Three killed. One hundred and seventy-six injured. Nine of the injured are children. All because they were together to challenge themselves or celebrate others in their time of triumph. All because a person or group of people have some sick agenda.
How do you wrap your head around this?
What was your reaction? Some tweeted out sympathy, some put calls for prayers as their Facebook statuses, and some screamed for vengeance. All of this and we still don’t know why those bombs went off.
I immediately texted my cousin, who finished the race before the explosions. (She’s fine and so’s her mom, who was there to support her. I’m glad you’re safe, Hannah and Teri!) My other reaction was something like, “Why this again?!? When will this stuff stop?”
The truth is, this type of thing isn’t ever going to stop until a culture of love, forgiveness, and grace is sown around the world. Fat chance of that happening, right? People will still have axes to grind and take it out on the innocent. More blood, more bombs. Ideology over life. Violence over celebration.
Jesus has something different to say about that. He says that the Kingdom will take over someday. The Gospel of Love will drive out the message of hate. I am convinced that the more we seek vengeance instead of reconciliation, the more terrorist activities will continue to be planned and executed. So what can we do about changing our attitudes and people’s mindsets throughout the world before this kind of evil becomes daily living?
We need to cultivate society in ways to head off attitudes that lead to Boston marathon bombings. The teachings of Jesus can serve as the foundation we need to do this. From His parable in Luke 13:20-21: “Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” We need to trust that if we knead concepts like love, justice, mercy, forgiveness, and grace in our lives, then they will spread throughout the world.
For example, in the wake of the Columbine shootings, school bullying became the target of campaigns to curb that problem. (The Breakfast Club wasn’t enough, as great as that film was.) Those anti-bullying initiatives have made a difference, though there is a long way to go in every school. That’s a mark of people working Kingdom of God principles into society. (And, do you remember that much of the anti-bullying talk came from families of teenagers who died because they were asked of their allegiance to Jesus? This should sound familiar to those who worship the Christ crucified and killed for other people.)
There’s a great curriculum that I’m currently taking our student ministry through called Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream. It’s by author Shane Claiborne and ice cream mogul Ben Cohen, as in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They came together with poets, visual artists, musicians, and activists to “provoke participants to imagine humanity with fewer bombs and more ice cream.” It’s all about cultivating grace/love/forgiveness reactions to violence in our world instead of perpetuating more violence.
It’s hard to want ill will towards someone you’re eating ice cream with. That’s the idea behind this, for communities to come together in the name of ice cream. Have you ever eaten ice cream angrily? Have you ever given someone ice cream while talking about how you want to kill them?
The curriculum reminded us of the 2006 Amish school shooting. In the aftermath of five dead (including the shooter’s suicide), full revelations of the Kingdom of God broke out again. The Amish community attended the funerals for their kids THEN attended the funeral for the shooter, in order to support the shooter’s family.
Can you believe that?!? They weren’t there to rub guilt in that family’s face. They were there in love, support, and prayer.
The Amish didn’t stop there. Once money started rolling in, in memory of the children killed, the Amish families took those donations and did something differently. Instead of using it for their community, they set up a scholarship fund for the shooter’s family.
Now go back and re-read that paragraph.
There needs to be justice, no doubt. The Boston Marathon bombers need to be found, fairly tried, and reformed as they serve out a life-long prison sentence. Following Jesus does not mean people are exempt from paying for their actions, but it does mean that we sow attitudes of forgiveness. We aren’t Buddhists, believing that this tragedy is ultimately an illusion. There are devastating affects because of this. But neither can we be gun-happy and arms-obsessed if we want the world to change for the better.
Did you know that the Gospel of Jesus was planted, sprouted, and grew like wildfire in a culture that was fixated on violence? This should sound familiar. If we aren’t mourning death from terrorist acts, we are loading more bullets. Individual people from our communities enter government service and propose increases to our nuclear arms budget. We live in a culture that is numb to violence in media. It’s only a matter of time when violence becomes our first response instead of love. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t defend our citizens, but again, we need to consider Jesus’ extreme teaching about what our reaction to our enemy should be.
Perhaps it’s time for us to start thinking differently. Maybe we need to consider an alternative. The world is waiting to see a better way.
Wouldn’t we want the bombers to have considered an alternative to their solution for life’s problems? Maybe we should ask the same of ourselves.