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. Will

    Well, in the end, OBL was just fish food.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Bubba

      I like to think of him as shark bait. He's in the belly of a hammerhead right now.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  2. AlexNJ

    Factual point of view if you think how we live post 9/11, religion aside.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  3. theron

    troy tell that bs to the 3000 at 9/11 jack off

    May 4, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  4. bubba

    your god is dead.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Bubba

      Yer gonna be dead too if you don't quit hijackin' my name.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • some emo kid

      Which one? There were four of them in the bowl when I left for school. Is one of them floating belly up?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Will

      I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today

      May 4, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  5. Sosa *

    The headline CNN used is extremely misleading, it gave the impression that this was some type of conspiracy theory from a radical pastor, when in reality it was a beautifully written piece. CNN is just trying to appeal to the mass audience n grab their attention

    May 4, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  6. Beavis

    CNN please put some sort of icon by your headlines letting people know what stories are about a mythological invisible zombie man in the sky nonsense. Those of us that don't believe in fairy tales don't like wasting our time clicking on them.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  7. crisi-tunity

    Thank you.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:38 am |

    bush prayed in office for 8 years and look how good we are doing now.... keep praying people it will fix everything

    May 4, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  9. Bornfree71

    I am not a religious man, but liked this well written article. And CNN, you can do better than a tabloid headline! (Although I will admit that's what dragged me here in the first place)

    May 4, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  10. Jim M

    The Headline is totally out of character to the article. Shame on the CNN sensationalist headline writers. Is this a news and opinion organization or some classless Tabloid? The quality, or lack of it, actually has answered my own question.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  11. skywizard

    jesus christ....make these religous idiots shut up pls

    May 4, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Jesus Christ

      You heard him. Knock it off, kids.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  12. dogs rule

    Oh give me a flippin' break! You reverends live in another galaxy!

    May 4, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  13. Chakachan

    There is no god. There is your answer. He was "evil" because of the chemical balances in his brain. Lets be reality for a moment.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Sili

      What's wrong with being chemically balanced?
      What do you mean by "let's be reality for a moment?"

      May 4, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Kurt Vonnegut, jr

      Bad Chemicals.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  14. brian

    Religion. it's given people hope in a world torn apart by religion. -jon stewart

    May 4, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Objective

      John Stewart identifies as Jewish.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Bubba

      "John Stewart identifies as Jewish." And this is bad? I'm guessing you identify as Crazy.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  15. Protestant Son

    Always a laugh when I read all the typical atheist rhetoric, no different then religious rhetoric. The atheist says " oh once we dispel religion and faith, this world will be a paradise on earth" Keep dreaming guys! Jeffrey Dahmer was an atheist and so was Stalin. When you take away the moral foundation of a culture what do you get? Pigs who are self seeking, with no compassion or conscience. Face it atheists, God is here to stay. You could either chase and bark at the car, or jump in for the ride.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Bubba

      Wow, that is SO convincing, especially the part where everyone who doesn't go to your little brown church is a self-serving pig. I want to be a bigot just like you so can I join your cult? When do we burn a cross?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Holly M

      Way to push a person further away from the bigotry you have been taught and preach. So sad when a man cannot stand on his own two feet filled with morality and values. Why do you need some ghost to tell you how to behave. You are the pig here.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • brad

      "Jump in for the ride"... that has to be one of the most ridiculous arguments for believing in God that I have ever heard. And where does this "ride" take you? Sure, I know the answer you are going to give. But the TRUTH is you don't know. You decide to live your life believing that the destination is worth the ride (to beat your metaphor to death).

      Most athiests or agnostics choose to not believe in God or question its existence and somehow still manage to live a virtuous life that most religious leaders would hope their flock would follow (except the being subservient to the whims of their God part). Bloggers want to whip out Dahmer and Stalin and atheist who did bad things. They did bad things not in the "name of no god", but because they were bad people. The list of evil athiest would most likely pale in comparison to the list of evil God-fearing folk of all denominations. That is a fruitless discussion.

      Believe in your god. Have fun with that. Live your life, let non-believers live theirs. If you are right "in the end"...good for you! We will live our lives happily until then.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Mary Sue

      My mommy told me not to jump into cars with men I don't know, and I don't know you, mister.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Protestant Son

      So sad. So I am the bigot because I said that people without conscience or compassion are pigs, well, I am sorry if I offended any pigs in here.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • GaryGuitar

      Basically, you are saying that one cannot be moral without religion. That is simply not true. There are plenty of non-religious people that have greater moral character than some religious people.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  16. ulises

    Christianity has never had a peaceful period, ever. Persecution is built in to its teaching.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Objective

      Would you also say this about all nations, religious groups and people of earth?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • some emo kid

      "Would you also say this about all nations, religious groups and people of earth?" Heck no! Bushmen and pygmies are very peaceful and make good neighbors. I hear Wales is a nice place, too. The rest of mankind has a pretty evil reputation.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  17. steeve-o

    Catchy Headline, CNN!

    May 4, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Objective

      It is a religious blog.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  18. ellid

    The headline is incredibly misleading and feeds into conspiracy theories. Shame on CNN!

    May 4, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Objective

      Did you ever read the article?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Kevin

      Yes, he did, that's the only reason he could have called the headline "misleading."

      May 4, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  19. CandyLand

    Let's pray for those on here who hate us and the Father....pray that they experience the love of God and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior before the last of their days on earth.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Birdy

      What a nut job. Let us pray almighty one. LOL You "believers" crack me up. If you are interested in purchasing my unicorn, let me know.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Holly M

      Candyland is an apt name for you sucka!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • GaryGuitar

      Let's not. CandyLand, you do all the praying you want in the privacy of your own little space. But leave the rest of us to do as we wish. CandyLand, you are an athiest in other parts of the world where people have other theological beliefs, and they would be an athiest to you here in America. Quit pushing your religion on others by announcing how you are praying for them to believe like you do. Thank you.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Bubba

      Pray all you like, and I hope it does some good. Just don't pass laws making me pray to your idol, ok? Or smash a plane into my house because I don't.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • GaryGuitar

      Let's not.

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

    Here's a word of encouragement for my brothers and sisters that are posting on this article:
    2 Timothy 2:22-26 (Message Translation):
    22)Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness-faith, love, peace-joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. 23)Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. 24)God's servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listner and a teacher who keeps cool, 25)working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, 26)enabling them to escape the Devil's trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Pat

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us..Appreciated them...I think we all get caught up in discussions and lose what the main focus of the article is....

      May 4, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Punjab83

      1. Kind of hard to out run bullets. 2. Bin Laden is in hell where he belongs. 3. Actions speak louder than words. 4. God's "Servants" have instigated blood shed in the name of religion for thousands of years. 5. It is hard to escape the devils trap when they are the devil... all we can do is set them free with our actions, not words. 6. For all you who believe blood shed is wrong and doesn't solve anything, learn your history.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Bubba

      "God's servant must not be argumentative" So all these maniacs posting about God are the actual Devil's servants? Sounds reasonable to me.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:05 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.