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. Jimmy

    This is beautiful.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  2. stanton


    May 4, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  3. js

    Just to save everybody the trouble of hating this guy thanks to CNN's hunger for page hits, here is a summary of what he really meant:

    "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."

    May 4, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  4. ThomasPaine

    More rubbish for the sheeple, If Jesus was so loving why is he a war loving hypocrit in Revelations, he sure does a 180 in that book and no one seems to mind. So much for turn the cheek. And yes OBL did die many years ago from kidney failure Al Jazeer, along with other middle eastern news organization published that in 2007/2008. Most major countries ignored that due to the war agenda that we decided to follow. He was replaced by a double to keep the cogs turning on our War on Terror policy. This is just a set up for more terror policy installment and to steer the masses in a much larger agenda.

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

      Is this the same double the Beatles used when Paul McCartney died?

      Goo goo ga joob.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • ThomasPaine

      No No it was one of his stunt double to do those awesome actions scenes.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  5. Trish

    Hey guys, will you visit HelpFaye.ORG a friend of mine with 2 babies is fighting for her life.... Thanks

    May 4, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Bizmark

      sure, but my 3 kids keep using my computer. Donate $400 to my new computer fund at slkfjsdklj@paypal.com and i'll buy one, hop on that site, and see wut its all abooot!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  6. GGinNC

    Rock God: Actually, he did use violence on one occasion. He directed it at his own religious leaders. The dude made a whip and beat the crap out of the moneychangers in the temple.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  7. Edward

    Yeah the whole osama bin laden death thing is a fake,he was dead a long time ago from kidney or some disease,all this Is just to bring war by blaming pakistan for something that they are not guilty of,terrorists such as bin laden was just created by the government to make false flag attacks.

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

      You are just a
      un educated moron

      May 4, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  8. Messenger

    Rev Lewicki you are right on target, thank you for your Godly wisdom and courage. The Kingdom of God is not the same as the kingdoms of this world, including even America; the preaching of the cross is foolishness to the world. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. There is no victory but Jesus and no victor but Christ and the work of His Word and Healing Hand...all else is vanity. I read with great sadness what seems to be a preponderance of replies here that do not understand that what matters cannot be seen with the eyes. May God open their hearts that they may believe and open their ears that they may hear.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Joey from New York

      the Rev. David Lewicki is a big ass nut JOB.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  9. David Stickney

    Another jesus freak needing attention

    May 4, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  10. Rock God

    Jesus did not meet enemies with violence.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:48 am |

    there are no gods

    May 4, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  12. ckerst

    We need to start taxing churches. They want to be involved in politics fine, pay up like the rest of us.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  13. Hypocrates

    It is idiots like you that determine our nation's interest. Stop dishing senseless article with no inherint amount of truth other than conspiracy theories. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  14. bubba

    religion is a lie!

    May 4, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Jaje

      Religion may be a lie BUT Jesus Christ (The Lord of all Lords) is REAL and not a LIE. It is man's responsibility to DISPOSE of EVIL in this world but it is GOD/Jesus that will DECIDED where your soul rests. I forgot... you name is BUBBA.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  15. GGinNC

    Pastor... grow a pair. I mean that in all respect. You're so very close on this article but the political correctness has compromised your credibility. UBL did not "...desecrate Islam." Desecrate means, "...to divest of sacred or hallowed character or office." So my question is this: How do you desecrate a lie? How do you profane a false belief? How can you be a Christian and hold up anything noble about a religion that enslaves over a billion people? I'm not saying that followers of Islam have no value. UBL certainly profaned THEM and insulted their human dignity, but dude... if you're a pastor, you're expected to root for your own team. If you think there is something sacred about Islam, I think you picked the wrong profession.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  16. John

    CNN shame on you!!!!

    May 4, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  17. Veritas

    You pray all you want "for those who persecute us", but it won't change a damn thing. Taking action is a h3ll lot more efficient than meaningless "prayer" to an imagined deity.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  18. Roberto Fernandes

    I really recommend all of us to think about this: OSANA BIN LADEN was just ONE among millions. Millions who needs MERCY, LOVE and COMPASSION... Why? Because he wasn't different... He just expressed better what everyone is. Nobody, without Christ, has a different position. Everyone, without Jesus, is dead! Separated from GOD.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  19. Andrew

    Shame on you, CNN.

    That headline was intentionally inflammatory and misleading.

    As a news organization, your job is to spread information, not drive page hits.

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


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

      Intentional headlining... not new to CNN.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  20. W.T.

    You are as crazy as osama.

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

      Seriously- the guy can't even get the name right- "Bin Laden" (incorrect) then "bin Laden" (correct). Religion commenting on politics- there's a great mixture.

      May 4, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • sassypants

      I believe that God uses government to administer His justice. Jesus taught us to do certain things as individuals but governing is not for the weak kneed. Keep praying for our enemies pastor! It's good that you know what to do... now keep doing it!

      May 4, 2011 at 9:52 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.