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. Still Shaking my Head

    Sure blame God and refuse to face the fact, evil people exist and do evil things.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Suzie

      The argument can't work since if people believe God created everything then he created Satan and evil! Now how stupid was that when everything could have been utopia! LOL!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  2. JohnDHater

    The church needs to worry about defending children who are being abused by priest and stop worrying about us rejoicing in the death of an evil man. An eye for an eye dammit!!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  3. Vandelay Industries

    Why do I have to see religious sermons on CNN?

    May 4, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  4. Eric

    Actually he's a left wing 'Christian'. Un-repentant and under the wrath of God. His social 'gospel' is no gospel at all. It's sociology wrapped in god-talk.. Our God is sovereign over death and life. We have all sinned and do not deserve 'justice'. The only injustice is that you continue to rebel against your creator. Seek his mercy through Christ. Turn away from your sin.

    By no work of the law shall any flesh be justified.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  5. Jeff

    The headline for this article made me think the author was one of those who believe Bin Laden has been dead for awhile and his body was held by the government until this weekend. But that's not what he says at all. Great article, terrible headline.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  6. Hannah

    Amen – Thank you for your rational thoughts. I am astounded by the people who gathered to pray together on 9-11 but instead of praying sunday night rejoiced (especially from those calling themselves Christians) over the death of one of God's children. Violence does beget violence and I think that is exactly what we saw in the rejoicing over death... I hope, like you, that we can also remember that Hope and Love beget Hope and Love!

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

      Hahahah Fantasy Land, I love it! The man got back what he put out. What would you have done if he was standing tight in front of you? Drop to your knees and pray? He would have beheaded you where you were. Keep praying.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  7. Jack Kavorkian

    Burn this moron at the stake. Why do these religeous fanatics get air time? Who actually pays their way in life – the old and gullible who are prompted to place their money in the 'collection plate' every time they go to 'church'. Sad. Some even have the added bonus of alterboys to diddle with little consequence. A FINE lot aren't they? Wake up people!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  8. NYCMovieFan

    A very strange view of religion. Phrases like "give permission" and "our job is to never cease praying" and "pray him into the hands of God" – it's a very controlling view. You cannot control anyone but yourself, those who try are doomed to failure. Once past childhood, everyone pretty much selects their own views of worship, and some are lost to evil. It's a waste of time praying for others to do what you want them to do – better to pray that the greater good be done and raise consciousness that way.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  9. lowell

    People like this writer are ENEMIES of the American Republic. It is that simple.
    "A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."-Ecclesiastes 3:8
    People like this guy embrace WEAKNESS.
    This guy will get us all killed because he EMBRACES, HARBORS, AND SUPPORTS America's enemies
    thus EMBOLDENING them to MORE acts of terror.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  10. skeptic

    this is why christianity is stupid. it this guy were in charge we'd be praying for al queda and would all be dead by now. also, why didn;t the church pray for israel instead of sending crusaders and all the other mass murders the church has committed over the centuries.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  11. chris

    Nice work on the misleading headline, CNN!

    May 4, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  12. Ken

    Sorry Mr Lewicki, Osama did not think in the way you do. Islam does not think in the maner you do. Our western way of thought does not make sense to them anymore than their way makes sense to us. Even though you feel he died a "death" while still breathing, by your own "yardstick" he did not think that way. The people who followed and continue to follow him don't think that way. I implore you to take the blinders off and see the real picture. If we don't, we will suffer the same kind of terror over and over until we learn this simple fact.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  13. LMAO

    I thought that this was going to be an intelligent article.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  14. ken fatherley

    you are a right wing nut. don't worrie no one is going to tax the plate

    May 4, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  15. IsItTrue

    no, no, no... he died in 2001 due to kidney failure like everyone reported.... right?

    May 4, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  16. Tom Leykis

    ALL RELIGION is evil, oppressive, violent and ignorant. The world would be a better place if these myths were all dead and buried. There is no god, jesus and mohammed never existed. All total B.S.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Qi

      All except Jesus. He is real. You better watch out sinner....

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

    I have figured out how to get rid of our national debt. Just show the actual death of Bin Laden on the movies and charge $20 per person to see the movie. I'll bet that you could make alot of money toward actually clearing our nations debt.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Felicitations

      Now there's an idea!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • alex

      That would also clear all doubts people may have. Two birds with one stone!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Freddy

      Do you know how big the debt is really?

      Do you know how many tickets at $20 would have to be sold to even cut it down by 1%?

      May 4, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • calculator

      Hey, Einstien. The population of the U.S. is 300 million and change. If EVERYONE went to see the movie at $20 a pop, that would be $6 BILLION. A lot of money, but the national debt is $14 TRILLION.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  18. amanda

    I love how this man stated that we must allow ourselves and others to feel the wide range of emotions that we are bound to feel concerning Osama's death and yet you attack him for stating that he has chosen to pray for change. I think he brought up excellent points even though I don't share his belief system. If more Christians were like him, maybe I would be one but unfortunately a great number of Christians are like the trolls on here attacking him. Way to follow your faith!

