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. Mike

    Wow.....you are a complete nut case. God and all religions are completely man made. im sorry you are wasting your life thinking about a book of stories written to control the masses. Religion has brought nothing but War and Death. The only religion no involved with scandles. wars, death, manipulation, molestation etc. is the buddhist tradition and its not even a religion its a way of life. Religion especially christianity has been exploited to control the masses. Shame that so many are so ignorant.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Mikezzz right


      May 4, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  2. Ryan


    It's obvious you did not read my comment correctly. I served proudly in the US Army and in Desert Storm.

    Death by the sword in this regard is NOT for law enforcement or military personnel who protect our country. My comment is for those who live their lives in violence and has no regard for human life – killing just because (i.e. murders). If a person (thug, gangsters, drug dealers, TERRORIST, etc...) who live that type of lifestyle, will end up one day being killed by their own 'sword'.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  3. Felicitations

    I have been chastized for expressing joy at the news of Bin Laden's death. I've been told that this reaction is basically un-Christian. Okay, so I"m a sinner. We should love our enemies and pray for those who've persecuted us.

    So I've looked and looked but I can't find any churches in my area holding special services for the repose of Bin Laden's soul.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  4. Blah

    While you were sitting there praying for his soul all these years we actually had troops out there doing something about it. SO thank you for praying... because it did absolutely nothing.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  5. Violeta

    Sorry Pastor, I am catholic and I think Bin Laden had to be kill. There was no other way that this animal end his life.
    No that the USA killed him is God the one who is going to judge him. He is going to burn in hell with his 7 virgins.
    And for your information I do not consider him human. Even the animals have some kind of feelings but he did not
    Animals kill when they are hungry or be threaten but this person( If you can call him a person) did not have any remorse or feelings. He killed more the 3,000 people in the Twin Towers and more in Madrid, England , the USS Colt, NIgeria, etc. He is worst than an animal. So I feel USA made justice and now is time to God to do it

    May 4, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Felicitations

      Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands around the world. His supporters sawed the heads off innocent people and broadcast the killings on the internet. Bin Laden forfeited his claim as a member of the human race. His own death was quick. He got off easy. The SEALS could have made him step off a helicopter at 1000 feet so he would know what it felt like to jump off the burning World Trade Center. May 1 will always have special meaning for me from now on.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  6. JSW

    Osama wasn't a human being.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  7. Summer819

    Enough about the misleading headlines. Out of all media outlets, did you really believe CNN was the only one to report bin Laden died long ago? It's an opinion page and should only be taken as that. People are too sensitive and feel as if they are misled over the slightest things. Sheesh.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  8. nick

    I like his father Mulcahey glasses. Do they hand those out at graduation from god school?

    May 4, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  9. Jason M

    How sad, that the only response to a call for compassion, forgiveness and tolerance is self righteous vitriol and slander. God calls us to be more, and rev Lewicki is simply reminding us of that. Disagree if you want, but why the hate? Why the insults? At least think about the spirit of his message, God or no God. Can we ever expect peace without compassion, forgiveness and tolerance. I doubt it. God bless.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  10. DC

    just to clarify, I am thanking Pastor Lewicki for his words of faith and compassion, not the previous poster

    May 4, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  11. LOLReligion

    BWAHHAHAHAHAHAHA! Wait....this guys is serious?! ... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  12. Virginia

    Thanks for articulating the differing thoughts that so many are having. Yes,he did die to humanity and love long ago.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  13. sarah

    Probably one of the more misleading headlines that I've read recently. Why, CNN?

    May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  14. HWA

    What a load of crap. It's a good thing we in the modern world don't follow the teachings of Jesus verbatim...otherwise, we'd all have thrown away our possessions, never planned for the future, let our enemies walk all over us and be enslaved to another regime.

    How "loving ones enemy" is a even thought of as a moral teaching, I will never know. Would you like to know how man survived all these years? By confronting and killing his enemy when that enemies goal is to do the exact thing to him.

    Go pray in your church to your imaginary friend in the sky. Please leave the actual running of the world to those who have a mind and who don't look at themselves as "sheep"

    May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • ry

      totally agree with you. God did not create man in his image. Man created God in his image. Without religion, the world would be a more peaceful and sane place.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  15. nick


    May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • mtp

      Hater. Can't disagree matured?

      May 4, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  16. DC

    Thank you for your words!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  17. Lol religion

    Jesus wasn't about love... he was about tearing families apart. He was about literal interpretations of the old testament, including killing your children if they dishonor you. Read Matthew 15.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Jason M

      You read Matthew 15...Read carefully this time, I think you missed something.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Nikk

      I think this must break some world record under a category such as: The most stupid comment ever!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Nannalow

      Your analysis of that passage is incorrect. The pharisees came to Jesus accusing his diciples of eating without the ceremonial washing, or trying to use the law against him. Jesus used the same logic to ask if they honored thier father and mother, because if they didn't, they were to be put to death according to old testament law. In otherwords the Pharisees were being hypocrites by picking and choosing what laws in the old testament they were enforcing. Jesus was constantly surprising the Pharisees by standing up to thier legalism – and by knowing and talking about the scriptures with "authority". Authority was generally given to a teacher through another Rabbi – but Jesus was a carpernters son and did not study under any Rabbi, so where did his knowledge and authority come from? It was when they realized that they had no way to defeat him intellectually, and his popularity had gotten to big for them to go against the people, that they decided to turn him over to be crucified.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Nikk

      I am referring to Lol's comment of course...

      May 4, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Jake's On You

      Jesus wasn't in the Old Testament, smart guy.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  18. bobcat2u

    Dear Pastor Lewicki,
    Did your post increase the membership of you church ? I figured that is what you were going for !!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • lkj

      Why do you have to be so negative? Why are you looking for the ulterior motive in a man of God writing his opinion? He hasn't castigated anyone. He hasn't called for violence or retribution against anyone. All he said was that we are all experiencing different emotions, and that is understandable, but that as Christians, we need to rise above the hate and anger that Bin Laden kept in his heart. If you aren't a Christian, you can ignore the references to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit and focus instead on the idea that we can't win if we sink to their level.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  19. bergy

    My son died 6 years ago because of events bin Laden put into play. But I prayed for his soul when I heard of his death, as I often pray for other terrorist leaders, that the hatred be lifted from their hearts and they see the world through gentle eyes. Get rid of the hatred, and the evil has no place to grow.
    If we hate as they do, then we're no better than they are and we've lost the battle. That's not good enough for me, or the memory of my son.
    Let's support our troops, help them get the job done, bring them home, and do our best to love, forgive, and build a brighter future. Sounds pretty naive, doesn't it? But that's what I'm holding out for.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  20. Whaa

    Uhhh- no.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • blahblahblah

      "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." – Was Bin Laden, Darth Vader?

      May 4, 2011 at 10:37 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.