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. Marcus

    Dear CNN, this stuff doesn't belong on the homepage. Your obligation is that of a news agency, not a proxy to deliver sermons. I understand that some of your clients have an interest in material like this, but the majority of us don't. This is not news, and therefore does not belong on the frontpage of a news site. Keep this to the religious section.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • oakhill

      I see. . . .because you feel the majority of people here don't like this sort of article, it has no business being on the home page? (it's actually in the belief blog, did you not notice? But that the link to it was on the homepage has you bothered?). I did not read it as a sermon in any way. It was an opinion article, no different than any other opinion article written by someone who may, or may not have, religious beliefs. It is considered to be news just as much as any other opinion article. Are you suggesting that because it is religious in nature it is therefore not qualified to be here? Being a tad discriminatory don't you think?

      May 4, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Rango21

      I didn't know that you were the spokesman for the "majority", Marcus. I mean, if you are speaking for the "majority", then why don't you just go ahead and elect the next president, since, you know, you're speaking on behalf of the "majority". Oh yeah, that's not how that works either. It was pretty obvious what it was about given the preface. You didn't have to read it. Move along son.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  2. tj

    Bin Laden and much of Pakistan share some serious defect in common, the belief that the Koran is legit. But can it be if it violates the tenets of superior subordinate relationships where a subordinate is to retain responsibility for his or her actions? The Koran draws down acceptable behavior to too narrow a range of action where hundreds of other options might be available. In order for an individual not to be as a puppet to a superior he/she must manage to use their own reason and choice of action. The Koran fails when implied directives concerning behavior subvert an individuals choice over available acceptable alternatives. This is indicative of someone wanting others to believe a God had something to do with the Koran but the complexity of retained responsibility was not something the writers understood at all how to do. Interestingly one defect we see in Bin Laden is one where he is inclined to take control over the thinking of others through terrorist acts. He failed to recognize his acting as puppeteer over people is a primitive concept. The people who follow him need to realize that acting as puppeteer over people is a primitive concept and that people learn from great leaders only by example, not force.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • oakhill

      Aaaahhh, so then you agree that the US should be leading by example and not forcing OUR way of thinking and political process on other countries, yes?

      May 4, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  3. American

    What a waste to read.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  4. Gilberto Lopez

    Religion will not cure our problem. Heck, our problems are all money driven. The race to see who gets their first yet we the people are the ones running. Zeigtgeist.com has answered alot of myu questions concerning the truth behind it all...

    May 4, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  5. Eric

    Next, maybe this guy can take up the campaign to stop all those little boys from hitting on our clergy.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  6. Roger M.

    If he lived 500 years ago too he would have believed the world was Flat also.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  7. Sodapophead

    Osama was real, Christ a dream, An eye for an eye. Period.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  8. John

    Praying for Justice and Mercy for your enemies? Sounds like you have already judged them. Hope this guy never prays for me!

    May 3, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  9. sleepytime

    It's refreshing to a non-believer like me to hear a Christian sounding reasonable for a change. Thanks David!

    May 3, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  10. Woman of God

    Spiritually Dead...ummmmmm Exactly,your right hes been dead for years many dont understand and sad to say but, many will never understand because they think they get up every morning on there own! Ive got to keep praying pressing that God will show up and show out in your lives! Lord I feel a praise coming on lol Sweet Jesus! God, I plead the blood over your people tonight, I come against strongholds, principalities in dark places, you have given me the power and dominion and father I take authority of the spirit of confusion in jesus name, father rain down and wash your people this night, cleanse them give them the wisdom and knowledge to be able to receive your word, open up their hearts and minds that your word may fall on til ground! Lord I thank you tonight, I enter into your gates with thanksgiving and praise, father you get the glory! Lord I love you thank you for one more chance, thank you for breathing life into my body each and every sunrise, thank you for keeping your people... God I pray for your children, big and small Lord keep a hedge of protection around them always, grant traveling mercies to and from, Lord I pray for the homeless, God shelter them tonight keep them Lord, Help them in this hour! Lord you said you wil never leave us or forsake us and Im standing on your word! Lord I love you and I pray for your people tonight, all who commented and all around your world! Lord on the 3day you rose with all power , Jesus, devine deliverences and miraculous miracles over your people tonight! Glory halleujah! Amen and Thank God!

