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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. Jackson

    Am I missing something, when did It happen that anyone who prays for their enemies, as well as their loved ones made you psychotic or southern?
    Maybe your IQ is less than your age.........

    May 4, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  2. Casey

    "Prayer, literally the least you can do."

    May 4, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  3. Well hello there

    I'm amazed. 1/4 of these comments are negatory-Christian based, 1/4 are simply ignorant, 1/4 are trolls just annoyed that someone had the nerve to post something that didn't conform to their beliefs, 1/8 actually had true sense, and 1/8 were actually positive/agreeable. This is when I crack myself up; always enjoy reading the ignoramus comments on CNN.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • wow

      Agreed. These comments are pure entertainment. People who have the time to sit and think of angry things to say simply astound me.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  4. Matthew

    I have, from a young age, been an atheist, with no shame in admitting it. I find the idea of a god silly, for there is no basis of it in reality or reason or logic. However, I have always found true belief to be a beautiful thing. Jesus was a man who taught peace and love and tolerance for all peoples, and I think that is something that stretches far beyond the limitations of human religion. Men like Rev. Lewicki just restore some of my faith in humanity and in Christianity. I may not agree with the spiritual sentiment, but so much of the feeling has to be appreciated. I find the biased hatred of his words based merely on his religion by people who claim to believe in reason and logic above faith to be of the most disgusting things.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Lobmo

      Thank you... At least I'm not alone in this lonely barren world... 🙂

      May 4, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Jeff

      Matthew, Jesus was the most non-religious person who ever walked the face of the planet.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Matthew

      I know he is. I have recently begun to call myself a follower of Jesus and what he taught, yet ignoring the religious aspects that have cropped up around him. It is unfortunate that his name and ideas are sullied by...well, the people he was trying to teach. I imagine there's a name for that already.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Thanks Matthew, both for reading and for living your life with integrity.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Matthew

      I greatly appreciate the words.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • TBR

      Matthew, in this article you are seeing a side of Christianity that is much more prevalent than you might realize, it just seldom gets much attention from the media. They get more mileage from showing the Qu'ran burners. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reflections.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  5. Punching bag for adults with temper tantrums

    If we loved each other more them things like this would not happen in the first place. God visits his vengeance on the unjust, as we see in this case. I can love a sinner and hate the sin because I sin as well. I just pray for everyone including myself. Blessed are the meek. Btw the word meek actually pertains to a horse that is has the power to kill it's rider but chooses not to. But I dare you to stand behind a horse and kick it in the groin. see how week it is. Long story short. Evil deserves punishment. However one should still feel at least a little bad for a man loosing his soul. we get mad over wasting food.... What a waste of a life pitre an example to all... Whatever floats your boat.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:40 am |
  6. David Lewicki

    Rogue, the hearty praise in these comments is all I will ever receive as payment. I wrote this piece for another blog and it was recommended to the editors here and they ran it with my permission.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Rogue

      @David Lewicki – Thanks for answering my questions. You work pretty cheap. 😛

      May 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  7. mike

    This guy is completely dillusional...we need more realists in this world..

    May 4, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  8. NanaandDad

    This is a compassionate person, no doubt. But we must deal with our enemies as they deal with us. Bin Laden called for death to all Americans – now, he will have to holler awful loud to be heard, again.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  9. Atteckus

    I will not say anything derogatory about one who preaches forgiveness. After all, that is the message of the Sermon on the Mount. I almost never meet, see or read about a Christian who practices that teaching. But being a Jew, as Jesus was, I know that forgiveness does not work. That is the lesson of Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, etc. Therefore, I fully support the Old Testament manner of dealing with murderers. Pluck out their eyes, slaughter them, and let Almighty God render judgment upon their souls. So, here is to SEAL Team Six and the Obama Administration. Thank you very much for taking out the trash.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  10. myway8

    Whatever date Bin Laden died or how he died does not matter. His death does not solve the real issue – will America continue to risk its own security to defend racists propagandists Zionists in Israel and den of thieves Zionists financiers in America? Will America continue to bankrupt itself dumping billions of aids yearly to Israel? Will America continue to be
    controlled by the Zionists oligarch? Will the White House continue to be the puppet of these thicker than blood Zionists, mainly to protect their own interests, not the interests and security of America. God, please save America.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  11. Mike

    They need to start testing the air and water at Yale. Bush 42, Clinton, Bush 44, and now this guy.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • JMD

      Mike, if you are referring to President Obama as "this guy", you better do some good things for yourself tonight: 1. Learn to respect your president and the office of the presidency or at least learn some civic and ask educated people to tell you the name of your current president, if you are an American. 2. Also learn from today and know it for your own good that President Obama did not attend Yale University; he attended Columbia and Harvard Universities for undergrad and law school respectively, hope you learned something tonight.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • David Lewicki

      I think Mike meant me. Don't blame Yale–they tried their best, but you only get so far trying to put lipstick on a pig.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  12. Sigurd

    So why did this dead man continue to kill?

