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. toni

    Ok,I honestly would rather have Osama dead then him be allowed to live and go where he pleases, and god will to see to it he's punished but I think he got what he deserved, I'm sick of people slandering Obama, I'd like to see someone put in his position and have to make the decisions he does, there will always be critics of what you do.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  2. Lefty

    Decent enough opinion piece with a lousy headline. That being said, I'm sick of seeing "loose" or "loosing" when someone means "lose" or "losing". And from a Yale grad to boot. People notice, try harder.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Lefty

      Just read it again and I get the wording. Grammar police fail.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Jason

      Yup, fail indeed.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  3. jeremy

    Wow you celebrate a death. Humans are supposed to be compassionate. You should never celebrate a life ending regardless of how wicked or evil you are. How would you like it if you died and everyone cheered. Most likely you wouldn't. All you people who are happy and estatic make me sick.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • SDN

      I"m neither happy or sad about the death of Osama bin Laden. I do think that the world is a safer place.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Joe

      If that makes you sick, I'm glad you're sick.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  4. flavaluv2

    Osama Bin Laden's death isnt the end of hatred, hatred is a disease passed on by ignorance. Osama's mentor was an Egyptian, he was taught hate in the University he attended. Evil is passed along and depending on the mind and heart of the person which hear it and receive it, is the fruit that manifest from it. Some people will respect the life of human beings and some will not – does that mean we must kill everyone that hatred controls if so then the USA need to start in their own home because hatred is alive and breeding strong within its own borders.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Joe

      Babble on chicken brains.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  5. Natty

    I think this is inspiring. I do believe justice has been served, but it touched me to hear youve kept this evil man in prayer. Jesus said to turn the other cheek and pray for our enimes, I commend you for having the faith and courage to do so. It takes alot to be able actually pray for those who have made us suffer. And you are right I also believe his soul was lost long ago. But our God is a God of mercy...

    May 3, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  6. Dubya

    the God of justice and of mercy ...

    somebody needs to look up the definitions of justice and mercy – justice is earned, mercy is given – this is the fundamental contradiction in the statement above – God can not both give what is earned (just) and what is not deserved (merciful) and be consistent

    May 3, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Kay

      He's merciful to people who repent and are sincere about it. Everyone else will meet justice on Judgment Day.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • Joe

      Thank you Kay for leading us down the path to glory!!! You are truly annointed. Truly turyly you are. Sooooooooooooo annointed. Thank you, thank your, thank your for your insight into the spirit!!! GLORY!!! GLORY!!!

      May 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • TL

      Yes, justice prevails. Those who turn to His Son in faith and trust that He received the full wrath and justice they themselves deserved, have received mercy. And still God is just. He has punished sin. And for those who don't accept His offer of mercy, what else is left but to bear justice themselves?

      June 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  7. Cathy Scott Pollard


    May 3, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  8. InsertWittyName

    "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."

    Replace Bin Laden with God/Jesus and you have the majority history of the USA and Europe. Its baffling to think people still believe a guy with a beard created the universe, despite the fact its still expanded, and that the Earth is only 4,000 years old.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • LouAz

      Everyone knows that the universe and the earth are 6,000 years old. Sister Sarah told me.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Joe

      Heres a guy with the diction and vocabulary of a 3rd grader proselytizing. Who's gonna "learn" us next? Larry, Moe, and Curley?

      May 3, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  9. dabein marga

    This guy needs to listen to more Black Sabbath

    May 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  10. Lobmo

    Ok. Watch Religlous... At the end if the day its true. What Christians falsely follow, what Judaism has suffered, what Muslims deal with in hate alone, will bring this world to it's final breath.....
    "And now the ground we call our home, is but a Barron wasteland... The only sound drowning our cries, is the detonation!" – Mathew K. Heafy

    May 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Joe

      So sayeth the might Lobmo, purveyor of TV and 4th grade graduate. What an authority!!! Somebody publish this ___________ quick!!

      May 3, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  11. cooperunion

    What a moron, you should have studied history at Yale, not Fairy Tales! Like Dr. Evil said, "I am surrounded by frickin' idiots"!

