WHAT WOULD CHRIST HAVE DONE ABOUT THE BOSTON BOMBER?

Since the Boston Marathon bombings, there’s been a lot of focus on Islam. But two pieces in the Washington Post got me thinking instead about Christianity.

WHAT WOULD CHRIST HAVE DONE ABOUT THE BOSTON BOMBER?The first was a front-page story about the misery bombing victims are going through. One of those victims is Paul Norden, pictured above, who lost his right leg in the April 15 explosion.

The immediate physical and psychological impacts of the blasts have slowly begun to subside. Ahead is the difficult period of learning to function outside the cocoon of support that has been spun around them. For Norden, that will mean negotiating the 14 steps up to the second-floor home where he will live with his mother. It will mean learning to reach for something high in a kitchen cabinet while balancing on one leg and a crutch. It will mean adjusting the way he bathes, grappling with medical expenses and finding new ways to simply get around. His family also must care for his older brother, J.P., who lost his right leg in the bombing as well. …

Norden admits he did not work out much before the attack. He weighed 246 pounds. He is 206 now, but an apples-to-apples calculation is difficult. “I don’t know how much my leg weighed,” he says. 

The other story — shorter, unillustrated, hidden deep within the inner pages of the paper — was about the struggles Massachusetts officials had finding a burial site for the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bombing suspect who was killed in a firefight with police April 19. For some reason, that story got me thinking even more than the first.

For weeks, cemeteries in Massachusetts and nearby states refused to accept Tsarnaev’s remains. Then Martha Mullen, a mental health counselor in Virginia, heard the story and helped arrange for his burial in a small Islamic cemetery about 75 miles south of Washington, D.C. “My first thought was, Jesus says love your enemies and not hate them after they’re dead,” Mullen said. “Nobody is without sin. Certainly this was a horrific act, but he’s dead and what happened is between him and God.”  

Those two articles made quite a contrast. Reading about people like Mullen, who will never get his leg back, made it easy to identify with the local woman who said they should have treated Tsarnaev like bin Laden and “dropped him in the ocean.” Tsarnaev apparently didn’t care about others’ lives. Why should anybody care about his? It makes you want to feed him to the sharks until there’s nothing left.

But Mullen’s quote echoed in my head: “Jesus says love your enemies and not hate them after they’re dead.”

She’s received some criticism from many people, including local politicians and Islamic leaders. She said, “I can’t pretend it’s not difficult to be reviled and maligned. But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people that are not like you, that’s what God calls us to do.”

It’s a nice message. But I wonder how I’d feel if they buried Tsarnaev by the gravesites of my late family and friends (He’s buried in Virginia, but it could have been anywhere.) Suppose that when I went to visit their graves, I saw his marker — Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who murdered four people, including an 8-year-old, and whose bomb ripped limbs from Paul Norden and dozens of others, buried right there by people that were very important to me. Would I be willing to accept that?

It doesn’t make for easy answer. I definitely don’t have one. But I suppose the good thing about Christianity is it compels you to ask the question in the first place.