Crowds cheered. Celebratory fireworks went off, hundreds marched down Commonwealth Ave. singing “USA” and “Sweet Caroline.” In the distance, church bells triumphantly rang out. Cars honked and teenagers waved American flags. The mayor tweeted, “We got him!” What was the party about? A nineteen year old boy had been captured hiding under a boat in a backyard, bloody and worn out, ending a massive man-hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers that even our president was tracking. I was glad they had caught him. But I was a little confused by the response. Maybe even a little sickened.
I don’t own a TV and I don’t regularly read the news. But I catch a lot at work as I move in and out of patients’ rooms. The search for these guys and the media coverage behind it was strangely reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson pursuit some twenty years ago. Anyone old enough will never forget the video coverage of his white SUV heading down the LA Freeway, for what seemed like forever, cops behind, and ahead and overhead. They got him. We cheered and breathed a sigh of relief. Why? It’s not like OJ was going to come get us. What is it in the human psyche that is riveted to the good guys versus bad guys type drama? Why are we drawn to evil?
As I said, I’m not immersed in local news; I try not to be. I can’t trust what I hear to be true, therefore I disqualify myself from being well-informed. But the snippets I have caught during last week’s coverage of the Boston bombings have gotten me pondering a few things that I can speak at least experientially on.
Alexander Solzhenitzen said, “The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” We instinctively know this is true. I don’t like it. I’ve had to reckon with my own capacity for evil, cruelty and selfishness for as long as I can remember. It’s this inherent disposition that drives us to commit crimes, whether immoral or illegal. We wake up in the dirt, ashamed and wonder, “How did I get here?” It’s the disgrace that will either push us deeper into denial or drive us to our knees, humbly, to cry out before a merciful God.
I am not minimizing the pursuit and capture of dangerous men. I deeply appreciate the hard and dangerous work law enforcement officials perform and I personally and publicly thanked the many policemen, state troopers and detectives who worked hard on my son’s murder case so that justice could be completed. And I am forever grateful to the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the six young men involved for doing his job with balance, integrity and virtue. Some of these people have become lifelong friends. Yet I shudder to imagine what it would have looked like if fireworks were set off or church bells chimed in rejoicing as the defendants were arrested or sentenced.
I guess because of what I’ve been through, I have a tendency to notice things other people don’t. Like the boy’s father who was quoted as saying, “My son is an angel.” Food for fodder. Most people thought this statement was ludicrous. But the love of a mom or dad is made of an incredible fabric; extra strong and super resilient. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was once a little boy, playful and lovable, the apple of their eye, as close to an angel as my children or yours have ever been. And to his papa, he still is.
This causes me to ponder the whole question of evil. I am a staunch believer in the justice system when it works the way it was intended, uncorrupted and with moral integrity. But I’ll never forget the broken sobbing of a mother in a crowded courtroom as her twenty-year old son was sentenced to life in prison. Her son was my son’s murderer. Her son was also a boy who used to spend the night at my house. He and my son Miles were fast friends. Zane was funny, smart, engaging. An angel. I don’t know all that went wrong, but somewhere in his heart, the battle against evil was lost that night. It was tragic in more ways than just my son’s death. There was never any cause to celebrate.
“But Robin, “you may be saying. Or maybe you are just rolling your eyes. “These guys were terrorists! Children died. Dozens injured! At the Boston Marathon!” I know. Its impact will be rippling through the community for maybe years. I read an article recently on the impact of hundreds of terrorist attacks on Israel within the last dozen years. Close to 1000 people have died. They are numb with memories of bodies blown apart, many of them children. They live in fear. They know that it doesn’t even matter if they catch who did it. There are more. It has become a part of their culture.
One young man was captured, his brother killed. It is naïve to think that evil has been locked away. As I perused the headlines last week, in a very small font way down in the middle of the page I read, “India: 5 year old girl hospitalized after rape.” No outrage, no national manhunt, no heroes. This is why I can’t stomach the news. Hmmm, you may think. That’s India, it’s far away. Wait a minute. When I worked in the ER many years ago I sent an eight year old to the OR for the same thing. She had a necklace of bruises around her neck where someone had strangled her and left her for dead. On Cape Cod, with the white picket fences draped in rambling roses. That rape didn’t show up in the local news. They rarely do. My point? Evil is here, it is next door, it is actually in our very own hearts.
Before we wave flags and honk if you hate terrorists, let’s take a moment to assess where our own battle line is drawn in our hearts. The witch-hunt mentality grows in a garden of our own fear and shame. Christian, remember that there but by the grace and mercy of a magnificent and loving God, go I. And if you are not standing on the Rock, if you are not anchored in the midst of an ever increasing storm that rages all around us, I beg you to bring your guilt and shame to Jesus. There is forgiveness and pardon for us all. He will take it and throw it as far as the east is from the west. The Bible says God will remember it no more. Amazing…you can be free from your own darkness, and fear no evil around you.
And the crazy thing is this: although Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be punished according to the law as he should, he has just as much access to God’s throne room of grace as the President does. I pray he gets there. And the President too. I pray that his mom and dad, who have lost two sons in one week, will find shelter in God’s grace. Will you pray with me?