Tag Archives: boston

On Bombings and Burials, Part 2

Last time, I wrote about the imago dei as a reason for Christians to step up and help bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev. At the time of this writing, it appears that someone else had the same idea. That said, let me put forth another reason as to why Christians (and the United States) needs to step up and bury Tsarnaev. First, a few questions:

  1. Do you believe the government acted rightly in attempting to arrest, and ultimately killing, Tsarnaev?
  2. Do you believe, assuming his guilt, the crimes Tsarnaev committed justified the actions taken against him? In other words, did he deserve death as a response to bombing the marathon, resisting arrest, and attacking the police?

If you answered ‘yes’ to those questions, then you’ll probably agree that justice was served in this case. We can define justice in many, many ways to define justice. From a legal standpoint, it seems to me that Tsarnaev’s death satisfied the principles of retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, reparation and denunciation in jurisprudence. It did not satisfy rehabilitation. The state’s response created harmony (as in Plato’s Republic), it followed divine command (see the just war theory and Augustine’s argument’s in favor), and is fairly consistent with natural law. By most common measures, Tsarnaev’s death brought justice.

And yet, we still resist the idea of granting his body a final resting place; we reject the idea of his innate human dignity, even in death. A question: if justice occurred, if we truly believed that his punishment fit his crime(s), if he received his just desserts (both here and in the hereafter) then shouldn’t we accept that satisfaction? I suspect that, for all of our lip service, we actually don’t believe that justice was served. If we did, we would respond to him as an image-bearer, not as a ‘monster’, or ‘walking garbage pile’ or ‘human fecal matter’ to use just three of the terms bandied about.

Admittedly, I believe that we will not experience true justice until the eternal state. All things will not be right until the King makes all things right. I also believe that we have a taste of justice in the form of good government and law in this present age—an appetizer for the main course to come. In that light, I believe Christians must cease our insensitive and contradictory vitriol toward criminals who received punishment for their crimes and instead, treat them as if justice has been served. This doesn’t mean a blanket open arms—God forgave Adam and Eve, but He didn’t let them back into the garden—but it does mean we should act according to what we believe.

So, Christian, do you believe that God is just and good? Do you believe that He can and does act through others to enact His will? Do you believe that He will make all things right? If so, then let that belief permeate all you do.

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Filed under Justice, Theology

On Bombings and Burials, part 1

According to some of the latest news for the Boston bombings, the funeral home who has prepped Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body cannot find a cemetery willing to bury him. Evidently, his family cannot transport him to Russia due to some complications regarding his passport and citizenship. The city refuses to take responsibility for the body citing public interest and safety. Even someone who professes to be a member of his religion (while disagreeing with his actions) wishes to distance himself from Tsarnaev’s ideologies by remaining unwilling to bury him.

This seems to be a perfect opportunity for the Church to be the Church. Christian theology recognizes that all people, regardless of their actions and whether redeemed or unredeemed, bear the image of God. In that vein, our Judeo-Christian ethic requires that we treat human beings with a certain amount of dignity and respect, even in death. Consider: do we really want to make the argument that we can circumvent that dignity “if the crime is bad enough,” and if we do, then what is the standard of “bad enough”? Is it one body? Three? Ten? Only if children are involved? Where do we draw the line of treating someone else like a human being?

Granted, it’s easy for me to be idealistic when I have no loved one either maimed or killed by Tsarnaev. I admit that. I don’t know if I would feel differently about it. I pray I never have to find out. In this moment, however, I read some of the ugly comments (such as one person who suggested that they cremate his body and flush the ashes down the toilet) and shudder. Why?

Today they’re talking about a bomber. What if tomorrow, it’s a group of people who spout hate speech against a minority group. Like, maybe their sacred text has some nasty things to say about that minority group (such as telling them that their identity and lifestyle are an abomination to God). Maybe some of that group of people use that as an excuse to harm minority groups. As such, public opinion swings to protect the minority group, and disband the “hate-mongers.” After all, we need to protect the public good, right? Jesus addressed these issues pretty clearly (and, in my opinion, in a superior manner than other religions). Do to others what you would have them do to you. If you had grossly injured someone, whether maliciously or not, how would you wish they treat you?

So what if the Church did something radical, like foot the bill to have Tsarnaev shipped home for burial? Even better, what if we chose to bury him in one of our cemeteries? What might that say about Christians? How might that demonstrate that we truly follow Christ?
As we spread the good news, may we remember that evangelism involves our relationship between God and humanity, but it also involves the dignity of the individual. When Jesus summed the law, he stated first to love God, but he reminded them of the command like it: to love your neighbor. Tamerlan Tsarnaev is your neighbor; how will you love him?

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Filed under Theology

Voyerism and Tragedy

Go back to the worst day in your life.

Maybe it was the day you found out your dad died, or the day you discovered your mom had a car accident, or the time you found a lump. Remember the emotion, the pain, the grief, the fear that came with the news. Sit there for a moment.

Now imagine , in the midst of that pain, someone stuck a camera in your face.

When we hear about tragedies like Boston we typically rush to the television or internet and see the pictures of bloodstained concrete, tearful families hugging one another, and frantic rescue workers doing their duties. You don’t see the (wo)man with the camera, standing in the midst of the fray snapping photographs with all the subtlety of a rat scampering through the walls. Next time you’re on the internet looking at one of these tragedies, find a photo (well available at the time of this writing on any news site)  of someone holding a crying friend and loved one. Notice that, typically, one person has their back to the camera. They’re doing that because they’re putting their back to the camera.

In my experience, photographers on site usually employ pushing and intrusive methods to get those spectacular photographs that they then sell to newspapers. While the blood still stains the scene, they transmit their photographs, usually with dreams of winning a prestigious award for the inevitable photo essay that will go on to publication in a coffee table book, portfolio, or other medium that documents the strength of their work. Worst of all, we unknowingly participate and sanction this kind of work as we stare and devour any and all visual information available.

Admittedly, when I put fingers to keyboard to write this post, I intended to create a scathing indictment of the kind of person who stands with a camera and takes pictures while others around them suffer. I then intended to decry the voyeuristic nature of our consumer society which seems to feed on this kind of information like a tick on a deer. Three sentences in, I recognized both the futility and hypocrisy of those approaches.

I instead appeal to your humanity. The next time you see one of those photos, I urge you to do the following:

  1. Pray for the salvation, safety, and healing of the survivors; for justice; for the salvation of the perpetrators; for the wisdom and insight of the investigators.
  2. Talk to your family, and remind them that you love them.
  3. Reconcile any relationships that have gone astray, insofar as you can.
  4. Live your life as if this might happen to you (which means that you should consider your real priorities).

Let the pictures of these tragedies lead you—not into the distanced observation and curiosity of others’ pain—but into hope and a reminder of the things to come, in light of the things as they are. Let tragedy lead you into a response of faith.

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April 16, 2013 · 9:01 am