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. Jacson L.

    I actually think it's great CNN made this very misleading headline. At first you are excited to hear about some crazy pastors conspiracy theory about Osama already killed. but then it just turns out to be a crazy pastor with a conspiracy theory that god actually exists! Great comedy news!!!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  2. Rev. Henry Bates

    I think the good pastor is confused about Jesus. Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple, does this pastor think he would do less to bin Laden? Praying for someone's soul and how we treat them in the physical are two separate issues; we can forgive the soul of the man for becoming twisted, but we must send him back to the G-d that sent him here just as we would a snake that strikes to bite us. With so much in the world to pray for, I am surprised that this pastor has prayed for Osama bin Laden for 10 years. I think prayers for those who have gone on before us from 9/11 and those here affected by this tragic event are more worthy of our time and prayer. Jesus did say pray for your enemies ... but he didn't say make it habitual for any certain person.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • imissnumberthree

      Amen Bro. Bates

      May 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • GGinNC


      May 4, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  3. imissnumberthree

    Actually, Jesus did meet enemies with violence on at least one occasion. He took a whip and drove the moneychangers from the temple. Jesus was not a doormat. He was loving and giving. But he also took a stand for what was right.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  4. Omar Alcantara

    I completely agree with the Rev., Binladen died 10 years ago, he lost the love from man, but that can be replaced, yet he lost the love of God all mighty, after that it was only a matter of time to his death.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  5. Thom

    To all of you that claim a deceptive headline, so what? A headline is to tweak interest. You must read the article to get the full message. Too many people today react to the "headlines," literal and figurative, in our world without getting the full story.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • brithTHIS

      Thom, you have hit on the problem exactly. Too many people read only the headline. A headline like this one feeds directly to the conspiracy theorists. Any such person who sees the headline and does not read the article comes away with validation of the concept that Osama's death at the hands of U.S. forces two days ago was faked. After all, "I saw it on CNN." Headlines count, just like all the other words

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

      stop being stupid. I read the headline and knew exactly what it meant, clicking into the article only confirmed it. Please.. if OBL had died years ago this link wouldn't have been buried down the page below the fold, it would be front and center...

      May 4, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  6. Carl Wayne

    "[Bin Laden] 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. " & "making some Christians more enthusiastic about military action than they might have been otherwise"
    ?? Laughable to take a Yale education and waste it so well.
    Had to stop reading at that point. Too painful.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  7. Katie

    Did none of you see the "My Take" portion of the headline? This is an opinion piece, not a breaking news article. There is nothing misleading about an opinion.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  8. Carol in PA

    As the child of a Presbyterian minister, this is no surprise to me. It is how future ministers are taught to write. However, Rev. Lewicki is short on fully explaining why he believes bin Laden 'died to life a long time ago'. bin Laden had his own 'religious' beliefs, and I am sure Jesus' teachings never entered his mind. So many people forget that God as we know him also stands for Justice, and many times over He uses us to carry it out. I, for one, am joyful to hear of bin Laden's death and am going to leave his soul up to God to judge.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  9. Deb

    Hey Andy, the headline did what it was supposed to do, got you to read the article.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  10. galileo

    What you all do not understand and will never including myself is the God does not JUDGES like we do, if OBL would've repented from all his sins and accepted Jesus and surrendered, his name would've been in the book of life..

    May 4, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  11. stanton


    May 4, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  12. L.A.

    The link headline, I should say.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  13. barney

    In my eyes, Rev. Lewicki, most Christian leaders are dead, in large part because they insist that anyone who doesn't share their beliefs will go to hell. If you want to pray for someone, pray for them - and yourself. But keep your prayers to yourself, please. They don't belong here.

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

      Opinions belong in an opinion piece, which this is. If you do not want to hear his opinion the answer is simple; do not read it.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • GGinNC

      Why would you insist that people of faith have no place on a RELIGION blog? If you have no religion, then why are you here? Is this not an admission that yours is also a faith of sorts? I'll be civil, but if you think you can tell me where, when, and how I excercise my faith then you are mistaken. I'll do my best not to offend you, but I won't make a choice on whether to excercise my own faith in whatever way I chose and not offending you. My free excercise of religion is a RIGHT. Get it? Your desire to not be offended or inconvenienced is a PREFERENCE. Your preferences don't override my rights. With that said, you also have the right to be obnoxious and rude. I might be offended, but i don't have the right to tell you to hush.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  14. L.A.

    CNN, it would be more journalistically honest to put "died" in quotes in the headline. Change it now?

    May 4, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  15. Jesus

    sorry, this author is on crack.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  16. SDFrankie

    I sometimes wonder about God's love. He loved my sister to death with breast cancer before she hit 35. He's a funny old God.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Kim

      Please SDFrankie don't say that! Bad things happen to good people all the time. It is just a part of life, and I am truly, truly sorry about the loss of your sister. I lost my aunt to cancer and came home to find her dead on the floor. But, she loved God and I know she is rejoicing with Him in heaven. I never question God or why things happen, I just learn from them and appreciate the short lived life we have on this earth.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  17. Dr. Balls

    Good job CNN. Its as if you hired FOX to help you write misleading headlines about imaginary friends ruling the universe....

    May 4, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  18. dave R

    Religion is such a bunch of crap. Blind followers doing what a so called god says because they are afraid of some sort of hellish afterlife. Religion is just another form of government to keep people in line when nobody is watching.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Todd (another one)

      The Flying Spaghetti Monster rules all!!

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

      Will people be discussing you and your wisdom, Dave R., 2,000 years from now?

      May 4, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Tengu

      And yet, here you are, reading the religious section.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • PopeyBoy

      My Sky-Fairy beats your pasta beast.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  19. Andy

    Deceptive headline. I'm sooo surprised.

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

    I get more and more sick of CNN's misleading headlines and half truth reporting every day. What happend to reporting the new rather than making it. I am much more impressed by and informed by organizations like the BBC.

    May 4, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Rhymeskeema

      I know. He "died" in spirit long ago. What utter b.s.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Ron Marriott

      I wholeheartedly concur with your comments. Even in Asia where I have watched CNN it is more about fashion, talking heads espousing their opinions, interviews with movie stars....so little news!!! We were much more informed when we had only ABC, CBS and NBC evening news than we are with CNN and FOX....Even Al-Jazeera presents more real news than CNN. BBC provides excellent world news coverage. CNN, it seems, is trying to emulate Fox News. What happened to REAL news coverage??? Now I rarely watch CNN, never watch Fox, occasionally CBS and NBC.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • James Swanson

      This is a belief blog, written about personal beliefs and opinions. If you don't want to read opinion articles, then don't, but please don't complain about them being opinions.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:49 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.