The horrible evil perpetrated in Boston on April 15 affected all our hearts, of course, and it also catalyzed far more analysis than anybody can possibly take in. At the risk of adding to the unhelpful parts of the verbiage, then, please allow these thoughts not on the who
of the terrorist assault, but on some deeper questions. And please allow some rather raw assertions.
First, it takes no theologian to determine that, no matter what emerges about who did the awful deed, the perpetrator’s motivation cannot be described as “religious.” No matter what anybody, including the perpetrator, might claim, there is no such thing as a real religion that can justify such deliberate carnage. Terrorism like this is not an expression of religion but instead is the negation of religion. Those who claim religious motives for such actions have twisted notions, incompatible with any “god” (or with God) or with anything but pure evil.
Second - and this is no original thought - the perpetrator not only is no exemplar of courage, but instead is a sniveling, worthless, pathetic coward. This is a person who will not even show his face on a battlefield, against trained military personnel, but instead attacks wholly innocent civilians while he hides not just in the shadows but in the gutter holes where vermin scurry. There, he is among his own kin.
Third, and relatedly, terrorism like this is not an example of human weaknesses or even of sinful human nature. No, not at all. The reality is that this is the work not of depraved humans, but of a depravity that is fully subhuman. Humans, who are created in God’s image, may be fallen, but we are not pure evil. Real humans are incapable of evil this deep.
Yet . . . Yet
. . .Yet it does us no honor to say such things. It does us no good to sink to the level of emphasizing the nature of such evil.
Instead, we should focus on the story
that told of everyday citizens acting as heroes: aiding the wounded; aiding the rescuers’ running to hospitals to give blood; immediately setting up useful, informational web sites.
The retired football player, the peace activist who lost his son in Iraq, the marathoning orthopedic surgeon who rushed to the injured, the police and firefighters who did their duty and so much more: These are the stories that matter. These are the bearers of lessons to learn.
They are not new lessons. They are lessons that emerge, from heroes who emerge, from almost every tragedy. The boyfriends who died while protecting
their girlfriend from a movie-theatre killer. The school principal who tried to protect her students
in Newton, Connecticut. The restaurant patron who ignored a bullet
in his own shoulder to subdue a would-be mass murderer. The public relations executive who ferried hospital patients
to rescue-helicopters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
And, of course, the multiple heroes of Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, who probably saved countless lives
and the whole U.S. Capitol complex.
These are the stories of humans acting truly human - of humans showing, in Lincoln’s words, “the better angels of our nature.” Human culture is a culture of some weaknesses and considerable meanness at times, of course, but it is also a culture of mutual aid voluntarily provided by following the dictates of individual human hearts and minds, usually undirected by any central authority or government.
Certainly, representatives of government also come in very handy in such circumstances, and they, too, can and often are heroic. This is not to denigrate government’s role in times of crisis. It is, however, to note that in the immediate aftermath of such situations, when quick reactions so often make the difference between life and death, it is usually individual action that saves the day - if only because no government, no central authority, can take charge within five or six short minutes.
This is one reason why freedom is so important. Free men and women are more accustomed to acting without direction, more accustomed to making their own decisions, usually in ways that save many lives. People accustomed to being treated like sheep are less likely to act independently when dangerous circumstances require it.
God gave us freedom and God gave us redeemable natures so that we could more ably do His will on this Earth He gave us. God gave us those better angels of our nature that make themselves known so often in response to such tragedies.
No warped interpretation of religion, put into action by any cowardly sub-human, can overshadow the healing power of God’s compassion working through human agency, intentionally put into effect by good and decent human will.
May God bless us all with copious courage in these days.
About the Contributor
Quin Hillyer is a Senior Fellow for The Center for Individual Freedom, a Senior Editor for the American Spectator magazine, and a Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mobile. He has won mainstream awards for journalistic excellence at the local, state, regional and national levels. He has been published professionally in well over 50 publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, Investors Business Daily, National Review, the Weekly Standard, Human Events, and The New Republic Online. He is a former editorial writer and columnist for the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, the Mobile Register, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and a former Managing Editor of Gambit Weekly in New Orleans. He has appeared dozens of times as a television analyst in Washington DC, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and as a guest many hundreds of times on national and local radio shows.
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