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. Jobe

    This post is to all of those who do not believe in the Lord Senior Jesus Christ. Your souls shall be forgiven for your lack of faith, just as all souls will be forgiven in time. Jesus shall flow through your veins and you shall know that he does indeed exist in the realm of the ether and in the essence of time. His existence is in plain view every day and ye who do not see him are simply not looking. When I look at a bus passing by on the crowded streets of the city, I see Jesus. When I see a bird flap its wings amongst the clouds above, I know that bird is Jesus. And although Jesus died materially over 2000 years ago, I see him every day when I look in the mirror, because I know that Jesus is also flourishing within my mustache. If I happened to shave my mustache, Jesus would not simply disappear, of course. No, he would instead crawl up my nose and live a humble and peaceful existence amongst my nostrils. Yes, Jesus is everywhere. He is a resourceful fellow. But I'm still not going to blow my nose.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  2. Bob

    And then we went to Iraq and murdered 260,000 children and a total of nearly 1,000,000 civilians...who is the boogie man now....911 was an inside job and Bin Laden never admitted to the crime..Ever! In fact Bin laden was never put on the FBI most wanted because they never had any proof that he was responsible....Know your facts folks and the truth will put you behinde bars.....facts have become subversive...2 + 2 = 5....we are down the rabbit hole....

    May 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Daniel

      Your right Bob ,knowing the truth will get you in trouble .
      Don't let the media rule your own reasoning .

      May 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • DG

      wow the guy who wrote this is an idiot. its sad to see how misinformed people are. Bin Laden died in the raid. He was never on dialysis. That was a FALSE rumor about 10 years ago. Can't believe how many people will believe an article like this that has no proof whatsoever...

      May 18, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  3. Lise Photiadis

    Love, agape, for one another is the only way we (humanity) will survive on this world. The sooner we wake up to this eternal truth the sooner we can all reap the blessings of a peaceful world.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  4. William Demuth

    Suppose Bin Laden was actually the second iteration of Christ?

    It makes sense in some ways, because the same thing basicly happened.

    He challenged the people in power and they killed him.

    Seems reasonable now, just as it was quite reasonable of the Romans.

    May 10, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  5. Scott

    There is more evidence of UBL dying last week than there ever was of Jesus or anything that happens in that work of fiction called the bible.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  6. radzi

    why usa spend more then 2 trilion dollars find bin laden ,the 911is amarican in side iob

    May 10, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  7. Ed Gauthier

    A "take" that "bin Laden died long ago" would be correct, since he indeed died of liver disease in December 2001, and some say even before September of that year. But on May Day today's politician's again propped up his name as a bogeyman and this time "dumped him in the drink" in order to use the notoriety they gave him as a tool for political gain. Same thing with the bible – many gospels were rightly left out, because they were found to be frauds used for social gain by crooked writers many years later, and not written by the actual apostles or their scribes, as they had claimed. Will there one day be a similar justice for the crooked hacks in Washington? Would that their names could be similarly cut out of all history books!

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

    another gay priest

    May 10, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  9. Newyorker

    Bin Laden is with his 72 virgins in Islamic fundamentalist Heaven. Does anyone pay any attention these days? Sheesh!

    May 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  10. god

    God is a hoax and the christian religion is a bad as islam...

    Oh, and the author of this piece is an idiot.

    that is all, carry on.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  11. Margroks

    This is ridiculous. There is no evidence whatsoever that BL was already dead and clear evidence that he was just killed in the raid. This is more of the same conservative fanaticism which refuses to allow any credit at all to President Obama. Just more right wing extremist yammering and unworthy of consideration.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • April

      @Margroks If you actually read the post, you'll see that no where in the text does the author state that Bin Laden physically died prior to this past week. It's a metaphorical phrase not a literal one.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  12. JR

    Oh my, haha. This is hilarious. I can't believe these Christians...

    May 8, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  13. bozongplau

    ahah you are clearly delusional to be taking advice from a book that has been edited beyond belief

    May 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  14. Eugene

    The fact that you need an imaginary parent to coerce you into to be more softer, gentler, and compassionate really says alot about you. Seriously, if you're going to me virtuous do it out of your own consciousness and not from the threat of eternal damnation. And if you really think your have a "supernatural ability" to speak with the creator of the universe, then your probably crazy. At least, thats what my therapist said when I told him about the time when I met the silver dwarf god of fairy island.

    To make this comment relevant to the actual article, I'd just like to say that I think that the author is right in that Osama unified us and made us stronger in the face of tragedy. Very well written article.

    May 8, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  15. David

    And why should we care what this pastor says about U.S. culture?

    May 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Lela

      If you have a particular prejudice, you may want to spend your time reading elsewhere. I don't have faith in a god, but I see the value of spirituality. Rev. Lewicki's thoughts were well written and well worth my time.

      May 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • William Demuth


      I believe Osama and the Taliban took the same position as you.

      Many of us see the risk of people using nonesense in public discourse, and intend to prevent it from being presented as relevant.

      You see, OBL was full of it, and so is this author.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  16. Dan

    More people have died at the hand of religious differences than for any other reason throughout history. These religious wars and fighting in the name of god, Allah, budda, Zeus, Odin and whatever else – is a big load of @&$!?.

    His arrival to Heaven will be celebrated with 20 virgins, welcoming party and prosperity.

