Roy Exum: Would You Feed Dzhokar Tsarnaev?

Monday, April 22, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When two bombs injured scores of people during the Boston Marathon, 24 people were rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and some were still patients on Friday night when suspected bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev was taken to the famed hospital in serious condition. Dzhokar arrived at the Beth Israel ER less than 24 hours after his older brother, Tamerlan, had died in the same place.

So as church people all across America prayed for both the bereaved and the survivors of the terror wrought by the Tsarnaev brothers yesterday -- and winced at a Christian’s prescribed response – Tim Tinsley of Chattanooga’s First Presbyterian Church posed a preposterous question. “Can you imagine the mother of a young man who had just lost his leg to the shrapnel of the bombs stopping by the bomber’s room and asking him to eat with them? That would be beyond comprehension …”

The younger Tsarnaev, of course, is being held in a security wing of the hospital under heavy guard. Early reports include he has a serious neck injury and may never speak again and –  obviously – he is heavily sedated and intubated. “For that matter, can you imagine anyone in all of Boston who would invite this 19-year-old kid to eat with them?” asked the pastor, quickly admitting, “Man, you touch just one hair on any of my babies and you’ve got big trouble with me!”

Then the preacher looked over his vast congregation and said, “God wants you to come and eat and drink with Him. He knows all about your every sin and instead of saying, ‘Get out of My sight,’  He has set the table of Holy Communion before us. There are a lot of us unworthy … all of us probably, “he paused to look at the symbolic bread and wine, “but God invites each of His followers to come.”

The liturgy goes like this: “On the night when (Jesus) was betrayed He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."

* * *

Well, that was pretty heavy for me because when I went to church yesterday, I was thinking of one particular e-mail that arrived sometime before I checked my computer on Saturday. I get dozens of e-mails, some days well into the hundreds, and while answering them is darn near impossible, I try to read every one because I’ve found it is a good way to learn.

I get my share of mean-spirited e-mail, too. It has been my experience that anytime a writer takes a strong stand on a certain topic, there will be some who feel just as strongly about the opposite. I love those who disagree with me because it causes me to think harder, to study the argument, but I’ve had death threats from sports fans, horse people, union sympathizers and others. I’ve been called bad names and insulted for almost 40 years so it doesn’t bother me much anymore and, honestly, I get a lot more pats on the back, which I admittedly don’t deserve either.

So while I figure it’s just part of life, the one that got my attention Saturday morning started with a header that read, “Most Fervent Hope” and underneath the message read, “It is this. That you lay down to sleep at night and never wake up. You are just gone. Never knew you existed. Never will exist again. The truth is to live forever under any circumstances. Even in heaven which fm (sic) does not exist would be hell. Take that pistol you carry, stand up in church, and blow your brains out. They won't remove your writing but they will remember that.”

* * *

In the first place, I never “carry” in church. And while I enjoy taking Communion, I’ll never take my life or anybody else’s if the Lord continues to surround me with “a thicket of thorns.” As I prayed between passing the Elements, I was able to forgive whoever wrote that e-mail and, believe it or not, I am working hard on Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

There is a saying in the church that God “hates the sin but loves the sinner.” I believe that and, while any 19-year-old whose throat injury may have been self-inflicted during five days of unparalleled mental anguish, is to be pitied, I also I believe Tsarnaev should be held accountable and punished to the highest extent of mankind’s law.

I hope in the many dark days ahead, he will be able to tell us – on a keyboard if he cannot speak – what in the world happened, were any others involved, and countless other things that will, in some way, strengthen our society instead of weaken our resolve.

* * *

I guess I’m a sap but I was watching the Red Sox on Saturday, and instantly forgave “Big Papi” when he delightfully let go a bad word in front of the thrilled Boston fans: “This is our (bleeping) city and nobody is going to dictate our freedom,” Ortiz said, raising his right fist into the air. “Stay strong!”

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, quickly tweeted this: “David Ortiz spoke from his heart at today’s Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston -- Julius“ (Translated, that means there will most certainly not be any fine for on-air cussing, not in Fenway last Saturday.)

* * *

Fenway Park public address announcer Henry Mahegan, whose day job is teaching high school history, delighted Saturday’s crowd when he said, “Today, we gather as one. And we affirm to ourselves and to each other that we are one — one community, one nation, one world, full of love, full of compassion, and full of generosity. Those feelings, powerful all of them, fuel us with passion. To never quit. To persevere. To prevail,” he told the sellout crowd. “"We will run another marathon — one bigger and better than ever. We are one. We are Boston. We are strong. We are Boston strong."

* * *

Finally, if you watched Saturday’s game, you know that unheralded David Nava, slapped a three-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to star in the Red Sox’ 4-3 comeback win over the Royals but who were the three guys who simultaneously threw out the opening pitch?

They were Matt Patterson, an off-duty firefighter who unexpectedly found himself saving lives on Monday afternoon; Steven Byrne, who was wounded by one of the explosions, and 72-year-old Dick Hoyt, who has pushed his son Rick in his wheelchair across the finish line of the Boston Marathon 31 times. Mahegan dubbed him a "symbol of resilience if ever there was one."

* * *

Yeah, if Jesus Christ can forgive my sins, I can forgive Dzhokar Tsarnaev but he must pay dearly for what he has done to so many innocent people.

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