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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. Angelique

    Actually I think this is a wonderful article. And I am a secular humanist. Well written and without judgment against other faiths or those who have no faith. We do not share religion Mr. Lewicki, but I applaud your fair minded example to those who share your beliefs.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  2. Name*Lloyd melon

    I totally agree! Strange how a "body" was dump to sea, so me who he was rapped before thrown! They can't show us proof, when Hussam son died with wounds shown photo proof, their dad's hanging was live, another proof. Where is Bin Ladin proof? A building under attack,that not proof. A female was his shield, again no proof. As theres proof a mid-age man face appear on a cloth, it's on display for proof. others eyes.. His death was witness by many. This man had proof, but died for us. Bin Ladin has no proof and everyone believe in him. God is judging our belief people!

    May 4, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  3. David313

    Pastor, thank you for the biblical reminder. Patriotism and faith do not always walk hand in hand. This situation has just demonstrated that. As an American I have a strong sense of satisfaction that a criminal has gotten what he deserved. As a Christian I am also reminded that I deserve no less than he.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Backbone

      Honestly you think you deserve the same fate as Osama Bin Laden? Osama Bin Laden was one of the worst criminals this world has ever known. Have you murdered over 2,000 humans in one day? Seriously, when you say anything along the lines of "we all deserve to die" or "we all deserve the same fate" it makes me very angry at religion. You're allowed to like yourself, even if your not perfect like God.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  4. sargeanton

    The hate and "drop dead" responses are what makes the degenerate people of this country so sickening. I think there's a deeper hell for the hate commenters than Bib Laden. God help us!

    May 4, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  5. Chaser

    I appreciated & respected this well-stated response. I wish all people could learn from it & be better world partners. But I question: without the dogged pursuit of the US & our brave Seals in the end, what more harm could Osama have done with his ability to raise funds & influence minds to hate & not tolerate the beautiful and not-so-beautiful differences of mankind?

    May 4, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Chaser, I have a friend in special ops. I have wondered in these last two days, was he there? I pray for his safety and thank God for his service and sacrifice. I am not so naive to think we can live in a world without soldiers.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  6. gwats

    The man is right. Osama had been shoved to the sidelines by the pro -democracy movements gaining steam all over the Arab World. Al Qaeda is not much more than an urban street gang, using drug trafficking and kidnapping to fund their operations. They descended and morphed into the very thing they claimed to despise. Rounding up the remnants should be fairly easy now that the figurehead, Bin Laden, is fish food @ the bottom of the Ocean. He spent his last years being a footnote in Arab history and fading away in importance. That really must have gone down hard.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  7. kl

    FYI this article is an editorial. As I read part of the 111 comments ahead of my own all I see are people in fear of one thing or another. Religion is not logical, its spiritual. If you bring logic into the equation you will always fear the unknown, have faith and you will fear no more

    May 4, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • Matt

      I'd say logic fits nicely with Religion. If God made the universe than he also made math, science, logic, ect. Just takes some thinking and observation.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Backbone

      @Matt, I agree, however one must admit that the Bible doesn't present a narrative that is line with scientific fact. One need only to open to the first book to see that man is not made of dust, but of cells and many tiny biological mechanisms. One may argue that this is a truism through metaphor, but on a literal level it is surely not true at all. This fact doesn't disprove the existence of God, but it does disprove the Bible as being a good source of literal truth.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Terry

      @ Backbone:
      How can you state that the existence of God is not disproven by what you stated, yet state that the very book that explains God's existence is not true? By the way, if God created the universe and all that is in it out of nothing (which I do), then can he not have created man out of dirt?

      May 4, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  8. Sasha Hasani

    Unless you understand what drives men like Bin Laden to do what he did, you won't understand the whole picture. You can say we've been living blithely in this country... celebrating 4th of July, having Christmas and thanksgiving sales and belly stuffing... while other parts of the world were made miserable by policies dictated by our business interests. Those cheap goods... all that cheap oil... all that progress starting after WW2 comes with a price tag. If you think you cannot be blamed, well, you participated albeit in a blind way. We all benefitted from the suffering of others... be it shoes made by children or oil that enriches a tyrant but makes his whole country poor. This hasn't just been discovered now. These things have been happening all this time way before the internet was invaded. So educate yourselves and don't partake in the abuse of weaker countries by your purchasing decisions.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • sargeanton

      Show a good example. You be the first to quit buying gas.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  9. usa3456

    stop making this into a religious argument. the guy is dead and this world is better off for it. theres nothing else to it.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  10. Rachel-TX

    He said to be kind to your enemies and pray for them and to be kind to one another and not judge their feelings about this – and he's stupid? How is that hate speech? You people are the ones hating. Great article.

