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?