Reactions to violence – after Boston

My family often visited Boston and its historical sites during summer vacations when I was growing up. And my brother, a gifted athlete in high school and college, ran the Boston Marathon once.

I also lived in a Boston suburb for three years while attending graduate school, and I enjoyed watching the Marathon on TV, thanks to a state holiday. So the location of this most recent tragedy is more familiar to me than others have been.

As events unfolded Monday evening, reactions inevitably began.

One of the first Facebook comments I saw came from a college classmate who used the questioning of a Saudi man (later released from custody, an innocent bystander simply running in fear like everyone else) as reason for the indiscriminate bombing of all our country’s current “enemies.”

I recalled a comment from my brother, just after September 11, 2001. He was living and working in New York at the time and noticed that nearly all the Muslims in the city stayed home for days, fearful of being victims of mob violence.

The scriptures that hold particular importance in my tradition include two stories that I shared on the Sunday after 9/11: the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, and the killing of innocent children by King Herod after the birth of Jesus.

They were the first things I thought of then, and they quickly resurfaced when I read the news from Boston. The heritage of hatred echoes throughout history, and humanity has been its victim again and again.

And not just from those who supposedly “hate our freedoms,” but just as much from those in our midst who react viscerally and viciously against any and all imagined enemies.

There will be many cries for “justice” in the days ahead.  But nothing will ever restore those lives or make whole those who have been wounded in body or in spirit.

We ourselves will be among the wounded if we give in to hatred, to desires for retribution.  But if we work for peace and reconciliation instead, we will begin to bring healing into the midst of suffering.

2 Responses to “Reactions to violence – after Boston”

  1. Uoldo M

    “But nothing will ever restore those lives or make whole those who have been wounded in body or in spirit.”

    Isn’t it the role of religion (and health care) to, in the words of a hymn, “make the wounded whole”? Regarding those victims that died, do you believe in heaven?

    And you mentioned “those who react…viciously against.. imagined enemies” (reminiscent of Paul before his conversion). Do progressive Christians have a Gospel that can convert these people?

  2. Steve Swope

    Uoldo, kudos to the first responders and to those in medical facilities who are next in line to provide compassionate care!

    But that’s not really what I’m talking about. As so many commentators have noticed, the good in people rapidly surfaces – for example, those many who ran toward the explosions to offer aid and assistance.

    My concern, at least in what I wrote, is for those of us (most of us, by far) standing on the sidelines, watching and weighing blame. The “justice” many will cry for is for some sort of recompense, payment, retribution for lives lost and broken.

    And so come the cries for vengeance, even when we don’t know who is responsible. We want someone to blame and someone to punish. We want, even, to draw a line between “us” who are good and “them” who are evil and deserving of whatever we can mete out.

    This is a problem unrelated to either health care or heaven but to the shadow that can rise in any of our souls. I don’t think progressive Christians have the corner on “a Gospel that can convert these people”; I certainly don’t. I’m just aware of the potential for the problem, sadly realized in at least some circles already.

    And so I offer above the counter-measures of awareness, watchfulness, forgiveness, reconciliation – that we might begin to know peace instead of more violence, love instead of hatred, hope instead of despair. I know I’m not alone in that counsel – consider the words of Mr. Rogers and Martin Luther King that are circulating, or the powerful testimony of Patton Oswalt.


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