Archives For Boston Bombing

14I realize Kim Kardashian’s bathing suit pics are a juicer story, but somehow this story slipped me by.

Admittedly, this is a sensitive issue, but I wonder what people think about so many funeral homes, cemeteries and communities refusing to bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber.

From a Christian perspective at least, one would think ‘love of enemy’ extends even necessarily to people like Tsarnaev and does so in death as much as life.

I also can’t help thinking one’s view should be tempered by the fact that our Lord died a shameful criminal’s death and was buried properly in a grave only because two Jews’ generosity and compassion claimed his body when no one else would for the risk and shame involved with being associated with him.

Christians too easily forget:

To be condemned to death on the cross was always also the condemnation to be left upon the cross as carrion.

The shame of the cross wasn’t primarily the pain involved. It was the shame. To be exposed, naked and abandoned. And then to be left there as scraps and trash.

If the sins of the father should not be counted towards the son then neither should the sons’ sins be reckoned upon their entire family by denying a base dignity such as burial.

The Worcester police chief puts it less theological:

“We are not barbarians. We bury the dead.”

If you’re inclined to disagree, then here’s my question/pushback:

Imagine what a powerful witness it would have been had a Christian community stood up and, assuming the risks involved, offered to bury the criminal out of obedience to Christ.

03-30-13_amish_originalSix years later and the Nickel Mines story, in which an entire Christian community forgave their children’s killer, remains what it was then, rare.

This is from the Huffington Post:

WORCESTER, Mass. — The body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was entombed in an unknown gravesite Thursday after police said an anonymous person stepped forward to help arrange the secret burial.

The burial ended a weeklong search for a place willing to take Tsarnaev’s body out of Worcester, where his remains had been stored at a funeral home amid protests. In that time, the cities where Tsarnaev lived and died and his mother’s country all refused the remains.

Amid the frustration, Worcester’s police chief urged an end to the quandary. “We are not barbarians,” he said. “We bury the dead.”

By Thursday, police announced: “As a result of our public appeal for help, a courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance needed to properly bury the deceased.”

Police in Worcester, about 50 miles west of Boston, didn’t say where the body was taken, only that it was no longer in the city.

The director of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors, Peter Stefan, also refused to say where the body was buried or to speak to media gathered outside the funeral home.

Tsarnaev’s burial place is expected to become known with the release of his death certificate.

Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are accused of setting off two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs April 15 near the marathon finish line in an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.

Days later, the brothers engaged in a firefight in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was shot by police and then run over by his fleeing brother. A wounded Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, ditched the car and was later found hiding in a boat parked in a Watertown backyard.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was pronounced dead at a hospital in Boston, where he could have been buried under state law, because the city was his place of death. But Boston officials said they wouldn’t take the body because Tsarnaev lived in Cambridge, and Cambridge also refused.

The mother of the brothers, ethnic Chechens from southern Russia who lived in Massachusetts, said officials in Russia, where she lives, also wouldn’t accept the body.

In addition, Stefan said scores of individual offers fell through because cemeteries in their communities wouldn’t take the corpse.

On Thursday, Gov. Deval Patrick called the weeklong drama to find a burial site a circus, but said he doesn’t know where the site is. Patrick said he hopes attention can now return to caring for the victims of the bombing.

The family of the youngest of the three killed, 8-year-old Martin Richard, said Richard’s 7-year-old sister has undergone a “milestone” 11th operation on her left leg, which she lost below the knee.

The surgery performed Wednesday on Jane Richard at Boston Children’s Hospital closed the wound and will allow for the eventual fitting of a prosthesis, the family said in a statement Thursday.

The family said that because of the surgeries, infections and other complication, the girl was unable to communicate with her parents and doctors for two weeks, so she did not know at first that her brother was dead.

“There are not words to describe how hard sharing this heartbreaking news was on all of us,” said the family, which was within feet of the second blast.

