Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Proper Burial

So, apparently the family of one of the Boston Marathon bombers is having trouble finding a cemetery who will bury him.

A relevant quote from the linked article:

"The difficult and stressful efforts of the citizens of the City of Cambridge to return to a peaceful life would be adversely impacted by the turmoil, protests, and wide spread media presence at such an interment," Healy said.

Is this how far we have come as a nation now?  When doing the right thing is subject to turmoil, protests, and wide spread media presence?

Don't get me wrong.  I am not pleased with Tamerlan Tsarnaev's actions or the actions of his brother.  I believe what they did is despicable, but I am also informed by my Christian faith.

Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."  Matthew 5:44

Why would Jesus say such a thing?  Why would He admonish his followers to do something so contrary to human nature? 

#1. We are all made in the image of God.  One cannot overlook this very important point.  There is a basic level of humanity that we all share no matter who we are, what we look like, and what we do.  Loving an enemy and praying for one who is persecuting you helps you realize this connection, and it keeps you from dehumanzing them.  For when you dehumanize an enemy, it is easy to commit atrocity against them.

#2. We are all corrupted by sin.  I know many of us like to think we take the moral high road.  I know many of us believe we are right and "they" are wrong.  This may be most certainly true.  May be.  But if there is anything history has taught us, it is very easy to give ourselves pats on the back thinking we are correct--even if we are wrong.  History has taught us that it is quite easy to give ourselves theological justification for our actions against another--even when it is particularly clear that God in Jesus says that such actions lead only to death--"Those who live by the sword will die by the sword."  Loving an enemy and praying for him or her also helps a person recognize his or her own short coming and confronts a person with his or her own sinfulness. 

#3. Because we are corrupted, any one of us could snap at a given moment.  Sometimes psychological pressures caused by stress and anxiety lead us down a very dark path.  Sometimes it means the taking of one's own life.  Other times, it means taking the lives of others when carrying out one's own destruction.  We must realize that within each and everyone of us is a Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  How would you want to be treated if suddenly things came to a head and you snapped?  Would you want others to deny your basic humanity?

#4. Forgiveness.  Yeah, it's a big thing, sometimes very, very difficult when the situation is so raw.  But in loving an enemy and praying for those who persecute you, you are not allowing the enemy to control you.  You are not allowing the enemy to have a part of your heart and soul.  The enemy has no power over you.  This is one of those overlooked aspects of forgiveness.  In this particular case, burying Tsarnaev shows that even though he and his brother intended to do harm, we show a better way.  We show a way with more power that refuses to kowtow to hatred.  "You want to bomb us.  You want to show hatred toward us.  That is your choice.  We will defend ourselves.  We will seek justice, but we will not repay hatred with hatred.  We will kill you with kindness because we know hope."

Such reasons lie, I believe at the heart of why Jesus gives us these commands.  Unfortunately, these things are far removed from our society these days.  We have relegated the spiritual to the personal, and so it no longer informs our national psyche. 

And so, we repay hatred with hatred.  We repay death with indignity.  Instead of taking the higher road, we debase ourselves.

Let us show our strength by treating our enemies as humans, not as animals.

2 comments:

Bubba D. Luxe said...

Amen. No tomatoes.

David said...

When all else fails, apply Jesus' Sermon on the Mount!

Thanks for this post.