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. harold

    sorry to say Rev., but your head is buried in the sand. Your G-D wants the best for them, their G-D wants them to kill the infidel. Their is no middle ground!! They hate with such intensity that they send women and children to blow themselves up in the name of their G-D. Your G-D forbids it theirs dosen't.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  2. amy

    I have been thinking the same thinga since this happened. Put aside the religion aspect of it and get to the bones and heart of what has been said. This peice took me down to my core...we have all been affected or inconvened some way or another on many different levels.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  3. david

    whats funny is I see a bunch of comments wanting this person silenced or even this article taken off CNN. So what separates the fundamental thinking process of the people on here and really what Bin Laden was trying to achieve? Suppress peoples religious beliefs that did not conform to his because his way of thinking was the true way of thinking.

    Much like the people on here, and also I am an atheist but I see no problem in people being able to practice their belief's.

    because freedom of religion guarantees just that but people have mistaken that to mean we must be anti-religion

    May 4, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • lance corporal

      doesn't putting it on a news site give it artificial validity? like a newspaper of record, if it is printed it must be true. doesn't FREQUENTLY having these specifically christian writers unfair to other belief systems? isn't it just more of the indoctrination of those who don't really think about it and just accept it thus hurting us all? I agree with you but I think that IF cnn is going to put these belief blogs up they should not ALWAYS be christian

      May 4, 2011 at 2:05 am |
    • Ted M

      -david= Speak for yourself. There is no "we" here. There is just you pretending to speak for others who only share a lack of belief. That's what atheism means you fake "atheist". Only an idiot would assume that a lack of belief instantly equates to hating theism. It is not an opposite of theism.
      That I am personally against most religions is besides the point. I base my anti-religion stance on the evil done by religion, not the lack of belief in a god. Atheism is not the opposite of theism. Period.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • Ted M

      -david= I meant to say that atheism does not oppose religion per se. It is opposite a belief in a god or gods, but that does not equate to anti-religion. I hope that clarified things a bit.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:55 am |
  4. lance corporal

    I prayed about bib laden too!!! I prayed to the flying spaghetti monster that he would be found and killed and lo my prayers where answered. so my god is stronger than your god because your prayers went unanswered and I got what I asked for.
    I hope you can find the FSM in your heart and join the truly saved

    May 4, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  5. b-dog

    What the heII does this idiot know??

    May 4, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  6. Peter

    Thank you Bob in SLC.....thus we got Darth Vader (Dick Cheney) and his " cost plus contracts ", and America was Bilked....today we see the wealth of a nation has been transferred to a few.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  7. nick

    Yea ok so im mindfacked from the military. Who ever said that get of your high horse. I am a christian but i would love to punch u in the face. If you cant support ur military or country then leave. Just go. Maybe to amsterdam or whatever other atheist pot smokin conspiracy theory believer go. Please just leave then u wont have to pay no more taxes to support my family or give childred a christian point of view edjucation in public schools. Osama is dead thank god.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • lance corporal

      apparently not a good christian tho, just proves my point most christians "believe" because they where told to and think it's just the right thing to do, it's not something in their hearts

      May 4, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  8. lance corporal

    hey CNN how about giving the flying spaghetti monster equal time?? WT F is with this belief blog nonsense? and why just christianity? we have MANY beliefs in this country and the majority of the christian "believers" only do so because they where told to by parents, teachers etc, they don't actually BELIEVE they're just trying to do the right thing as it was explained to them, what utter utter nonsense. give me a "belief blog" from someone who actually makes some sense because this sort of evangelical drivel is pathetic

    May 4, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • Christopher

      Addressing your statement about (some/most) Christians being indoctrinated at youth consider the following. The children of the late Princess Diana were quite obviously born into economic and social wealth. I consider myself born into 'spiritual' wealth; my parents taught me the importance of accepting God into my life, serving in the church, and trying to walk with Christ in my heart. As I got older and became more aware of the world around me, I have seen first hand his presence. But if you don't get anything from this statement, realize this: I can only speak for myself. Hence the whole 'personal Lord & savior' thing.
      If you find yourself at odds with these beliefs, well, doubt is a very human emotion. And by no means am I (or anyone calling themselves Christian) trying to convert you so you shouldn't feel threatened. I'm merely sharing with you my point of view.
      To the others fueling the flames of the trolls on either side alls I can say is Christianity can either be a noun or verb, it's up to us to live what we learn.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Ted M

      =Christopher- How could anyone ever think that "doubt" is an emotion?
      Doubt is merely seeing a lack of evidence and acting on it. It is not and never will be an "emotion". Perhaps you are confused.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:24 am |
  9. Steve6167

    All very good if you believe in God. However some of us think God is created in mans mind. Just a nice story.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  10. jeffk

    Hrmmm.... So Osama wasn't a christian? Really? Who'da thunk!

    May 4, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  11. Anon

    People don't respect religious figures because of idiots like this

    May 4, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  12. John Stockton

    What kind of "Christian nonsense" is this! Christians understand that Muslims never die to God because they never were even alive to God to die from Him in the first place. Go back and read your Bible!

    May 4, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  13. trollmonster

    Sheeply. Thank you for feeding the trolls you idiot!

    May 4, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  14. Bob in SLC

    Usama was our Emmanuel Goldstein, a mythical bogeyman produced and sustained by the government through the media to give a common enemy to all American Patriots! Bin Laden always claimed innocence for 9/11 – which seems counter to terrorist plans and goals. I doubt that he was the evil mastermind the media have pumped him up to be, he didn't have an impact on us personally but he did give the devils at the pentagon and in the white house the justification they ended for war, he delivered himself as the Goldstein of their dreams and our nightmares.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  15. Peter

    JcLoRdGoDbFaAoZ........" of course its tough to win a battle without shedding blood "

    Yes religious wars for centuries...... That about sums it up !