    May 4, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Corpus Christian

      Did you read the article? The misleading headline isn't what the article was about.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  13. Sasha Hasani

    I wonder if he also prayed for our side... you know... the men who sent 5,000 US soldiers to needless death on a wrong war causing 100,000 Iraqi deaths in the process? That's more than Osama ever did even if you count all his bombings put together throughout his career... Oftentimes, our responses to these things seem disproportionately cruel. Each time they do something to kill 10 of our people, we retaliate by killing 1,000. No wonder we never run out of enemies.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Chaser

      Also very good points in a very difficult situation to reconcile. But keep in mind: the so-called arrogance of the US in large part is due being ignorant of the issues and understanding how our country's actions and decisions affect others. Retaliation against ignorance may be the only thing radical minds can come up with. And we all dont have the means to travel and learn to appreciate

      May 4, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • JMD

      Sasha or whatever your name is, if you hate America so much why can't you leave America and go live the life Osama and the talibans required or women and minors. You telling this poor pastor to learn about history, it seems you have NO idea, not even a little bit of history regarding radical islamic fundamentalism! I agree totally Iraq war was a "stupid" mistake, but your assertion that America actions around the world helping the helpless is a crime is absurd at best! Gadaffi would have bring down and killing mercilessly people of a city of a million or more people had America not lead the way to stop the blood bath. So if all of Libya hate America because of that action if fine with me. Buddy go educate yourself better before you start saying things not accurate at all.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Sasha, thanks for your passionate posts. If I hear you right, you are asking us to pay attention to systemic evil–the degrading or dehumanizing forces that are often woven into large scale economic, political, and cultural processes. I agree with you. My last paragraph about my own resistance to the love of God is in part a confession of my too-ready complicity with systemic evil.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  14. PIGS ARE FLYING IN THE SKY

    This Pastor also said,
    PIGS ARE FLYING IN THE SKY.
    This Pastor was locked up in Psychiatric ward before he got HIT BY THE LIGHTENING, THUNDER, in the southern U.S.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  15. Backbone

    When are those Angel SEALs gonna go after the mastermind of terror, the Devil? Maybe we need to elect a new leader, one who will give them the go ahead already. #PartiallyBasedOnATrueStory

    May 4, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  16. PIGS ARE FLYING IN THE SKY

    This Pastor also said,
    PIGS ARE FLYING IN THE SKY.
    This Pastor was locked up in Psychiatric ward before he got HIT BY THE LIGHTENING, THUNDER, in southern U.S.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  17. dug

    Yet another disillusioned "soul" mislead by religion...just like Osama.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  18. Shannon

    Prayer: for when doing something actually helpful is just too much effort.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • David Lewicki

      Shannon, not sure who modeled that definition of prayer for you. It's not one I use. Prayer and action go together in my life. And I do find some things to pray about that make me feel powerless, like terminal illness.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Bill

      Amen.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  19. Sasha Hasani

    This guy writes as if OUR country hasn't been in the business of depriving other people their fathers, mothers and children for decades. And maybe he is ignorant of the extent of the horrors that happen when he is not looking –or chooses not to look or acknowledge. As hard as this is for me to say... this is just their way of finally striking back at the empire. Just please educate yourselves. These people just don't do this because they are evil. Something turned them to this path... This is just the final disease. As with everything, when you read back on history, you will find out we have done some pretty bad things to people for a long, long time. This guy makes it out like he is blameless. Well, pal, you and your fathers have benefitted from cheap goods, cheap oil, cheap industrial stuff for a long, long time. the only reason it's cheap is because multinational corporations abuse people overseas. This is fact so educate yourselves, please. So you wonder now why unemployed guys turn to jihad?

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

      That's simply ignorant. Statistically speaking, the folks who turn to jihadist terror and suicide bombings are usually from upper class, college educated... bright futures ahead of them. Do the research... it's not because they're mad about jobs or lack thereof.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • mike sterling

      please die.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  20. woah

    wow there's a lot of hate going on here.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Fred

      There always is. It's really sad.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • George

      "He desecrated Islam and radicalized Christianity, "

      Radicalized Christianity? I'd say the KKK and, more recently, a whole bunch of murdered health professionals might disagree.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:34 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.