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. Sal

    A non-believer gets eternal hell somehow while the man that molests a congregation full of children goes to heaven so long as he "praises jesus" as he comes.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Warrior

      You nailed that on the head!! Now if that isn't screwed up and all things wrong with religion/Christianity I don't know what is!!!

      May 4, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  2. tallulah13

    No, Bin Laden was fully capable of putting out a video or audio tape every few months or so and throwing the world into a frenzy. These were the actions of a man who was alive and enjoying his position as boogy man. While I don't think his death will change much, I hope that Al Qaeda will at least no longer have tfha money to function..

    May 4, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  3. Seminarian

    Rev. Lewicki,

    Thank you for your message. I encourage you to keep writing pieces like this that challenge us to think about what Scripture truly says and about how Christians ought to truly live and act. I found myself disgusted by our celebrating the death of bin Laden. Though I know it is perhaps naive to hope he came to the Lord before his demise, I do sincerely hope it.

    May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:33 am |
    • David Lewicki

      ...and also with you.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  4. Peter

    I just want top know which God he is talking about ?

    Is this the same God George Bush " Prayed too " before invading Iraq ?

    May 4, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  5. thebnote1

    Excellent. The first actually christian response to a difficult issue I have read. Contrary to some alleged christian values that would include a justified gun in Jesus's hand. Those obviously know nothing about Christ or willfully ignore him in order to satisfy their own selfish vengeful feelings. I am not saying OBL should have been ignored, I am saying his judgement is in the hands of God, not man. Rather misleading headline don't you think CNN?

    May 4, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  6. CdnJim

    If you really believe that your God is the God of love, then you'll be happy to know that He has forgiven bin Laden and Osama has joine the heavenly choir with Hitler and Ted Bundy. They are all God's children, and your Jesus died for all their sins. Even the sinner who shot him.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • J

      Actually, Bin Laden did not accept Jesus Christ as his savior therefore he is likely to spend eternity in hell.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • Warrior

      @J – Wow!! Who you made you judge and jury?? I thought all judgement was suppose to be left up to God? So quick to think someone's belief system is below your own. Many paths lead to the main point on the mountain!

      May 4, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  7. DB

    You're a idiot.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • Matthew

      AN idiot.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:26 am |
  8. trl

    ....this Lewicki guy is a gullible idealistic religious buffoon......god this god that lets pray for them hope they get gods blessing.....he and it is all a bunch of idealistic crap....a person chooses to do good or not, its human nature to be capable of great good or evil and one has to be one or the other, there are many many religions in the world with millions of believers and they all believe differently from the next "religion"....not everybody can be right....and probably none of them are right.....ALL religions are bad and are the cause of more death than any other cause in the history of mankind.....INCLUDING christains.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Matthew

      A concept cannot cause more death than anything else. It is a human's choice to act in the way that they do, not the religion's. Humanity would fight no matter the reason; that seems to be our nature. But it is ignorant to blame that on a religion. You might as well say all government is inherently bad because of political wars.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • TBR

      Think clearly about what you are saying. You are stating that religion has caused more deaths than all other causes (cancer, influenza, old age, disasters, natural death, infant death) combined. Comments like this are silly and immflammatory and better said at the bar than in a forum which could be used for thoughtful debate.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:30 am |
  9. Glenn Agans

    Get this crap off CNN

    May 4, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  10. Hunter

    What a misleading headline! Bin Laden died May 1, 2011.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  11. mrsfinneyfrock

    I am always amazed when I read any religious article on cnn how many people who call themselves atheists have to comment negatively. If you don't care about religion why read the article? If its just out of curiosity then whatever, but if its just to tell people who have found some sort of faith and comfort in their lives that they are ridiculous and stupid and a lesser person than you then I just don't get it. I respect that you believe that there is no God, that is your choice, so why am I called a moron for choosing to believe differently? I guess if trying to be a better person everyday and showing respect for others because of what I believe in makes me a moron, I'm a moron. Better than being self-righteous and unkind to others in my eyes.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  12. Help

    Can someone pass the tin foil hats?

    May 4, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  13. nazgul

    What utter pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo! Sheesh! It all sounds pleasant and lovely but doesn't make any theological sense. What are you smoking, Pastor?

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

    Why is it we are a country of seeing is believing... and then whenever God is brought to the table they want proof... who's to say he's dead... I haven't seen it. He could very well be sitting in a lazy boy watching reruns of a superbowl... for those who want to bring politics in on it, sit on a tac but I will warn you it will hurt. It's the understanding of what's doing right versus what is easy. So for those that do pray for our enemies keep it up because if nobody else prays for understanding of "good" for the evil hearted then there is no hope for this world. But you can never give up on trying to pick up more people along the way of that understanding, and to those that question... trust me you will understand when we get there.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  15. Dale A. Clingerman

    I just finished Rev. Lewiki's article, and felt constrained to inform you of another Man of god's views. One of our local Priest's came into our office requesting assistance in a matter with which we deal. After explaining his problems, he went on to ask if we had heard the news of Bin Laden! We said we had, and he went on to say that he thought the Navy should have doused his body with pig oil so the sharks would feast on it!

    May 4, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  16. Peter

    How about praying for the Mexican's stuck in the mine.....and forget about Bin Laden....they I am sure at least have feelings toward other humans ?

    May 4, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  17. Tom

    So with all of these religious contributors given column space on CNN, I think that atheist guest columnists should also be allowed to say their piece on CNN.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:14 am |
    • Matthew

      I'm curious what exactly would make an "atheist" editorial so inherently atheist. Wouldn't it be more anti-religious? Isn't all secular media automatically atheist? Isn't that the rest of the site? That sounds unnecessary to have someone pop up specifically to comment on something and finish with, "By the way, I don't believe in God."

      May 4, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Chaser

      I believe that atheists ought to strongly consider taking up agnosticism. You have a pretty good angle from where I stand, but you often seem just like the folks that get too crazy in their religion!

      May 4, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Seminarian


      Agnosticism is a cop out. At least atheists understand they are making a faith-based claim. Agnostics are essentially non-committal atheists.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • lance corporal

      by the way, I DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD

      May 4, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  18. Jon


    May 4, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • Thomas

      The second "m" is optional.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  19. julian

    Sounds like a lot of you don't believe in Jesus nor the devil. Well choosing not to won't protect you from either one.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • BOb

      Julian you are an ignoramous of the highest order. If there is a hell, surely the hottest seat is reserved for you.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • julian

      My seat is reserved in heaven sir but please say hi to usama when you run into him in Hell

      May 4, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • tallulah13

      Julian, your arrogance is duly noted.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • lance corporal

      sell your life for a promise after death, fool
      you confuse your longing for meaning as proof of an animate god
      your church is a hustle and does massive harm even if many of the sheep don't know it

      May 4, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • julian

      I will pray for you all before I fall sound asleep in my temper-pedic

      May 4, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • julian

      Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that he is god. But by then for many of you it'll be to late, I pray that it won't . GOD bless

      May 4, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  20. Peter

    The goal is toi be happy each day....too complicated ?

    May 4, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • laat aji

      when usa bombed hiroshima nagasaki what was about civilians?

      May 4, 2011 at 1:43 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.