    God must want people to kill for his name ? Thus we get Bin Laden ?

    May 4, 2011 at 1:42 am |
    • JcLoRdGoDbFaAoZ

      whenever its believing that blood always proves a point will they understand God's love for us...Jesus

      May 4, 2011 at 2:04 am |
  16. Chris

    Who is this nobody?

    May 4, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  17. hmm

    Discredit Obama Fail

    May 4, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  18. Peter

    wow....... " I found myself disgusted by our celebrating the death of bin Laden ".......

    Gee that is pretty much a subjective statement, admitting to judging others...

    SO .....That is what being religious is about ? Amazing stuff..... Religion !

    May 4, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • Seminarian


      There are moral and ethical consequences to my religion. One of them is that we do not celebrate the death of anyone, nor do we have the right to wish them in hell. While I do not condemn nonbelievers for their actions, I do have sincerely Christian friends who inappropriately rejoiced in the death of bin Laden. Part of being a Christian is being countercultural, for any human culture is corrupt. The more one walks with Christ the more one finds certain cultural things unappealing and distasteful. Do I judge not knowing the logs which are in my own eyes? I try not to. I realize my failings (and they are many), but I do believe that the Church is called to make a statement upon cultural rights and wrongs. I do hold Romans 2 close to my heart when making statements such as that, for I know that if I am hypocritical then I too am judged by He who is ready to judge.

      The non-judgmental/judgmental aspect of Christianity is much more nuanced than you seem to understand. Take a New Testament Theology class, or just read the New Testament, and it will show you what I mean.

      Peace and grace be with you.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Ted M

      -Semenarian- Yes, you are failing to realize ALL of your failings. Another failing. You are a failure as regards decision-making for you do not require anything to prove that your perceptions are being interpreted by your brain correctly, and thus fall into making decisions based on false information.
      Can you question your god? Your beliefs? No? Yes?
      Can you question what others say about this god you have a "personal relationship" with? Or are you securely in the hands of those writers of your "bible" like any fool that has fallen into a simple trap?
      I suspect you are unable to prove your god exists and so seek very strongly to avoid having to do any such thing even though you don't see the essential dichotomy of pointing at random things and saying they are proof of your mere assertion. Yeah, great proof there. Really shows a lack of critical thinking skills, by the way. Just thought I'd let you know.

      May 4, 2011 at 3:35 am |
  19. JcLoRdGoDbFaAoZ

    To trl... Touché... but remember understanding what the actual concept of the word good is... of course its tough to win a battle without shedding blood, Christ proved it too. Under a world so lost in the understanding the term, "to turn the other cheek" cause yes we are weak. How come we don't with every upsetting thought counteract with two positive thoughts... (good- the happiest moment you've ever had in your life... including the one that made you cry... or laugh so hard you wet your pants or sharted... then times that feeling times infinity and that would be the first glimpse of understanding what God's meaning of the word good is.

    May 4, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  20. Sheeply

    Atheist only comment negativly...as if they feel personally offended. I think that THEY SHOULD STAY OFF these comment boards on religous views......go to your little meetings on how we become vapor when we die.

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

      Don't be ignorant. Try reading the comments before speaking so blindly.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • Eileen

      I agree with you Sheeply. I myself am not Islamic nor am I Jewish. Despite that I don't go to boards that post about Jewish and Islamic viewpoints and try to provoke people into an argument for believing what they do. I don't try to discredit their beliefs nor do I go out of my way to insult them. It seems to me that some atheists spend more time on religious topics than those who are actually religious. While I myself don't hate atheists, it's really no wonder why they are one of the most hated groups of people worldwide.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • Warrior

      Christians and other "religious" people are the first ones to condemn others for their views – thinking that since they're "christian" or religious they have a right to tell everyone else how to live!

      May 4, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • Chuck

      and yet, your comment is both defensive and intolerant. How, exactly, is mine?

      May 4, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • JamieIRL

      I don't believe in any gods, and I wasn't offended by this article in any way, until I read what you just said. Nice job, and...typical.

      I actually expected this article to be another conspiracy theory and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not and actually was kind of touching. While I don't have any reason to believe that Osama saw the light (considering al Qaeda committed more acts of mass murder) it's a nice thought I suppose.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • tallulah13

      Sorry. You don't have the right to censor what belongs to CNN. Everyone here is allowed to express their opions (as long as they don't use words or word parts which may be objectionable) - even people who don't believe the same things you do.

      May 4, 2011 at 1:54 am |
    • smartvoter

      Classic brainwashed response. You get to say what you want and everyone else should shut up.

      "Belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man." - Thomas Paine (in one of the many warnings from our founders about religion)

      May 4, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • lance corporal

      yes you would like to control what others do, thank god this is a (semi) free SECULAR country

      May 4, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Bazoing

      Atheism is one of the most devout religions, as is Communism. The adherents of both have every right to express themselves on religious matters.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:02 am |
    • Paytpowell

      I am an atheist, however I find this article to be a well thought and poignant piece with many valid points to both people of faith as well as those of us who find meaning in other things. I understand why you are frustrated with many comments of atheists as there are many who try to bait and inflame conversation, just as their are people of faith who do the same with atheists. It is easy to blame people on either side but I think there is a lot to be learned from articles such as these no matter who we are or what we believe or don't believe.

      May 4, 2011 at 2:15 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.