There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t know where to begin. Everything in my head just screams “wrong, wrong, wrong!” The horrid events that happened, the fact that there are people that wanted this to happen, the reality that some are dancing over this news and shouting “death to America.” But one more thing that strikes me with grief has nothing to do with the bombers, it’s the responses of others about this. Altogether these events are just one more nail in the coffin that is our broken world. We are so broken and need so much help. There were, of course, heroic people in the immediate vicinity, they promptly rushed to help those who were victims of the horrid attack. Yet a brief glance at social media shows a different picture of the reactions of those who were uninvolved. Perhaps some have already noticed the injustice in the way we responded. It’s unfair and wrong on so many levels.
Three separate tragedies
1. The evil plans of men’s hearts
As I looked at a photo of a young man in a wheelchair, with his leg ripped off, I was filled with sickening grief. How could someone want this? The two brothers responsible are of Chechen descent and were born in Kyrgyzstan, a former state of the Soviet Union. Seeing as there is a long standing crusade by radical Muslims from that region, we can assume in this bombing there are obviously intense generational and religious motives. Their story is being carried by every single news outlet in the world. Their evil actions are well documented and are beyond my reach in this post. I want to talk about something different; not as outwardly horrid, but still worthy of our attention.
2. The ethno-centric attitude of Americans
Within minutes of the attack, there were countless images and posts asking for prayer and love towards the victims and families of the Boston bombing. This was deeply heartfelt and in many ways kind, caring, compassionate, and beautiful. The response of people all over America was very good towards those hurt by this tragedy. I am honored to live in a country that grieves deeply for the loss of life and health that was suffered in this event. Yet, the injustice of the many deaths that are not grieved like this strikes me with shame. When twice as many people were killed or maimed in a third world country nearly every single day, no one grieves! No one cares! No one asks to “pray for ______.” This kind of murder and violence happens every single day in a country that is not populated with western people like ourselves. And what do we do? Do we have candlelight vigils? Do we send donations to support them? No, we ignore them. Why? In part because they are not on “our team.” They are not our race. They aren’t “ours.”
When a bomb ripped through a Pakistani crowd, killing sixteen people and hurting many others, I didn’t see one person who posted a deeply emotional post to social media. At the same time when a few of “our” people were killed, we weep and grieve. Now do good to grieve, it is right and necessary. My concern is that we only grieve for our friends and our fellow citizens. I believe Christ calls us to much more than that. He calls us to love those who are different, those who are unloved or unlovable. Jesus said “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Even sinners are grief struck when their country-mates are hurt by a bomb blast, but who will cry for a South American child that can do us no good? Who will weep for the millions of people that die every year when our nationalistic pride is not wounded? Who?
I believe Jesus calls each of us to weep with all who are weeping, not only those that are a part of “our” race or ethnic group. I believe we need to continue to weep and mourn with those Americans were hurt, and repent of not caring about “the others.”
3. The ethno-centric attitude of Russians
Looking at the many social media statements published by many of my friends I began to see a recurring theme. Many of those who were Russian began to quickly distance themselves from the two terrorist brothers. I saw a plethora of posts that clearly punctuated “they were NOT Russians, they were Chechens, there IS a difference.” The only thing I could think of this is, “What?! Why are you telling me this? Who cares that they weren’t from your racial group?” Indeed, why are so many Slavic’s quick to interpose and affirm these terrorists were not Russian or in any way related to Russians? What is it really? There is only one answer, it is this incessant need to differentiate oneself from those who are evil and to make oneself appear good in comparison. It is a powerful desire to justify and defend personal character and morality.
But it goes even deeper and is more sinful than we realize. If a real red-blooded Russian did commit this heinous crime, this would in no way mean all Russians are terrorists. For example, when a Frenchman kills others, we do not assume all French are serial killers, thus all Russians would be free from personal slander were this really a Russian terror attack. Thus, the “racially distancing response” is not simply the act of defending personal character, for it was never under attack. Instead it is an act of defending personal ethnic identity as better than another. Racism. That my race is better. In this case, the Russian who says “it’s NOT Russians, its Chechens! Get it right” is implying that Russians are better than Chechens! That “our people” would never do this, only “their people”! It implies those pesky third world countries like Pakistan and Chechnya are all filled with horrible people, but our race, the glorious Russians are so much better! Now of course Russians are not alone, for all of human history, every one of us has always thought this, that “we” are better than “them.” This tragedy deals with terrorists who do speak Russian and brings the conflict home to Russians. Other tragedies to the same of others nationalities. Ultimately this story exposed our prejudices.
I believe the Gospel calls us all to repent of thinking our race is better: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian [literally the people who occupied parts of Russia/Ukraine], slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11).