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

      I am a Christian for lack of a better term, and could not agree with you more. I say Christian because I believe in one God and the teachings (if not the man) Jesus... but I agree completely... the number of people that say they are Christian and then turn around and attack no matter what thier beliefs is outrageous. While I agree with what the editorial said I can have understanding and learn from those who do not... sad thing when we stop listening to the debate on both sides. Especially in America where people tout the Freedom that has been fought, died and won for us and then to turn around and want to silence someone else's opinion or ridicule them for it.... It is a strange double-standard, hypocritical world we live in!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • chuck

      Amanda – That's the whole point. You should not look at others for the example, but look at Christ and what he wants for you. Every Christian is a sinner, including this pastor, but we work everyday to be more like Christ. God's see's all sin as the same and everyone has the ability to accept Christ and have a relationship with him. Even when you accept him you will still stumble, but the difference is he will help you back up and mold you. Take care Amanda and I pray the holly spirit will continue to inspire you to get to know Jesus. People will let you down, but Jesus will never let you down.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Mike

      "I think he brought up excellent points even though I don't share his belief system. "

      Wow, a respectful and mature response. This is what America should be like, not eating each other from the inside like most of the the other posters.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  19. Anon

    Religious propaganda on the front page of CNN. You guys suck.

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

      Poor Osama is having to answer to Jesus right now.....

      May 4, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • JesusFreaksSuckToo

      Exactly what I was thinking!

      May 4, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Mike

      Talking of the big 'J' the strange thing about the USA these days is the religious right seem totally 'Old Testament' yet call them selves Christians. Jesus would be the iconic Liberal and we all know they hate liberals.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  20. skeptic2

    Before you start praying for bin Laden, try to remember that the God you are praying to watched him hatch the 9-11 plot, finance it, put it into play and did absolutely nothing to prevent all those poor people from being killed and save their loved ones from years of misery and grief. Are you so steeped in the buzz words of pastordom that you can't see how contradictory it is to ask forgiveness from a diety who was complicit in the crimes of bin Laden in the first place? And remember, if your God really forgave bin Laden, It could have brought down all the helicopters and stopped the assasination from happening last Sunday.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Blah

      Could not have been said any better.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Neal

      Wow... Really well put.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Brian


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


      May 4, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Qi

      Whole thing is fake. Trump will reveal the TRUTH. Details of conspiracy also coming out on G. Beck news show. Always question....

      May 4, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • AgentStrom

      Well said.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Mike

      Well said. Religious wing nuts can always twist any fact to suit their particular version of it. They are simply beyond any form of logical thinking. No proof? No problem, have faith. Oh but faith in my version only, the other religions are wrong. Bla bla bla.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Steve

      The God that most people believe in doesn't randomly appear in everyday life.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Rhymeskeema

      That same god also watched bush shetting his pants in front of schoolchildren as the wacko neocon cabal gave the order to stand down on the occult holiday of 911. 3000 lives, some innocent, willingly sacrificed by 2 abominable systems of belief. A god of goodness is on no ones side in this mess.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Matt

      Awesome. Spot on.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Steve

      Always Question.... Unless of course you're questioning Glenn Beck or Trump. In that case, never question.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • RS

      "I have already said that I am not involved in the September 11 attacks in the United States. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children, and other humans as an appreciable act. There exists a government within the government of the United States. That secret government must be asked as to who carried out the attacks.... The United States should trace the perpetrators of these attacks to those persons who want to make the present century a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity so that their own nation could survive." – Osama Bin Laden

      ^^Days after 9/11 attacks

      As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way (and) to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women."

      ^^said to be Osama in 2004


      Sorry, while I feel someone who needs to be removed was, I dont think people really get that the attacks may have not been him at all.

      May 4, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • TheOracle8191

      I find it sad how when horrible, tragic events happen, many people, very quickly, point the finger at God and ask, "Why did you let this happen??" Yet, when they are at the very top of their game, whatever their field, whenever they are at the most abundant in their lives, I am willing to bet that those very same people never stop to say, "Thank you God for helping me do this or giving me this blessing." Do not forget that it was a MAN who plotted against us. Do not forget that it was MAN who ended the lives of 4000+ people on 9/11. It is MAN that CHOOSES to go to war and do all of the heinous things in our lives today that so dominate the headlines. But most of all Do NOT forget that it was GOD who said, (paraphrasing), "I love you skeptic2, blah, neal and everyone else on this earth so much that I will send my ONLY son to be mocked, ridiculed, brutally beaten and broken and ultimately DIE, so YOU will have a chance at TRUE forgiveness if you believe in him." God is ready to forgive ANYONE who comes to him through his son Jesus Christ. All you have to do is genuinely believe that he died for you and ask God to show you the way. I pray that someone reading this will find forgiveness through Jesus Christ and experience true love and peace. God bless 🙂