In Washington, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis told Congress on Thursday that the FBI did not initially share with Boston police the warnings from Russia’s security service in 2011 about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. At the time, four city police representatives were on a federal terrorism task force.

Davis’ testimony at the hearing on the government’s response to the attack revealed a gap in information-sharing between federal and local officials.

The FBI closed its assessment of Tsarnaev after a cursory investigation, and Davis said that police might not have uncovered or disrupted the plot even if they had fully investigated Tsarnaev’s family.

“I can’t say that I would have come to a different conclusion based upon the information that was known at that particular time,” he said.


family-vacations-boston-marathonThis weekend we continue our sermon series through Paul’s Letter to the Romans. As I mentioned in my sermon last Sunday, Paul’s entire letter is an extended meditation on the key phrase in 1.17: ‘the righteousness of/from God.’

In the Greek, it translates to ‘dikaiosyne theou.’

Dikaiosyne theou is the fork in the Romans road.

Depending on which path the reader chooses, Dikaiosyne theou can lead you to two very different conclusions.

If you translate ‘the righteousness of/from God’ as a genitive objective, then you conclude, as Martin Luther did, that Paul means God’s righteousness gets transferred to us from God by our faith in Christ.

When you choose this fork in the Romans road, then it appears that Paul’s primary question is about our justification before God. The plot of Paul’s letter becomes our own individual savedness.

It’s about us. Our destiny. Our rescue from sin.

If you choose the other fork in the Romans road and translate ‘the righteousness of God’ as a Genitive subjective, then you must conclude that Paul’s writing not about us, primarily or individually.

He’s writing about God. ‘God’s own righteousness’ in this sense refers to God’s commitment to the covenant made with Abraham, in which God promised to rescue- not individuals but- the world from sin.

To choose the former option, NT Wright says, is a bit like the earth insisting that the sun revolves around it.

To choose the latter option is to acknowledge that we’re just a part of God’s creative and redemptive activity.

Like Israel before us, we’re participants in God’s saving work. Of course, this also necessarily entails our individual redemption from sin, but, like Israel before us, we’re not saved for our own sake. 544900_608245191477_257197599_n

God’s promise was made through the chosen people, Israel, but the promise was never limited to them. 

The promise was always: for the world.

Abraham being chosen by God was a blessing, to be sure, but it was always a blessing meant to bless the whole world, that through Abraham’s People God would undo what Adam did. Through Abraham’s People, God would deal with sin, set the world to rights, and restore his creation.

Ever since Martin Luther, Protestants have opted for the former reading of 1.17, reading into Paul a narrow focus on the eternal salvation of individual souls.

Ever since Luther chose that fork in the road, many Christians have believed Paul’s message was about the life to come rather than this life.

Christianity, we think, is about going to heaven when you die instead of joining God in bringing heaven to earth. luther

Unpacking ‘dikaiosyne theou’ isn’t simply an academic exercise.

It’s not just a parsing of theological jargon.

And it’s not nearly as abstract as it sounds.

Events like the Boston bombing bear that out.


Because Paul intends ‘the righteousness of God’ as the answer to Habakkuk’s question: Why God? How long will you let this go on God? Where are you God? (1.17)

Events like the Boston bombing remind us that Habakkuk’s question is our question too.

And Paul’s answer to that question isn’t: ‘Don’t worry. You’re saved, things will be better when you get to heaven.’

Paul’s answer to the question is the righteousness of God.

Paul’s answer is that precisely what grieves us grieves God too, that what drives us to despair, drives God to determination, that what prompts us to ask pained questions is what compels God to cut a covenant.

Paul’s answer to Habbakuk’s our questions is that in Jesus Christ we see unveiled God’s commitment to his promise to restore creation from the sin that ails it.

Paul’s answer is not to point to where we’ll go when we die if we have faith.

Paul’s answer is to point to God’s promised coming, to God’s faithfulness to us, and, by our faithfulness, foreshadow his arrival; so that, we become- in some small way- the answer to such questions.