Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Long run…

I went running this afternoon. Not a long run; just a couple miles indoors at the local gym. When I got home, I fired up the computer to write this letter, checking the news first, like normal. And I learned that someone or ones or group or whatever exploded bombs at the Boston Marathon. Whatever else I might’ve written seems less pressing now.

One of my favorite websites is Foreign Policy Magazine. They cover developments in countries that most American news outlets rarely notice, and so provide a broader perspective on “what’s really happening around the world” than I’d get otherwise. Tragically, I’m becoming immune to reports of makeshift bombs exploding in public spaces and citizen-on-citizen violence ravaging communities. This weekend in Iraq, 27 people were killed, over 100 injured. Last week, a Serbian war veteran rampaged his village, murdering 13. Mogadishu, Somalia, having seen noteworthy gains in peace lately, witnessed an attack over the weekend, 35 people dying, at their supreme court. The Syrian government renewed massacres on its citizens. The Democratic Republic of the Congo remains brutalized in certain regions. Life isn’t terrible in most communities in most countries, but it’s fragile everywhere. Sin persists.

Still, the detachment I’ve cultivated for reading those stories isn’t maintaining itself today. Perhaps because these suffering souls are fellow citizens, the streets cratered are ones I’ve walked, it’s not enough to say, “Well, humans are broken.” These shattered lives demand my fuller attention.

I have friends who once lived along the Boston Marathon route. Every “Patriot’s Day,” when the race is held, they’d set up lawn chairs out front. Not being marathoners, but still amicable fellows, these buddies would cheer the passing runners, invite others friends for a party, and otherwise use the day as an excuse to celebrate life. I mean, it’s quite an achievement, to run any marathon, let alone Boston. Those runners have to qualify with sufficiently low times in other races, meaning they’ve done something I swear the human body wasn’t meant to do- run 26 miles straight- and they did it extremely well. That reflects an incredible characteristic of our species: we frequently urge ourselves to transcend limitations. Running marathons faster and faster. Sending vehicles farther and farther into space. Mapping our basic genetic codes. Eliminating previously devastating diseases.

It’s so easy, in the wake of tragic violence, to forget how true that transcendence is of humans. I’m not sure we’ve made as much progress morally as scientifically, but we’ve still traveled a long way there too. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and even, “Love your enemy,” it was hard for his first followers to apply that to even just their closest non-Jewish or non-Roman neighbors. The New Testament treats slavery like it’s normal. Medieval Christians slaughtered newly contacted native Americans, thinking these so-called “heathens” were less than human. We have problems still; sin persists. But in the long run, the love Christ preached has proved transcendent.

So I denounce this afternoon’s bomb attacks as both evil and utterly stupid. Callous disregard for human life has no justification, whatever “motivation” we may eventually learn was used. But even more, the attackers chose as their ‘symbolic event’ a self-defeating situation. They went after marathon runners, people who strive day after day to improve their lives, to stretch themselves beyond normal limits, very few of whom might expect monetary reward. They simply believe in themselves, and by extension humanity, to be better than is rationally expected. Proving that to themselves, and whomever is watching, is generally reward enough for the effort. I commend them, and would’ve done so even before today’s event. But now I celebrate any future marathon runner who takes to the streets in defiance of this nihilistic violence, declaring step after agonizing step, by their willingness to not be cowed into staying home, that we were created for more than terror or violence, that together, we can overcome. For love was, is and always will be our common destination, our finish line. And in light of what’s just happened, may we recommit to it being how we run life’s race too.

Grace and Peace,


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