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

    Lovely. I advise you to go to Pakistan and Minister to Al-Queda. Let's see what your love and Jesus will do to protect you.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • CSA

      I know many that have gone and they were protected. But I guess they should have brought hate with them instead of Love-cuz hate is always better right. Ok.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • TBR

      Very well written viewpoint. This article represents a side of Christianity (thoughtful, articlulate, balanced) that media often neglects to show us.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  12. Dan

    What did he say? So boring.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  13. brett

    Cram it Reverend. You and your phony religion are partly responsible.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • CSA

      How?

      May 4, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Ouch. Do you mean that people who profess the Christian faith were responsible for Bin Laden's actions? That's been well argued, but I'd make a distinction between professing Christians and Christianity when assigning blame.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  14. PhillUranus

    Another Church freak

    May 4, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • CSA

      Wow, such an open minded and accepting view. You're such a good person. Be our leader you positive person! You represent the inclusive and pluralistic views in America.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  15. The Truth

    I just threw up after reading that BS.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Matt

      Probably should watch what you eat.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • PrejudiceAndPeaceCan'tCoexist

      At a time when we need to grow religious tolerance amongst us, the opinion of Rev. David Lewick is noteworthy. We will never be at peace as long as we arbitrarily polarize people based on religion. The death of Bin Laden is surely going to spark retaliation from his followers. Given the seriousness of this matter, it was important to let the world know that US of America is not into a massive killing spree of Islamic extremists but rather into a logical fight against terrorism. The world needs to know that US is not in a religious war and that it still respects various religion. At a time when some parts of the world are judging the celebration of Bin Laden's death in a negative light, it is important for them to know that US is not celebrating a demise of another human being but rather the victory of good over evil.

      In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

      May 4, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  16. Not fooled

    If he died long ago did he have to take 3,000 souls with him. Do you pray for them?

    May 4, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  17. nezhmet

    Oh God religion is stupid! Did anyone read this article carefully? GEEZ!

    May 4, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Matt

      Obviously you didn't. 😉

      May 4, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  18. KT

    It's sickening reading many negative comments. Many of you have anger and stubbornness. Please stop. So what if there's grammar errors. So many faiths are lost and I think that is frightening.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  19. c

    oh baloney

    May 4, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  20. PRISM 1234

    Yeah, it looks like it's not only Osama b-L who was dead long before he died... Some here are too! How can anyone belittle this article and call the man who wrote it derogatory names? Some people don't deserve the air they breathe! What worthless live they must live, that they c an nor t discern anything that's good and noble in this world.... It must be the kind for about whom Jesus said do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them in the mud! There ar many mud wallowers roaming worthlessly around, even on this thread ....

    How disgusting!

    May 4, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • Joe

      Drop dead.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • ken

      and you are the Swine

      May 4, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • ConernedNetizen

      Hate speech and religion rarely make good bedfellows..

      May 4, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Matt

      And go to Heaven.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • poet

      Out of the boat
      and into the dark
      Goodbye osama
      Hello shark

      May 4, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • CSA

      You are awesome!

      May 4, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • oakhill

      To ConernedNetizen – I'm not sure who you were directing that at, but if it was at Prism, you were misdirecting. The hate speech is coming from the unbelievers responding to this article, or people simply not willing to open their minds in any way, shape, or form. Angelique wrote something at 12:23am which is well said, and extremely applicable here. Read it.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Warrior

      LOL!!! Is this the pot calling the kettle black? I find it a bit funny & ironic how you are calling people out for doing the very same thing you are doing. You might want to STOP and take a second look at your thoughts and own actions. Just sayin' 😉

      May 4, 2011 at 2:40 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.