April 24, 2013 by Pastor Ben McIntire
As the investigation continues to unfold in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, those of us who are more removed from the tragedy watch in a storm of emotions. For me and many in my community in Iowa, prayerful empathy and sadness are at the top. Fear strikes many, which is the result any terrorist desires, who commits such an act. And as Americans, our national pride may provoke us into feelings of anger and vengeance. We want justice for the victims and all who suffer physically or psychologically after such an attack.
Coincidentally, I recently finished re-watching all eight seasons of Fox’s antiterrorism series, “24” which stars Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, a government counterterrorism agent. The show premiered on November 6, 2001; bare weeks after terrorists crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11. I love the show for a couple of reasons, one is that it’s an exciting and well done show. Another is that the story draws you in and forces you to consider difficult issues like justice, torture, interfaith relations, racial profiling, and human rights—and to consider these issues from different positions, not just the point of view you are most comfortable with. Also, Jack Bauer is the kind of hero we all hope is really out there, working to protect us from the bad guys.
In addition to my affinity for “24” is my admiration for Vince Flynn’s book series starring another antiterrorism hero, Mitch Rapp of the CIA. I just finished reading all thirteen books this week, the most recent titled “The Last Man.” They are great books, again because the stories are well told and because they make you stop and think about those same issues that are addressed by “24.”
I think the popularity of “24” and Vince Flynn’s novels, as well as other recent works in the patriotic/political genre, are a product of our need for catharsis after such devastating events as 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings. After an act of terrorism we feel vulnerable, scared, saddened, angry and vengeful. We rejoice when law enforcement brings the perpetrators to justice. We gloat over the deaths of our enemies like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Watching Jack Bauer shoot terrorists and beat up the crooked politicians who aided them is cathartic. That experience purges some of the rage and fear that are terrorism’s poisons. Reading about Mitch Rapp assassinating evil Taliban leaders who brainwash young Muslim men into becoming suicide bombers creates a sense of “justice” being served. Movies like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty draw us into the action and realism of fighting terrorism.
I don’t condemn anyone for watching these shows or reading these books and taking some pleasure at the idea of evil being thwarted and punished. That’s how I feel, myself. But we have to keep our perspective. We must remember that “vengeance belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 94) and not to us. As Christians, we are called to show grace and mercy even to our enemies, even when they don’t deserve it and we don’t feel like it. Jesus said that it’s easy to love your friends and family, but he gave us a new way to live, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Finally, I want to leave you with a quote I’ve heard repeated several times in the past few days, a quote from good, old Mr. Rogers.
Perhaps you already know that Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, teacher, and author as well as the host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. But remembering his words is important at times like these, it will help us keep hold of our courage and the hope that we have in Christ that good will indeed triumph over evil in the end.
Dear Heavenly Father, give me the grace to love my neighbors, including my enemies and those who have harmed me. Give me strength and courage to hope in the midst of tragedy. And keep my eyes on the helpers and lead me to give help whenever I can be of service to someone in need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.