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. John

    God tried to WIN him back??? I guess that makes God a loser huh?
    Where do you come up with this whacked interpretation of God's plans? Such a neophyte understanding of "GOD" ....that's where. Okay little David you can go out and play now. Expand your neophyte child mind to conceive the inconceivable. God is more expansive than you could ever dream. In fact GOD is in every quark, atom, molecule and cell that makes up your body as well as every body in the universe. And GOD is the vast space between all.

    But I guess we can't expect the mind of a child to grasp that. You must make your little idea of "GOD" into your own personal concept that follows your dreams and expectations of the way you wish ..... let me guess..... "HE" is.

    Because of course God has to have a penis. I mean all great rulers have a penis... so must the ruler of the universe.

    Well here some news buddy..... GOD is Everything and GOD is No-thing.... all at the same moment. Nothing is outside of GOD.... even Osama Bin Laden.

    But in the end .... who cares.... we all will come face to face with ultimate TRUTH eventually. The mirror will reflect itself into infinity. God Bless.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • J R Brown

      Seriously...are you gay? You have a lot of pent up anger and not many people fixate on whether God has a penis or not

      May 4, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • David Lewicki

      John, I know Calvin says that's all of this is part of God's plan, God's in control. And on my best days I believe that. 9/11 in NYC was not one of my best days. I am right with you on disbelieving that God is gendered.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  2. many

    First, all we have to believe are stories told about Jesus, which may or may not be exaggerated propaganda by a powerful marketing team called the disciples. but that aside, Jesus lived in a provincial world where mass annhilation wasnt conceivable. Maybe a murderer or a thief is forgiveable, maybe a Roman purge is even somewhat forgiveable. But even Jesus and MLK and the likes would have had some common sense in the face of a faceless enemy who has been responsible for so much death and destruction, and was committed too far worse. Can you really forgive a Hitler or hope he sees the error of his ways? Really? I dont want to wait until my judgement day, sorry dude.

    We distort Jesus and MLK because they died young, naive and martyrs. Had they grown older, or lived in different times, they would have revised themselves surely

    May 4, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  3. Jesus Padilla

    To myway8: Man, What have you been smoking?

    May 4, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  4. Peter

    I hope this Guy prays for George Bush and Darth Vader Dick Cheney......they should have taken him out, and spared America all the crap they gave us.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  5. almager

    Mənim tutmaq olmaz Mən Amerika üçün Allah am

    May 4, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  6. Nyarlathotep

    "Theological Education" is a contradiction in terms.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  7. polly

    I wish osama bin laden did die a long time ago! They should of tossed that animal out of the plane...

    May 4, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  8. BRYAN

    Why do people always have to complicate the most simple and basic things with religion and politics??? Take it for what it is JUSTICE. The guy is dead and the world is a better place today than it was yesterday with him gone plain and simple.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Nyarlathotep

      Right on, Brian. One of the (many) reasons I'm an atheist.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Nyarlathotep

      "Bryan," sorry about the mis-spelling.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  9. Paul

    As a nation of Judeo-Christian heritage, we embody moral dissonance – we respect Jesus' new covenant and explicit instruction of his Sermon on the Mount, yet we constantly fail to live up to it. Our embrace of our religion then becomes little more than window dressing to sanctify our failure.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  10. Joe

    God forgives all except evil-doers. Osama is evil and God blesses America. God was Not and will Never win back his love. Like in the movie Ghost the Black shadows took him to hell...Pastor if your praying for OBL then your praying for evil....

    May 4, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Chaser

      God blesses America? But not muslims and everyone else? I'm not muslim, not christian, and increasingly embarassed by many intolerant American comments that reflect poorly on what I want from my country

      May 4, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Corpus Christian

      Joe in God's view we are all sinners (evil doers) and yes God has provided a way to forgive us all.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  11. JcLoRdGoDbFaAoZ

    To whom that questions?

    What is the human being's ULTIMATE goal? Then ask YOURself what the ultimate question is...
    THIS I question all of you...