    May 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  12. chaunce


    May 3, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  13. Josh

    This guy looks and sounds like such a twerp. Stop trying to be poetic, you geek. Obama gave the order to take out OBL, and you conservative fools can't accept that, so you have to spin it until it's useless information. Im an independent that is absolutely sick of both parties, especially you republicans. It's time to grow up and start contributing solutions to the nation's problems, instead of pointing fingers and spinning every accomplishment by the current administration into failure after failure.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • JamesGA

      well said, Sir.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • Joe


      May 3, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • David Lewicki

      Twerp. Check. Geek. Check. And for a hot second I thought the photo made me look rugged.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • BB

      I'm with you, Josh!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Jason

      Really, guys? Your best response it to insult his looks? Why not just admit he's right, then?

      May 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  14. Gus

    I'm not a Christian, but I admire what's great about Christianity. This essay fits into that category.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  15. Ken

    Thanks for the article. There are more people that have the same feelings as you do than those who are leaving comments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Natty


      May 3, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Missy

      And agreed.

      May 4, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  16. whatcomesnext

    I dunno. Sounds like Obi Won explaining to Luke why he previously said Vader killed Luke's dad, when actually Vader was Luke's dad. But it seems an honest piece from an honest person providing his opinion based on his values and faith. No harm in that. Instead of attacking each others' personal values and beliefs and trying to discredit everyone who disagrees with your views and nitpick their every word, how about everyone sharing how you personally have been responding to the changes to our lives and environment over the past decade. Do prayers solve problems? Many think so, and that's their belief. And that's okay. Does rhetoric and jumping on the party bandwagon and disavowing anyone who doesn't believe in our beliefs solve problems? Rarely. And that's why we have a USA. That's why we broke away from the British.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Paul

      "But it seems an honest piece from an honest person providing his opinion based on his values and faith. No harm in that."

      Hitler would honestly say that he honestly believes that Jews (and other groups) should be exterminated. Saying that someone believes something based on his values and faith means precisely nothing. What's important is the content of what's being said. This article contains worthless nonsense from a person who doesn't seem to recognize that we all live in the real world where belief in a supernatural being can have serious (possibly fatal) consequences. There is certainly harm in letting the irrational guide our thoughts and behavior.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • JB

      Man can skew the truth and pervert it into any form he finds fitting. But when you take biblical scripture at face value, wherein do you find teachings that make sense out of what Hitler did to the world? The word "love" is used anywhere from 500-700 times in the Bible depending upon the translation. I find it hard to believe that a book profoundly given over to the use of the word love, not to mention it's definition and application, could teach what Hitler preached.

      1 Corinthians 13:4-7
      4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

      Mark 12:30-32
      30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

      John 3:16
      For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • 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 agree with everyone. That's not only impossible (IN AMERICA), but expected. But we can love our country for 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.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  17. gary

    What a colossal waste of bandwidth....

    May 3, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  18. Chris Davis

    Unbelievably deceptive headline. It destroys the merit of the argument that you deceive the reader only to explain the ridiculous headline way down in the piece.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  19. Crystal Fuller

    Beautifully written!

    May 3, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Amazed

      Thank you, finally a non-ignorant and positive-effective comment.

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

      I agree.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  20. Buddha

    Gawd, this piece only proves how useless both Christianity and Islam are.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • john

      what in the world, why in the world did you even bother reading this.. for the life of me i cannot fathom.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • S1N

      Why shouldn't we allow God to judge instead of prevent bin Laden's continued ability to breath? Easy.

      The same reason we don't wait for the boogieman to eat all the bad children.

      There is no God. That leaves vengeance in our hands.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Joe

      What a crock of fillintheblank.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • JB

      Right . Love is useless. Compassion is useless. Sacrifice is useless.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Paul

      Christians can't win, can they? If they're critical, they're "hateful," if they pray for their enemies, they're made to be idiots. Try looking in the mirror next time you feel like being critical. It may do you good.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • tim Thorp

      And in this spirit: jesus died, and came back (supposedly), bin Laden died. Will he come back once he sorted out his 'love and death issues? Lord Voldemort died -long time ago, but he came back too, without love, dead to mercy and blah blah blah.

      Honestly, what silly fabricated crap. We all know the facts listed in the first 9/10th of the article. Why regurgitate it, and stupidly mislead the reader. As for the last 2 paragraphs: come on, you could have just said that you prayed for UBL despite or because of his dour fanaticism. Oh by the way, your praying didn't change a darn thing.
      Neville Longbottom killed Nagini, Harry Potter facilitated the demise of Voldemort, and the SEALs hastened UBL's departure. Very simple, no pastor's input needed.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:08 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.