Easter invites me to notice the heroism, or as Mr. Rogers puts it, “look for the helpers.” Evil thrives when acts of violence push us to seek revenge. Terrorism seeks to evoke terror and act out of our small, fearful selves. Evil is thwarted when it pushes us to respond in compassion. I was struck by the stories of heroism after the bombing. People ran toward the explosions. Runners who had just finished the marathon got up and ran to the hospital to give blood. After each tragedy, it seems we get better at responding. We are less undone by the evil before us. While we are heartbroken for the victims and their families, we know we will make it through and we will be a stronger community in the end.
At today’s clergy Bible study we reflected on what it means to be a community of resurrection. What does it matter that Jesus rose from the dead? How are our lives changed?
I think one answer to that question is embodied in the response of Bostonians, and our nation, to the bombings. Dennis Lehane, a Boston native, wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times in which he reflected on his friends response right after the explosions. Here’s an exerpt:
Two different friends texted me the identical message yesterday: They messed with the wrong city. This wasn’t a macho sentiment. It wasn’t “Bring it on” or a similarly insipid bit of posturing. The point wasn’t how we were going to mass in the coffee shops of the South End to figure out how to retaliate. Law enforcement will take care of that, thank you. No, what a Bostonian means when he or she says “They messed with the wrong city” is “You don’t think this changes anything, do you?”
Trust me, we won’t be giving up any civil liberties to keep ourselves safe because of this. We won’t cancel next year’s marathon. We won’t drive to New Hampshire and stockpile weapons. When the authorities find the weak and terminally maladjusted culprit or culprits, we’ll roll our eyes at whatever backward ideology they embrace and move on with our lives.
I think part of what it means to be a community of resurrection is to respond to violence by saying “you are messing with the wrong people.” Not because we will retaliate, but because we are strong enough, and connected to God enough, that we will not allow violence to knock us off the path of love and compassion. Evil cannot change us, because we have already been transformed by the abiding love of God.
Christ is risen. Even in the face of bombings. Christ is risen indeed.