You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘terrorism’ tag.

Right after 9/11, I did a strange thing — I wrote a funny Halloween story. It was part of a contest, sponsored by our local PBS radio station. I wrote it because it occurred to me that horror had suddenly become such a routine part of our lives. We were living horror every day. What we needed, desperately, was laughter. My story was later read on air…but that’s not the point. The point is, here we are again. And I haven’t got anything funny to say.

It isn’t funny that LGBTQ persons have been attacked in what was, for them, a safe space…perhaps the only one they had.

It isn’t funny that they still need safe places in this day and age.

It isn’t funny that, among the huge outpouring of love and concern over the deaths in Orlando, there are still a few bad seeds who so misread the Gospel as to believe that God does not love everyone, no matter whom they love.

It isn’t funny that no matter how many people are killed by firearm in this country, we cannot effect meaningful dialog on gun control.

It isn’t funny that I am certain our founding fathers did not mean for this to be so.

It isn’t funny that the easiest way (by far) to murder so many people in so short a time is by gun.

It isn’t funny that the NRA is happy to accept money from terrorists and the mentally ill.

It isn’t funny that someone on the “no fly” list can buy a gun with ease and that so many of us refuse to even discuss why this isn’t funny.

It isn’t funny that the idiotic hysteria of “They’re coming for our guns!” still seems to work. When has anyone come for your guns? When has that happened?

It isn’t funny that we can wait for a marriage license, a driver’s license, for the ability to buy the car we want with the options we want, but we can’t wait a single minute to own a gun.

It isn’t funny when a politician’s takeaway from a mass murder is “I told you so.”

But the least funny thing of all is that this will happen again. The US suffers more gun deaths than any first-world nation on earth — innocent people, little kids. And we won’t even stop for a moment to analyze why because we’re too afraid to. Not funny, folks. Not even a little.

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What if, I wondered, we were never promised answers, only an endless spiral of questions: From the “What is that?” of our newly ignited infant minds to the “What happens next?” of the deathbed? What if every answer is just a front for a dozen new inquiries? What if there are no answers? What then?

Human beings are seldom at home with unresolved questions. Oh sure, it’s great fun to watch a mystery unfold on TV or in books, but what we’re really waiting for — what makes it all worthwhile — is the moment when the mystery is solved, the wrongdoer is apprehended, the culprit is unmasked, and we finally get our why. It is the reason that “senseless” crimes bother us so much: Where is the why? There isn’t one, and that is the whole problem.

Why, for instance, would anyone kill in the name of God? God, who is all-loving, all-forgiving, all-present, would never condone such a thing. So human beings, to justify their own ignorance, look for loopholes. They read into scripture things that are not there. They decide that only one way is the right way to God and all other routes must be annihilated in order to justify their theory. They bomb airports in Belgium and restaurants in Paris and fly planes into buildings in New York. They spew hatred and fear.

I may not have any of the answers to the big questions in life, but I know one thing: If hatred is part of your faith, you have no faith. You are worshiping human violence, which is tantamount to worshiping yourself, because God has no place in hatred. Humans demand a sure thing. God gently presents the next question. Why? Because human beings are not equipped to understand the fullness of the mystery of God. We never will be in this life.

In fact, consider this a litmus test: If you are dead certain that your faith path is the only true and correct one, you are almost certainly wrong. If you think you have God fenced in, defined, honed and dwindled to the slimmest and most precise boundaries, you are mistaken. You have failed the test because the test has no answers.

Only questions.

As we hold one another in prayer, let us remember to keep our hearts open to possibility, to new avenues of thinking. The surest way to be wrong is to be sure of anything. Especially when it comes to God.

You stand in good company
with Addie and Cynthia,
Carol and Carole;
with Thomas á Beckett,
centuries away from Birmingham
and from your own hometown.

You saw death in the house of God
and you yielded, hands open.
Did you forgive him, even in that
moment? The shock of the bullet?
The letting of blood?
I believe you did.

The trip to Heaven
could not have been quicker,
from the sight of Christ’s cross
to the sight of His flesh
in the blink of a moment,
faster yet than bullets leave barrels.

Pray for us, new saints
to the pantheon of those
struck down by evil
in a place of God.
The God of the lowly, those shoved to the margins,
hears you most keenly.

 

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is going to be sentenced to death. I can understand how this might bring some people a measure of peace. He does not seem to be repentant, after all. His family suffers from an acute sense of denial. Yet, had I been a juror, I would have pushed for life over death. I guess it all comes down to this for me: The very groundwork of my faith, which tells me I ought not to hurt other people, no matter what. I retrench this idea in myself as though I am speaking to a child:

But what if a person wants to hurt others?
You must not hurt anyone.

But what if that person wants to kill others?
You must not hurt anyone.

But what if that person wants to kill ME?
You must not hurt anyone.

It is not an easy lesson to apply to daily life. When we hurt, we want to hurt those who caused the hurt. Simple. But just as kicking the desk you accidentally bumped into exacerbates the pain of no one but yourself, so does striking back at an enemy. It lowers you to your most bestial level. It suffocates your soul.

Nonviolence against oppressors may be the more painfully patient route — often it does not see results in a timely fashion — but it has worked for some of the greatest historical figures: Martin Luther King, Jr, Gandhi, even Muhammad himself. (The Arabic word for nonviolence as a life decision is, in fact, islam.)

I am reading a book about the 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times building by Labor leaders. In many ways, this case resonates with the Tsarnaev case. The perpetrators in both cases felt that their deed was a necessary protest. In the Times case, the protest was on behalf of the working man. Harrison Gray Otis, the publisher of The Times, was (by all accounts) a particularly odious individual who — like many capitalists of the time — cared only for profit. (By that, I mean profit at any cost — even the health and well-being of his workers.) He was vehemently anti-union. The bombing killed 21 people, and did nothing to advance the cause of Labor. Rather, it set it back. The men behind the bombing received jail sentences, despite the fact that plenty of people wanted them to hang for it. Had my loved ones been among the dead, I might have, too.

But that would not be right. We must learn this, to our shame, over and over again. I do not look forward to the endless appeals that Tsarnaev is likely to make. I would rather say, “We are not like you. We do not kill.”

Because killing is always wrong.

I won’t lie to you: I’m finding it difficult to write about the events of last week. When I get emotionally bottled-up like this, I turn to poetry. Let this be my contribution to the discussion.

It was a week
to shake the faith
right out of our bones.

But faith cannot fall
to such a small god:
a god of bombs, bullets, ripped limbs.

Seek God elsewhere.
He is there in the helpers.
In solace, yes, and mourning, too.
In healing hands, in hope.

Look to those who know the truth:
What is not love
cannot be God.

Hate destroys.
Love restores.
There is your answer.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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