      May 4, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Nannalow

      Praying for someone's soul, does not mean that you are praying that someone won't be held accountable. It's praying that someone will admit that what they did was wrong (or in Osama's cases horrific), and turn from your previous course and turn toward Jesus. If Osama had found God the week before he was killed, it would not have changed the outcome any. God never promises you freedom from consequences, only freedom from internal guilt and eternal punishment. However, although we can never know the truth in a mans heart, I would find it very unlikely that Osama will be benefiting from the grace provided God's people ... and that is what this article is about – as a Christian we weep that a soul has been lost, but as a Godly person, we rejoice at the defeat of evil.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Your Friendly Neighborhood Muslim

      You (and those like you), for some reason seem to take your approach on God as someone who is obligated to act immediately, and complicit with your wishes and your ideals. If He fails to do that, then somehow that equates to nonexistence, because "why would a merciful God allow that to happen if He existed?". I get that, but who are you to set any sort of standard on what and how God should act and react to human actions and events? As if by Him restraining from saving someone, He can't possible exist because that does not coincide with YOUR definition of mercy.

      This goes along with the general human flaw of arrogance where we feel that our standards are what should define God, how He should act, how we see Him. And if He fails in these regards, then He obviously can't exist. The best example is when a family member dies, or some natural disaster occurs. The most common arrogant question is "If God exists, why would He let this happen? Because I certainly wouldn't. So God can't possibly exist". The obvious answer is because He sees the bigger picture that you do not. Just because He's not saving people left and right in this life doesn't mean His justice won't be delivered in an afterlife.

      The human concept of justice, much like God's justice, is absolute, which is why we are infuriated when a convict gets away with murder... but ultimately, God's justice will come about in this life, or in the next. Everything has to balance itself out as a matter of natural law that God has put forth. So the pastor here is absolutely right, and I commend him and any other human being that thinks along those lines of ultimate justice and mercy for everyone.

      Also, I'm happy bin Laden is dead. God is great.

      – Your friendly neighborhood Muslim

      May 4, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • shogun74

      Wow....there are a lot of people here who seem to be atheist, or at least questioning God's role in all of this. It is scary because it seems that more people are losing or have lost their faith. It makes me think of the stories of the rapture or second coming, which many think is far out....but I don't know.....it seems like a lot of things that are happening in this world today are playing right into some of these prophecies. Global uprisings, the "mark" – which might be credit card chips or electronic "tagging" that becomes the only way to make transactions. I've been reading stories about these technologies being developed. Lot of big things happening out there, and when you look at the bigger picture, it is scary.....

      May 4, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • shogun74

      by the well – well said @the friendly neighborhood muslim.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Oldfortman

      You don't understand. God gave man free will. He can do evil or he can do good. God lets us choose and do as we will. When Jesus returns He will rule over all and no more evil will be allowed. Satan will be cast into hell foeever and death and evil will be there with the devil.

      When Adam and Eve did the first sin they choose for all of mankind till the return of Jesus. The earth and mankind will suffer the pain of sin and cry out to God for the return of His Son and the end of sin and evil on this earth.

      Jesus will return and there will be no more death, no more sin, no more suffering. Man's choising of sin over God will be set right and was washed away by the blood of Jesus on the cross.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • TheOracle8191

      @ Shogun74 You're completely right about the end times prophecies. 2 Timothy 3:1-2, 4 says, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy... lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." Everytime there's a post about a religious view on CNN, atheists and skeptics seem to flock just to bash it. There are a TON more prophecies in the Bible!! For a brief view on a few of them, go to http://unsealedprophecy.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/signs-of-the-last-generation. Get ready 🙂

      May 4, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Earnhardt

      Thank you Lord for not letting me be God. Hmmm, if I was in control of the 'zapper', or anybody else for that matter, there would not be many left on this planet.

      As for God allowing 9/11 to happen, you're right he did. As Anne Graham, Billy Graham's daughter, added. God is a gentleman. We asked Him to "step out of our government, our schools and our lives." He did. For years, all under the guise of political correctness, we have ordered God to stay away from specific situations only to beg and plead for his help when we are up to our necks in poo. I hate to think this, but by the time 9/1, God was metaphorically halfway across the Atlantic waving to us and letting us know that He is there when we need to talk.

      If we treat God as a God of convenience, what should we expect? If we treat our spouse that way, or Heaven forbid, we are treated that way by another person, watch out. It's kind of tough to blame God on this one.

      May 4, 2011 at 11:28 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.