Should Christians step up and bury the Boston bomber?

I admit that the thought never even crossed my mind.

Nobody wants to bury the Boston bomber, Tarerlan Tsarnaev.


This article asks why no Christian (or anyone else for that matter) has stepped up to show enough mercy to take the body and bury it.

From the article:

“I’ve not heard a lot from the Christian community” on this issue, said Joel Anderle, senior pastor of Community Covenant Church in West Peabody, Mass., and president of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.

“This is one of those curious areas where Christianity, and in particular Protestant Christianity, has come to believe that it doesn’t have a voice.”

The issue isn’t theological uncertainty. Believers of all stripes would say Tsarnaev should be buried — in local soil if necessary, perhaps in an unmarked grave — as a matter of respect for personhood, for the human body and for God, according to Laura Everett, executive director of the MCC. She notes Christians are known for burying even pariahs, including those executed for heinous crimes or left to die in the streets, as acts of faithful witness.

Why then today’s reticence? Some blame the media. Christian leaders would love to tell why even a killer should have a burial, but reporters aren’t giving them a platform to weigh in, according to the Rev. Suzanne Wade, priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Westford, Mass.

“We have a moral imperative to say yes to the burial,” Wade said. “But I wonder if the voices of those who would speak peace are being muted because the conflict is a much better story.”

Others suspect reticence serves particular purposes for faith leaders who must walk a delicate line in the aftermath of a devastating disaster. These purposes might be lofty and pastoral, or part of something less holy, depending on one’s perspective.

Because the bombings left more than 260 people injured and dozens maimed, pastors across the region are ministering to parishioners who were hurt or know victims and still feel the sting of the attacks. Such pastors might be too upset or angry to champion mercy and respect for a man responsible for their people’s misery, according to Wade.

“It’s much easier for me to be that public voice than it is perhaps for people who have somebody very close to them who was affected,” Wade said. “Distance allows a perspective that you can’t get when you’re living in the middle of it.”

What’s more, the best pastoral outcome would probably be for a burial to take place with consent from Tsarnaev’s family and with minimal fanfare, Everett said. In their reticence, faith leaders might be trying to keep the debate from escalating, she said, since no one is served well by a heightened, emotional spectacle.


Read more here.



  • oneguyseyes May 9, 2013 Reply

    Todd…great thinking behind this. However, I do have some questions with burying a Muslim from a Christian’s perspective.

    1. With his faith being Islam, there are certain burial requirements that a Christian would need to follow. How could a Christian obey these burial requirements with integrity in their faith in Christ? Wouldn’t that make the one officiating the burial an “occupational minister for hire” vs. “one who is called”?

    2. Why wouldn’t a local mosque or Imam step up to bury one of their “martyrs”? It would seem that would be more appropriate than placing a guilty conscience on the Christian community.

    3. I appreciate this topic being couched in the framework of mercy, but I don’t recall in the Bible, any record of any of God’s people (Israelites) or Christ followers burying the dead of their enemies. If there is not a record of it or no precedent biblically, does a Christian have that burden of responsibility to this particular situation of burying their enemy, meaning one who has avowed to destroy them? If I am wrong, please correct me…

    These are just some initial thoughts that I have. I am open to profitable discussions on this topic and again…thanks for the article.

  • James May 9, 2013 Reply

    Excellent thoughts and questions. You put some real thought into your questions and the overall situation. You got me to thinking.

    And your one statement, “does a Christian have that burden of responsibility in this situation”. I never really thought of it that way.

    I think some are thinking how can we bury this person as a response to a family who has lost a son, and not look like we’re endorsing his terrorism.

    There might be a sqweaky way of looking at from the perspective of when a convicted felon, murderer, etc is executed for his crimes and it becomes the responsiblity of the “state” to bury the individual. Not in anyway an endorsement of his crimes but simply a pragmatic act of desposing of the body. I know that sounds crass and a bit crude, but it’s the truth. Those family members of the executed criminal feel the loss, not the endorsement of his crimes. At least I don’t think so.

    Perhaps there’s more political overtones to this act than we give credit. I would say in mercy he needs to be buryed as a human being who wasted his life in hate and murder. But he was none the less a life given by God to live and make choices. And he succumb to the consequences of those choices.

    Good thoughts, questions and truly has me thinking.

    Much appreciation,

  • Steve Long May 9, 2013 Reply

    Pull some money together to send the body back to the parents and send some followers of Jesus with it (not big names, just some common members of the church). They can meet the parents, give them their son’s remains, put some money in their hand to bury their son with and tell them that they are loved by people who know God. Then come right back home.

  • Fred May 10, 2013 Reply

    Yes! Oh wait, you mean the one that is dead.

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