    May 3, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  11. chf

    "All of these responses are authentic for a Christian who lives in America"

    And if you're not a Christian, the response isn't authentic? This guy runs around with blinders on and is the reason for the degradation of American society.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  12. sam

    Mr "heavensent" you are an ideal example of what one should not be. please do keep on writing, but just once in a while, so that we do not forget your kind still exist.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  13. oakhill

    Rev. Lewicki, I enjoyed your article, and while, at the moment, I am still mulling over a couple points you made, I found the majority quite relevant. While there are many here who have hardened their hearts and proceed to rail at CNN for attempting to occasionally provide articles such as yours, and rail at those of us who enjoy reading them. . . . .well, this news site would have no legitimacy whatsoever if they DIDN'T provide more than one point of view. It is unfortunate that others don't see that. I thank you!

    May 3, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • David Lewicki

      Hey thanks. Are you sure you don't want to shout anything at me in all caps?

      May 4, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  14. Nicky

    It's as though a bunch of atheist literary critics read this piece just so they could get upset. I read it, and enjoyed it. I especially liked the part about allowing each other to have varying reactions to this news. I could have used some of that wisdom yesterday...

    May 3, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  15. Sid

    I don't think you have enough to do all day. Find a hobby?

    May 3, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  16. Daniel

    W/E he died May 2, 2011. Stop with your beliefs because his god couldn't even save him or have mercy on his soul. Did he have mercy for the thousands that died on 9-11?NO!!! No mercy or prayer for a made murder...

    May 3, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Kita

      Give Lewicki credit for at least sticking to his beliefs/faith. Especially nowadays and considering who it is, it can NOT be easy to say what he's said.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  17. Reality

    Bin Laden has been eliminated. Condemn him to Hell or wish him to Heaven, the fact remains that his pox of a terror religion aka Islam still remains. The cure for said pox in long form:

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via mythical Gabriel. Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism at your request.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Daniel

      Amen with that, may he burn in Hell for eternity....

      May 3, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • LouAz

      Now if we could only come up with a two minute christianity cure . . .

      May 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  18. Rikka

    At the author, thank you for bringing it back around. as christians it is our duty to live and let live yet since 911 we have been compelled to transform our existence into one that is moldable by repeating the same radical behavior the exteremist muslims exhibit. muslims are not all ev just as not all christians are radicals and not all black men are drug dealers and not all blondes are ez and not all polish ppl r dumb. the bible says JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED osama judged us, and ever since we have been judging him, two wrongs dont make a right. oh and before u go post something in response to protest me, know this 1 i dont need ur approval, i have gods, 2 i could care less what u say the more u disagree the more certain i am that im right. he who shouts the loudest has the most to hide

    May 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  19. LouAz

    The christian and the islamic gods have only brought death to their believers, and death to millions of others who never heard of them.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Kevin

      I myself was raised in the church, but have not been active in adulthood for similar reasons that I thought that the idea of religion is what caused death. However, in older (yet still young) age, I now realize that it is the choices of those who consider themselves religious like my family does. My family made choices to interpret the mission of Christianity to be to love all, forgive enemies and find strength in boundless hope. We do not believe God favors the US or Islam or any other nation or group over another. We are all capable of error. This is not the belief of all Christians though – and I realize now that I cannot choose to control what others believe.

      So – what the means to you is that just like not all of the USA is vindicated by Osama's death, neither are all religious people calling for war and violence. Life really is a lot more interesting than that. Life is more grey than black & white.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Nate

      People have done horrible things in the name of Christianity but that has little to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ. The same can't be said of Islam, where one can kill and still be in perfect compliance with the words of their "prophet."

      May 4, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  20. doug

    Some dead hearts here too by the sounds of it.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • DavidnCA

      I want to know when Pat Robertson died? When did Jimmy Swaggart die? When did all the so called "evangelical" preachers die?

      But we all know when Fred Phelpps died; When he discovered he liked to have s3x with guys and realized he was gay.

      May 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
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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.