is the God of love, but He is also the God of justice, and for each and every single one of justice, justice will be served, if not in this world, then in the next – the kicker being that Jesus Christ jumped in and allowed justice for our sins to be meted out on him.
      I personally believe, as a Christian, that a person of any faith (or no faith at all), who genuinely and completely altruistically loves both friend and foe alike is fulfilling the Law of God, and is therefore saved through the same Jesus Christ. Is, bin Laden saved? The answer is that none of us can know that fate of any human soul. While it does not appear to me that bin Laden in any way obeyed the Laws of God, and thereby lived out of love, and therefore, yes, is more than likely facing eternal perdition, I cannot know that. Likewise, to wish it on him is to entertain hatred, malice, and uncharitableness in our hearts, which only leads to spiritual harm for ourselves. So, we wish damnation on bin Laden, or anyone else, at our own peril.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Jonas

      I absolutely despised Bin Laden. I'll be honest about that. I felt hate for that man. I have felt hate for my leaders who have put men, and groups, like him in positions where they can commit the most vile acts against their fellow men and women. Like Saddam Hussein, or backing the Iranian revolution. Or Ex-President Mubarak. To wish for them to "burn in hell" is equally disgusting to me. How dare you pretend to be a christian and spew venomous words that contradict the religion you say you belong to and believe in. christians such as yourself provide nonbelievers like myself with all the ammo we need to dispute your claims to "truth."

      May 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • :(No

      A murderer is no worse than an adultry, and especially a liar, all liars gonna have they place in the lake of fire...so in saying that, get ready to go to hell WORLD...the END

      May 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Wiz

      I am not sure we turned his heart around, but I bet that 9mm hollow point did a bang up job of scrambiling his brains!

      May 10, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  16. John

    I believe the writer fails to understand that Osama did not actually die to goodness. Osama believed perfectly clearly that he was fighting for goodness in battling an imperial world power that fought and killed thousands of his own people for no other reason than financial gain.

    This might be hard to understand for an American Christian but what it takes for someone to battle an entire western nation (in a right or wrong way) in the way that Osama did, must be for fame or for money or financial gain (like the US would), after seeing it wasn't about money they label such a person who kills innocent people insane. Perhaps Osama was of completely sound mind, we'll never know. He did hate America's policy in the world pretty strongly though.

    And speaking as one of the other 6,700,000,000 people on the world who isn't American, I can't say I blame him for not liking the USA.

    May 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Chris

      John you make valid points and I understand as a nation the US is disliked across the globe. However, killing thousands of innocents seems counter-productive to Bin Laden's cause. What people hate about the west, and America in particular, is the way our leaders handle foreign policy issues. By attacking innocent people, Osama was only doing what he accused the US Government of doing. His cause would have been better served by attacking American leaders directly. I am sure this is much more difficult as these people are much more protected than the general public but in my opinion Osama took the cowards way out and died a hypocrite.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • LegalBeagle

      @John. I agree with you. While I personally think the actions he took to support his cause were deplorable, his reason for doing so was a valid one from his point of view. It's hard for those of us in the USA to understand the mind of someone from that part of the world, not having experienced their history. I believe he was a perfectly sane individual (besides the fact that he suffers from the same delusions of god as the majority of the world). If he truly believes his religious text as a Christian or Jew would their own then he is doing the right thing in the eyes of god. Religion itself is the real evil here. It can lead sane men to do seemingly insane things from the vantage point of secular morals.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Based on the numbers provided by you for non American, and the number of warheads provided by the Pentagon, we only need to get about 1311 kills with each warhead.

      So you must frankly ask yourself one question.

      Do you really think we give a rats ass what you outsiders think?

      This is our world, and we shall do with it as we please.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  17. Chad Parker

    Exactly! This reverend is touching on something very important, but doesn't quite define it fully, perhaps neglecting to realize himself that what he speaks of is more than a metaphor.

    While physical death (separation of body and spirit) is very real, so is spiritual death (separation of spirit and God [and all things good]). But 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 teaches, "for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." So we all, even Osama, will be saved from physical death, but Jesus Christ–the atoning one, and only one capable of being the mediator between us and God the father–can only save the repentant from spiritual death (faith and works meet for repentance are necessary).

    (Learn more about the fullness of truth and the restored gospel at lds.org).

    May 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Jonas

      Perhaps you do not know the full intent of the author, just as many "real" christians know that the "author of creation" isn't a being that humanity can understand. I am not christian, I absolutely detest the very notion that a "supreme creator" exists, but even I know that you really shouldn't use this thread as a platform for attempting to sell your own religion. Share your beliefs, don't act like a typical mormon and try to sell your church through that link you posted.

      May 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Chad

      Is Mahatma Ghandi in hell because he denied the divinity of Christ?

      If your answer is yes, then you can go there yourself.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  18. xasthur

    His opinion sucks, I prey for him.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Moetown1

      You lie in wait to attack and eat him?

      May 8, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  19. "Hack? PLEASE"

    It's called an OP-ED piece, you dimwit. He's merely expressing his opinion.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  20. Whatever

    The headline is misleading and throws fuel on the fire for conspiracy theorists who won't notice or understand that it's a metaphor. Good job, you hack!

    May 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Dave

      I agree.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • jps

      The columnist almost certainly did not write the headline. The copy editor is the hack.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Objective

      This blog is responsible for more than 1,000 posts now. The catchy headline is causing at least that many people to think and express difficult feelings in nonviolent ways. Thought provoking prospective is always welcome here.

      May 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Pete Best

      Pray for bin Laden? What the hell is he talking about?

      May 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
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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.