    May 4, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  12. Name*Chazro

    All of you who are hating this man for writing this article should be ashamed of yourselves! I'm ashamed of you! And for you Christians do you think God would be celebrating over somebody's death? I don't think so. He was spit on, beaten, and crucified and he still loved us. And God does tell us to love our enemies and to pray for them. Yah, it's hard to love and pray for someone who did such a horrible thing but if you love God you will. How can you hate someone who you have seen and claim you love someone you haven't seen? Trust me it's hard to pray for someone that hates you. I do it and I was in the Marines and sent to war. I was in the infantry and was involved in many IED explosions. If God protects us in war he is going to protect us while we do his work. I now live with a disability from the war. I could be mad & hate every terrorist out there, but why? God has given me life & an opportunity to testify what he has done. He made everything happen for a reason. But for all of you who hate this pastor, next time you mess up just remember maybe you will be hated by many. God does say one sin is worse than another we humans do. Take care & God bless.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Name*Chazro

      Does not say one sin is worse than another sorry.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Backbone

      God doesn't tell us that some sins are worse than others because that would be an insult to our intelligence. Of course some sins are worse than others, and anyone who tells you otherwise is way to far into some religious dogma to know day from night.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  13. Islander

    I've got lots to say. This guy has said it all well.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  14. Anon

    You all are shameless. Someone here is writing his true feelings on this blog and you shameless people critique anything and everything. Learn to sympathize. Learn to understand what the person is trying to convey, without judging and critiqung every word.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  15. BRYAN

    to Brianin DAMN STRAIGHT!!!! That is one of the simplest yet most profound statements I've ever heard!!!! WELL SAID!

    May 4, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  16. Melina

    David, i know I am not the only one to share your feelings. I am happy you shared this with us and allowed it to be published. Take heart that people may comment about your views, but they can't change the place they are written from, nor the people that need to hear it the most. Great piece.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  17. Jeff

    I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I get the whole grace and mercy thing. But Jesus is very clear in the gospels, when he stats," if they don't listen to your message, then knock the dust off your sandals and move on."
    I agree Bin Laden died along time ago and I believe that as a country our freedom did not come free and anyone who threatens it understands we will defend it.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Joe Canada

      Defend it against all those evil-doers George dubya Bush talked about?

      May 4, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • J R Brown

      I used to be a "christian" until I realized it's not as hypocritical to be an agnostic. Since when did Jesus command that His followers "fight for and defend" an earthly kingdom (country)? Jesus said to turn the other cheek and look to a heavenly kingdom. I wish people who claimed to be "followers of Jesus Christ" actually followed His words and not their own.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  18. barry.

    AL QUAIDA AND BIN LADEN ARE ONE PART OF THE PROBLEM OF THE WORLD.TODAy when we wach the image of ourself in this humanite,we dont really know wich way to go. where it is war,injustice,poverty,and anger u will never find peace of mind or love between people.Its time for us to take action to create and wondeful promise land for the next generations where they will find peace,love,and harmony.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  19. BrianInMesa

    My daily prayer: Lord protect me from your followers.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Joe Canada


      May 4, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  20. nick

    GOD bless america. Thank u all for whining so much. I love doing my job in the military so i can protect ur freedom and your pathetic opinions. As jesus said "take the plank out of your own eye before you say something about the speck of dust in mine". Get over your selves. And let the preacher have his opinion. Thats what your military fights for.

    May 4, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Melina

      Thank you nick and the rest of our military for protecting our rights to even discuss this topic openly.

      May 4, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Backbone

      Seriously? You joined to protect my freedom? I'm shocked, but honored. Most of the guys I know joined up to get a free education.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Joe Canada

      Nice propaganda. The US army has never fought for "America's" freedom, they fight only to take away others' freedom. You, nick, have already gone through the military mindfack so there is no changing your views, but for the rest of America there is hope they will see the atrocities committed by US troops in their name.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Eric of Reseda

      Well, not just an education, but a heck of benefits package as well!

      May 4, 2011 at 1:09 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.