    Get real

    May 7, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • William Demuth

      While I generally agree, if OBL gets any virgins, they must be children, because based on their reproductive rates I am QUITE sure you couldn't find 20 adult Muslims who still had the trait.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:56 am |

    God who judge righteously will be judging UBL. Then the truth will be revealed.

    May 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  18. Joon

    Thank you, Rev. Lewicki, for sharing your thoughts with us. When 9/11 happened, I lived in Manhattan. From my high-rise windows, I watched the towers burning, I saw them fall. It was incomprehensible - How could people come together to plan and carry out such evil acts against masses of completely innocent people? Some were living amongst us in America - and yet they still willingly carried out such a mission? I wish that you had been able to sit in a room with Osama Bin Laden and have had conversations with him. I wish the families and friends of victims had been given the chance to tell him their stories. Death is hollow ... I would have found more satisfaction knowing these conversations had taken place.

    May 6, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  19. Sarah

    Reading through these responses, it's very clear who understands Christianity and who does not...who personally knows Jesus and who does not. Those who have Jesus living in, with, and through them are blessed with the supernatural ability to "live outside of ourselves" and seek God on matters that are clearly beyond our understanding. When you have the Holy Spirit living inside you, everything changes...including your demeanor...you become gentler, softer, compassionate (Fruits of the Spirit), which in turn allows you to pray for someone who you wouldn't normally think to pray for. This is a process that can take years, which is why most people don't understand. They are not willing to invite God into their lives and if they do, they may give up if they don't see instant "results". If you invite Jesus into your life and truly allow him to transform you by surrending EVERY aspect of your life to Him on a daily basis, you better believe you're going to see some personal miracles. It's a sacrifice, but I wouldn't want to live any other way because the blessings are more than anything I could try to create for myself. Reading through these responses, I'm reminded of how I may have thought and felt at one point in my life...and wouldn't ever want to go back to that place. Anyone who personally knows David, knows how intelligent, genuine, and honest he is about his own faith walk. I read this article and the only things I see are, Truth, honesty, openness, and peace...I don't see how anyone could see a negative in that or criticize that....That is the difference in a surrendered heart.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • zapatta`

      Religion is little more than brainwashing for a "good" cause. we will no more be cognizant of the future after we die than we were of events before we were born. Killing in the name of Christianity is no more right than killing in the name of Islam.

      May 8, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • William Demuth

      Sarah, claiming you "know" Jesus indicates one of two things.

      Either you are irrational (Like claiming you know Napoleon), or that your ego is so twisted that you actually believe that the "thing" you believe to be the very creator of time, space and dimension interacts with you personally.

      In either eventuality, it appears that you might want to seek some therapy

      May 10, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Sarah

      ...and you both just proved my point.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Cindy

      Thank you, Sarah! I totally agree with you.

      May 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Lacy

      Right on Sarah! Great response 🙂 I feel bad for the people that will NEVER know the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Lindsey

      William- when she says she knows Christ she means just that. When you develop that relationship with him he truly is your best friend and he talks to you. it may not always be an actual voice inside your head, but he does communicate with you. its a wonderful thing to have and i feel bad that you dont know what thats like.

      August 24, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  20. Your colleague in life

    Critics and Supporters: Your belief or lack thereof in God is irrelevant to the fact that love exists in the world. The Christian story, even if nothing more, tells us how to live in that love. Rev. Lewicki's comments are consistent with the tenets of that story. You might not choose to live by that story, but if more people did and did it better (including Christians, non-Christians, athiests, agnostics, and myself), the world would be the heaven or the Heaven that all of us long for.

    May 6, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • Bruce

      @Your colleague in life: "Your belief or lack thereof in God is irrelevant to the fact that love exists in the world."

      Thank you for this. This is quite obvious when anyone, regardless of their personal beliefs, thinks about it clearly. IF the Christians are correct and God exists in the world and manifested Himself in the form of a man at a specific time in human history, for the purposes of expressing a message of love and forgiveness of sin–IF these are indeed facts of history and thus existential facts of what it means to live as a human on this planet today–then of course your belief, and my disbelief (I'm an atheist), in these facts are completely irrelevant.

      It's not the case that your ability to believe without seeing, an ability you were blessed with, enables you to participate in this love and forgiveness. Neither is it the case that my inability to believe without seeing, a disability I was un-blessed with (like an apostle named Thomas was similarly un-blessed with), prohibits me to participate in this love and forgiveness. IF love and forgiveness are in fact an important part of the metaphysical structure of our existence, then we all participate in this reality whether or not we are aware of it.

      Too many fundy Xtians make this about their belief, and about my disbelief. Thank you for pointing out that our individual opinions regarding what may or may not have happened at some point in human history about two thousand years ago, that our individual opinions regarding the credibility (or lack thereof) of gospel accounts in terms of their accuracy and historicity, do not trump what actually happened (or didn't happen) in human history about two thousand years ago.

      IF these things happened, no amount of disbelief on my part can keep me from God's love. IF these things didn't happen, no amount of belief on your part will create God's love out of nothing.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I find it quite amusing to see Christian’s spinning this man’s death!

      We see the childish claims, and under them all is the smell of fear.

      The Muslims are clearly winning in the Abrahamic Trifecta, Christianity has reached its crest, and all religious belief is on the decline.

      Secular forces have put Christianity on the ropes, and the Muslims are poised to take the crown.

      I look forward to the day when believing in the Divinity of Jesus will be considered as bizarre as believing in Odin.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:38 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
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.