We have demeaned and degraded ourselves once again. I feel ashamed, dirty. Why we perpetuate this violence and further poison ourselves remains a sickening question. Who do we think we are, God Almighty?
Yesterday, by sheer coincidence, Richard Rohr’s popular blog posted the following suggestion:
Perhaps upon reading passages such as Matthew 25 or the vengeful Psalms calling for God’s wrath, we might do well to follow the Eastern Orthodox Saint Silouan’s advice:
“I remember a conversation between [Staretz Silouan] and a certain hermit, who declared with evident satisfaction, ‘God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.’ “Obviously upset, the Staretz said, ‘Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there looked down and saw somebody burning in hell-fire–would you feel happy?’ “‘It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault,’ said the hermit. “The Staretz answered him with a sorrowful countenance: “‘Love could not bear that,’ he said. ‘We must pray for all.'”
Yesterday, a jury in Boston swiftly sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death under the guise of justice. Many — if not most — Americans feel vindicated, grateful, safer. We are no better than those self-righteous fanatics who would stone a woman for infidelity or a man for being gay.
Yes, these news stories have also been reported recently in the news. We mask our own vengeful impulses with the self-serving explanation that these religious extremists know nothing of God, of God’s love or of “true” religious faith! We smugly sit within our own self-righteousness, our own presumption to distribute ultimate justice, our own arrogant propensity to play God.
The deliberate taking of another person’s life is immoral. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty of a heinous crime — even his attorneys do not contest that fact. But, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is securely within our custody — restrained and incapable of further killing and violence. Yet, we as a society are not! Instead, we perpetuate the violence, inflicting further brutality upon ourselves.
God forbid! If we but knew the love of God! We must pray for all.
Richard Rohr’s blog post for Friday, May 14 — the very day Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death — gave the source of Saint Silouan’s quote as: Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Inner Kingdom, Vol. 1 of the Collected Works (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: 2004), 48.