Monday, April 22, 2013
Damning is easy. Loving is hard
Damn you, Dzhokhar.
Your alleged evil acts cost innocent lives and maimed hundreds of unwary bystanders.
Your bloodless indifference to those you hurt leaves us reeling with rage.
Your casual pace as you walked away from the bomb about to explode on a crowded Boston street leaves us stunned with disbelief.
Your role in the senseless murder of one young cop and the near fatal wounding of another leaves us hungry for vengeance.
And as you lie recovering from your wounds in the tight security of a Boston hospital, we have other reasons to curse you.
The crimes you are accused of committing are so horrendous we find ourselves hating you, rejoicing in your suffering, loathing you as a sub-human beast, and praying you will die in pain and spend eternity tormented by the fires of hell.
Perhaps the worst thing you have done to the rest of us is that by making us hate you, you have imperiled our souls. In our hatred, we can no longer tell where your sins end and ours begin.
We don’t yet know what twisted religious delusion, if any, led to your actions.
But for the rest of us, our actions are subject to the judgment of the One who told us to love our enemies, pray for those who abuse us, and love one another as Jesus loved us.
Damn you, Dzhokhar.
You’re going to damn us all.
Perhaps the most unnerving thing about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the young man accused of being one of the Boston Marathon bombers, is the evidence that he – like us – is not pure evil. It would be easier if he were.
For more than a decade, Osama bin Laden smirked at us from flat screens and wanted posters, the perfect image of malevolent evil.
But in the hectic 48 hours between the exploded bombs and his arrest, Dzhokhar was harder to read and, in many ways, harder to hate.
His boyish face, shaggy hair, and soothing brown eyes reminded millions of parents of their own teenagers: awkward kids in baggy jackets and backwards baseball caps.
When the FBI broadcast Dzhokhar’s picture the night before his capture, some of his friends recognized him immediately but couldn’t believe it was he.
The Dzhokhar his friends knew was a kindly, light-hearted kid who attended teen parties and raised people’s spirits.
“He was a funny comical guy. He had me laughing a lot,” said Peter Tenzin, who co-captained the wrestling team with Dzhokhar, in an interview with CNN. “After wrestling practice, he would rather go down and spend time with kids with learning disabilities than relax and go home.”
According to Tenzin, Dzhokhar volunteered after school in a program for children with autism and Down Syndrome.
Some reports suggest Dzhokhar continued to mingle with his friends at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth.
Hours after the bombing, he sent his friends a message on his Twitter account: “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city. stay safe people.”
A more chilling tweet was sent later: “LOL those people are cooked.”
The investigation into Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s background will go on for some time, but at first glance he seems like a poster boy for dissociative identity disorder (DID).
“The crime doesn’t fit the memories,” one of his friends told reporters. On the one hand, Dzhokhar is described as a sweet, funny, caring kid; on the other hand, videos show him walking casually away from the site where in seconds his bomb will kill a child and two young women, and seriously injure more than a hundred.
What is going on?
Some say Dzhokhar was brainwashed by his accomplice and older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died fleeing from police and whose own past is being investigated.
Others say Dzhokhar was brainwashed by extremist religious passions.
That’s possible, but investigators should stop far short of blaming Dzhokhar’s irrational acts on Islam.
Sure, there are those who distort passages in the Qur’an and twist truths to reach the bizarre conclusion that Allah is a God of hatred, retribution, and violence.
But all religions have their twisted prophets, Christianity among them.
Before the Boston Marathon terrorists were identified, investigators wondered if the bombings were related to the twentieth anniversary of the Branch Davidian massacre on April 19, 1993, in which an FBI siege in Waco, Tex., led to the deaths of 76 men, women, and children, including the Davidian leader David Koresh.
Authorities accused Koresh of delusions of godlike grandeur that led to crimes of statutory rape and child abuse.
But there are other more garden variety forms of Christian crazy that include the Westboro Baptist Church that moved to picket the funerals of victims of the Boston Marathon bombing to publicize the tiny congregation’s virulent homophobia.
There are also Christians who burn Qur’ans to show their contempt of Islam, and there are Christians whose theology is so narrow and unbending that they believe anyone who doesn’t share their view is bound for hell. Misguided mission agencies spend fortunes to train and send missionaries to Christian nations to convert the Christians to their particular brand of Christianity.
It’s a diverting anthropological exercise to watch Baptists and Catholics blithely consign one another to hell.
The good news perhaps, is that they are no longer burning one another at the stake. But there is ample evidence that irrational jihadists have few delusions that can’t be matched by crazy Christians.
It’s too early to know whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is crazy, brainwashed, theologically deluded, or all three. He has been convicted of no crime and, in a pre-PATRIOT Act world anyway, be must be considered innocent until he is.
Until then, he remains a problem for Christians who are trying to steer away from the brink of crazy and grasp the real meaning of the words of Jesus.
Dzhokhar’s alleged crimes are hateful and the results of his actions has caused death and suffering. It is all too easy to hate him.
But Jesus gave us a difficult assignment that is almost too heavy to bear.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:31-35)
More to the point, Jesus put it this way in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44).
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for whatever reason, did the persecuting.
But he also placed before us another challenge that may be just as painful: to love him and pray for him.
Damn you Dzhokhar?
Yes. Knowing a loving God is just, Dzhokhar’s damnation may be inevitable.
But damning him is not our job.
That would be too easy.
Loving him is hard, and this kid has done nothing to make it any easier.
Damn you, Dzhokhar.